The Hahn Mansion

The Hahn Mansion Today (Photo: Realtor.com)

The story of Rudolph Hahn and the Hahn Mansion began in the silver mines of Montana and ended in a seedy boarding house in Spokane, Washington.  It’s a tale of wealth, divorce, intrigue, death, and murder, whose spirits, some claim, linger to this day.

On September 5, 1908, the president and largest shareholder of the Hecla Mining Company, John Smith, died, leaving his vast fortune and major interest in the company to his recently wed wife, Sarah.  In 1916, Sarah and her new husband, Ralston “Jack” Wilbur, spent $75,000 (nearly $1.7 million in today’s dollars) on the construction of a sprawling mansion on Spokane’s South Hill.  Contemporary newspaper accounts reported that famed Spokane architects G. A. Pehrson and Kirtland K. Cutter collaborated on design of the palatial home, which featured gold leaf carvings, mother-of-pearl inlays, and beamed ceilings.

Not long after completion of the home, Sarah divorced Jack Wilbur and sold the home in 1918 to a druggist named William Whitlock.  In turn, Whitlock sold the home in 1924 to one Randolph Hahn.  It was during Hahn’s residency that the story of the home became “interesting” to say the least.  If nothing else, Randolph Hahn certainly left his mark on the history of Spokane.

Hahn began his professional life as a painter and barber.  Around 1885, Hahn married Annie Tico. The 1910 census lists Hahn, his wife, and five children living in a rented home at 613 Washington Street in Spokane.  Hahn’s occupation is listed as “x-ray specialist.”  However, by the 1920 census, 53-year-old Hahn is now shown as married to 21-year-old Sylvia Fly, with no mention of Annie or Hahn’s children.  Moving up in status, the census lists Hahn as a physician engaged in private practice.

Without ever having spent a day in medical school, Hahn began amassing his own fortune.  “Doctor” Hahn’s specialty involved electro-therapy as a purported cure for a variety of ailments, along with a side business performing illegal abortions for wealthy clients.  Part of the $50,000 in improvements he made after purchasing the mansion from Whitlock reportedly included the addition of secret passages to help maintain the anonymity of his clients, as well as gutters carved into the floor of the basement to aid draining blood from his operating room following one of his “procedures.”

Living in the Great Gatsby-like world he created, Hahn earned a reputation as an eccentric and a partier.  Reports from the time describe him as always appearing well-dressed in the finest suits, but clad in slippers.  Even during prohibition, the Hahn residence was well known for wild, alcohol-fueled parties.  During one of his parties, a drunk Hahn apparently drove his car into the swimming pool.  Much to the chagrin of his neighbors, he also developed an interest in radio, hanging speakers around his home playing loud music at all hours of the day until a court-order forced him to stop.  Given Hahn’s guest list of the rich and famous of Spokane at the time, it seems the police generally turned a blind-eye towards his antics.

His relationship with Sylvia proved tumultuous, with witnesses often reporting heated arguments, including one in which Hahn apparently suffered broken ribs.  The couple even divorced for a time, but later remarried as evidenced by a marriage certificate from June 8, 1933.  The turbulent relationship came to an ultimate conclusion on May 2, 1940.  Following a particularly violent row, Sylvia was discovered dead in her bedroom with a bullet wound to her head.  Despite the official ruling of suicide, multiple other bullet holes were discovered in the bedroom wall.  Hahn claimed these resulted from his bouts of indoor target practice – and the officials accepted his story.

Hahn’s wild, party-filled lifestyle continued for a few years after Sylvia’s death – along with Hahn’s illegal abortion clinic.  Unfortunately for Hahn, one of his “patients,” a young woman from Mullan, Idaho, died on his operating table while undergoing an illegal abortion.  Although he’d escaped similar charges in the past, this time he wasn’t so lucky.  In 1945, a jury convicted Hahn of manslaughter.  He received a $1000 fine and probation.  However, the conviction destroyed his reputation and ended his “medical” career, forcing Hahn to sell his mansion and move into a rooming house, the New Madison Apartments, in downtown Spokane – a far cry from his former opulent lifestyle.  Hahn met his fate on August 6, 1946, when an attacker plunged a bayonet through Hahn’s heart.  A traveling hearing aid salesman, Delbert Visger, eventually confessed to the murder, claiming robbery as a motive.  Yet, rumors persisted that it was actually revenge for a botched procedure carried out on the man’s wife by Hahn years prior.

Given the history, not surprisingly rumors of hauntings of the Hahn Mansion persist to the present day.  Over the years, witnesses have claimed to hear sounds of crowds partying, loud arguments, shrieks from Hahn’s former patients, gunshots, and even the figure of a woman who appears on the staircase.  All, of course, taking place when only the witnesses were present in the home.  Since the home is once again an elegant private residence, it seems the current owners alone know if such activity is still (or ever was) taking place…

[©2018 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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