The Georgetown Morgue (1928-1983)
Author: James Henrikson
The next morgue on our list is the Georgetown Morgue, which stands out among historic morgues, not for its unusual industrial surroundings, but for what can only be described as a series of colorful (albeit at times horrifying) events in its relatively short (and fairly recent) history.
The Georgetown Morgue, 1983
Some people have questioned why this little-known morgue made the Historic Morgue Society's "Most Intriguing Historic Urban Morgues" list in 1999, but with a little background, the reader should have no problem understanding why.
History of the Georgetown Morgue:
Kolling Mortuary Services of Seattle constructed the 3-story facility in 1928 as a single-purpose funeral preparations facility.
Change of Ownership: 1939
Owners Charles and Henry Broughton, 1946
On April 29th, 1965 a 5.7 magnitude earthquake rocked the Puget Sound area, and while other businesses in Seattle suffered only moderate damage, tragedy struck the Broughton Brothers when crematorium Tower 1 collapsed into the west side of the building, taking out the upper floor, and killing Charles Broughton.
Brother Henry Broughton continued the business, and necessary structural renovations included the removal of the third floor. Tower 1 was rebuilt in 1967.
Change of Ownership: 1969
City of Seattle's Georgetown Morgue, 1976The City of Seattle acquired the facility after Broughton Brothers Funeral Services defaulted on their loan. (See the bizarre backstory on that below.) Once again, the facility underwent a significant change: the City converted it to a morgue. At that time, the area was part of the Georgetown District, and the City chose the Georgetown Morgue as a suitable name. Interesting sidenote: the City did not abandon the crematorium part of the facility, and instead continued to utilize it, although this time for the purpose of processing animal carcasses for their Animal Control Department.
The City operated the Georgetown Morgue until 1983, when a modern morgue was erected in Downtown Seattle at 5th Ave S. and Seneca Street. The City offered the property for sale, but received no interested buyers until 1989 (perhaps due in part to its intriguing albeit morbid history -- see * below).
Change of Ownership: 1989
The Richland Processing Corporation purchased the facility from the City of Seattle with the intention of converting it to a meatpacking transfer station. They sold crematorium towers 1 & 2 to nearby Simmons Foundry Works, where they were relocated in 1990.
The Building Today:
Home of the late Mrs. Charles BroughtonThe building has undergone significant structural change and bears only a slight resemblance to the former Georgetown Morgue. As of the time of this writing, the footings of the former crematorium smoke stack towers are still evident along the South-facing wall of the Richland Processing facility. The adjacent brick home of Charles Broughton’s widow (who remained at the residence until she claimed her own life in 1979) remains. At the time of this writing, Richland still operates the meat packing transfer station.
The Fascinating Historic Backstory of the Georgetown Morgue...
1940's jazz great John "Figgy" Dorsey:
"Seattle Crematorium Massacre" followed by the Change of Ownership to City of Seattle, 1969:
On that evening, during a business meeting on the premises, 2 (perhaps 3) suspects (assumed to have been armed), entered the building and forced all 9 attendees (the entire facility staff of Broughton Brothers Funeral Services, including company owner Henry Broughton) to be bound. In what is considered to be the most horrifying unsolved crime in Seattle history, each attendee was forced into the crematorium chamber. There were no surviving witnesses, nor were suspects ever identified. This crime is unique in its nature. Speculation has always abounded in regard to motive, but character witness testimony on police record does indicate a suspicion of less-then-legitimate business practices at Broughton Brothers.
As a result of the crime, Broughton Brothers Funeral Services had no living employees. Broughton family members had no choice but to foreclose on its loan, at which point the City of Seattle acquired the facility.
* Public outcry over the construction of the two 140-foot smoke stacks (1943):
The Georgetown Morgue ranked number 4 in the Historic Morgue Society's "Most Intriguing Urban Historic Morgues" list in Sept., 1999.