Hubbell Place does not appear in the original plat of the area, A.A. Denny’s Broadway Addition to the City of Seattle (1890). When it was established in 1906, it ran only one block, diagonally from 9th Avenue and Union Street to Terry Avenue and Pike Street. Today, however, it begins farther southwest, at 7th Avenue and Spring Street, making its full length just about ⅓ of a mile. (The extension came about because of the construction of Interstate 5 through Downtown — the frontage road on the east side of I-5 connected to the existing Hubbell Place and took its name in 1966.)
The ordinance establishing Hubbell Place “accept[s] a deed of conveyance from George S. McLaren, et ux, and Helen Moore Hubbell” for the land. Et ux is simply Latin for “and wife.” But who was this Helen Hubbell — and, for that matter, who was this George McLaren? Could he be connected with W McLaren Street in Magnolia? (We’ll take that up in a subsequent post.)
Searching for any city ordinance mentioning Hubbell, we come across one “granting permission to Frank B. Hubbell, his heirs and assigns, to lay down, maintain and operate steam and water pipes in and across certain streets and alleys in the City of Seattle for the purpose of conducting steam and water,” passed in 1905. Yet in 1907 it was repealed, and in 1909 a similar ordinance was passed “granting permission to Helen Moore Hubble [italics mine]” to do the same thing. (This franchise expired a number of decades later.) Why might this have happened?
Apparently, Frank B. Hubbell died in 1905, only a few months after he married Helen. As the (Walla Walla) Evening Statesman reported on October 28 of that year, under the headline ‘Seattle capitalist commits suicide’,
Mystery surrounds the suicide by gas last night of Frank B. Hubbell, one of the most prominent real estate men and capitalists in the city. His bride of three months, who occupied separate apartments in a fashionable hotel, discovered him unconscious on the floor of his room this morning. Hubbell was worth half a million dollars and his financial standing was gilt edge. He came from New York a few years ago. Three physicians failed to save his life and he died at 10 this morning. No cause is known for his suiciding. Hubbel [sic] when found had the gas tube in his mouth. Domestic and not financial troubles, are believed to have been the cause. Hubbell had under way some of the greatest public improvements in the history of the city. He has constantly been drawing on eastern capital to accomplish his plans.
Though the Evening Statesman did not believe financial troubles to be the cause of his suicide, The Yakima Herald reported in 1910, under the headline ‘Closing of Hubbell estate solves suicide mystery’, that he owed $135,000 to Seattle banks, could not pay without putting his fortune at risk, and so decided to kill himself to keep his creditors at bay and preserve his estate for his wife. (That figure corresponds to $3.5 million in today’s money. The Herald went on to say that his total estate amounted to $650,000, or about $16.8 million.)
Frank and Helen Moore Hubbell had one daughter, Helen Frances Hubbell, who apparently died a few months after her 17th birthday in a car accident. She was born in May 1906, 6½ months after the death of her father. The elder Helen died in 1948 at the age of 70.
Born and raised in Seattle, Benjamin Donguk Lukoff had his interest in local history kindled at the age of six, when his father bought him settler granddaughter Sophie Frye Bass’s Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle at the gift shop of the Museum of History and Industry. He studied English, Russian, and linguistics at the University of Washington, and went on to earn his master’s in English linguistics from University College London. His book of rephotography, Seattle Then and Now, was published in 2010. An updated version came out in 2015.