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Before The Light Rail There was 126 Broadway E

*The third installment in my series "Before There Was Light Rail" coming to you a little late on account of being out of town yet again this past weekend. As with the others that came before, this is a brief look at one of the buildings that was torn down in 2009 to make way for the light rail station opening on March 19, 2016.

If my memory serves me correctly, this was one of the last two homes to remain standing along Broadway into the 21st century. However, the casual passerby might never have noticed it because for most of its life a brick and mortar commercial building (128 Broadway Ave E) stood between it and Broadway. This home was built around about 1904 and it should be noted to clarify any confusion that the address at this time was 126 Broadway North until it changed to East several decades later. It functioned primarily as a 15ish room boarding house (the count varied in classified ads, probably due to remodels), but also hosted a curious assortment of other operations throughout its life.

In fact, the first ad to run in the Seattle Times at 126 Broadway Ave N was in 1907 and it wasn't for a room to sleep in, it was for the Paris & New York Medical Electrolysis Institute whose cryptic-sounding "Parisian Regulator" supposedly cured "all female disorders." Fellow neighborhood historian Rob Ketcherside aptly pointed out to me that it was probably the same concept as a similar procedure that was being offered to men around this time. Dr. Sanden's "Electric Belt" (pictured below) had been available throughout the Puget Sound region since the 1890s. Anyway, the Parisian Regulator ad ran daily in the Seattle Times for a few months and was never seen again thereafter because apparently the Seattle Star newspaper sent two women to investigate and busted the head of the operation for practicing medicine without a license. Apparently, the operation had recently fled to 126 Broadway after receiving a plethora of complaints while practicing in an office downtown. (Thanks again Rob for breaking this story!

Now it was about a month before this bust took place that a room-for-rent ad first ran in the Seattle Times offering furnished rooms, breakfast, and a garden. However, the original owners, whose names remain unknown, unfortunately weren't long for this work because in 1909 they were forced to sell the house due to illness. Hereafter it seems to have changed hands a number of times with intermittent renters up until the 1920s. The 1910 census reports that at least five people were living here. A 22-year-old Railroad office stenographer named Ella Chamberlin, a 42-year-old unoccupied man named Patrick Flaherty, Clarence Collins a 24-year-old electrical engineer, Harold Falkner a 21-year-old clerk for a lumber company, and Joseph Fleming a 30-year old grocery salesman. Fleming in particular lived here for a year before renting a home and store front at the corner of Denny and Broadway to start a grocery business there.

The Fleming Era

In the early 1920s Fleming came back and purchased 126 Broadway Ave N outright and moved in with some of his brothers and rented out the remaining rooms to strangers. The Fleming brothers then reopened their grocery store at the new store front built in front of the house.

I'm guessing Joseph owned and lived in this house up until the mid to late 1960s by which point, three of his brothers had died, which might explain why he decided to move in with his grand nephew Gordon Fleming down in Tacoma who as a matter of fact just passed away last year.

During Joseph's roughly 40-year tenure as owner, the Seattle Times notes that in 1931 he and his brothers chased out a burglar one night. Otherwise, all reports at the address are about people who rented rooms at the house. Most often notices of births, deaths and marriages or classifieds by residents wishing to sell and trade items including car parts, a davenport, and a phonograph player with a sizable record collection. However, one resident named David Carson made headlines for his academic achievements.

Post-Fleming Era

After the Fleming era for the house ended, it once again hosted a couple different operations while people rented rooms. One of these was The Floating World, a Japanese antique and folk art gallery that opened up shop in December, 1979 and later moved to 715 Broadway E in 1981.

Backpacker's Hostel

By some point in 1990s a man named Roger Lebel turned the home into a hostel. The sparse amount of ads still floating around the internet indicate that it went by two names first the American Backpacker's Hostel and later Bigfoot Backpacker's Hostel. It offered 45 beds, some in private rooms, free breakfast, internet access, downtown pick up and tours to the grave sites of Bruce Lee and Kurt Cobain as well as Cobain's former home in Madrona. Unfortunately people who stayed here and the property owner would soon find that Lebel was not a man to be trusted. It was reported that Lebel tried to do "sleazy" things to some of the women who stayed there and by 1999 he shut down the operation and abandoned the house without notice to the property owner. Apparently, he was severely in debt.

Last Days

After the bittersweet news of Lebel's sudden departure, an employee at Twice Sold Tales offered to rent the house along with some friends and so from that point forward the house was shared in common. Parties and shows happened on a regular basis. Residents frequently had to deal with weary travelers arriving at their doorstep because out-of-date hostel listings had misled them there. Occasionally the residents would let these travelers crash in the living room or at least give them a map and info on the nearest hostel.

Otherwise, the courtyard between 126 and 128 Broadway Ave E was the frequent late-night hang out for a nearly blind and deaf homeless alcoholic named Broadway Mike (pictured to the right). Mike was a (or perhaps still is?) a common fixture all around Broadway much like Slats was. The last residents of 126 say that Mike would sit out in the front court yard and rant loudly at all hours of the night. Residents tolerated his antics because he was otherwise harmless and kept other more sketchy individuals away from the house.

By late 2007, Sound Transit gave the residents their final notice to vacate and for over year the house sat vacant until it's demolition in 2009.

*To keep track of future stories like these and for additional content be sure to follow The Capitol Retrospective on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

**Note: this story was updated on 3/4/16 at 12:42 AM to include the fate of the "Parisian Regulator."

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