The 9 Circles Club

Now called the Washington Court Building, the structure at 2nd Avenue and South Washington Street in Pioneer Square has had a checkered past; perhaps even more so than its dark present.

Its construction began immediately after the great Seattle fire of 1889, which destroyed a sizable portion of the Downtown area. It was commissioned by the city’s then and still most notorious Madame: Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben, AKA “Lou Graham.” Her first brothel having been destroyed in the great fire, the “Queen of the Lava Beds” wasted no time in having a replacement built using her vast fortune.

The “Graham Building” reflected a sturdy, Victorian aesthetic with angled façades unique for Seattle at the time. It served its Madame, and her various customers (including several government officials and members of some of Seattle’s first families) well for many years.

After Madame Graham’s death in 1903, the building was given, interestingly enough, to the King County Public School system. Its tenants over the next 100 years varied from law firms, to private businesses, to most recently in the 1990’s of being a part of the Union Gospel Mission.

That all changed in early 2006 however, when a mysterious buyer from overseas appeared. In a quickly closed deal, wherein the historic building's back taxes would be paid with the bonus of a $2 million cash payment up front, the building became the property of Shrub Gruppen AS, the commercial entity of the famed Norwegian death metal band, Scarred Shrub. One of the band's members, Damien, quickly gutted the first three floors, and converted it into the death metal dance club Hammerstead, over which he acted as manager.

But a mere handful of months after opening, Damien mysteriously vanished from the club scene, if not the face of the earth altogether. Fleeting rumors persisted that he had been deported back to Norway, or that he had been murdered by a rival. But in the flux of Seattle nightlife, the enigma was quickly overtaken by other scandals.

In November of 2006, new construction was undertaken at the Graham Building. The Hammerstead sign was taken down, and a new one put in its place: The 9 Circles.


Still on the books as owned by Shrub Gruppen AS, new management for The 9 Circles was neither advertised nor (on the rare occasions a name was mentioned) recognizable to the club or music scene. This perpetuated the idea that Damien had somehow been recalled to Norway for mismanagement, and a mere administrative proxy put in his place.

Officially opening on December 2nd, 2006, the club, whose name and theme was based loosely upon Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, offered a more punk and gothic atmosphere than had its previous incarnation. Consisting of a large main dance 1st floor (Inferno), a 2nd floor balcony level of a members-only 'Bondage Club' (Purgatorio), and a private and mirror-enclosed V.I.P. balcony 3rd floor (Paradiso), the nightclub walked the line between being both a public and private institution.


For the Kindred of Seattle, The 9 Circles offers all the advantages the undead seeking safety could want: a hive of continuous and flowing nightlife with which to interact; social cover amongst already extreme eccentrics; and the added bonus that, with so many potential, living witnesses present, undead enemies and rivals have far less of an incentive to act in any manner that might be considered (and thus reported to the authorities) as “inhuman” within the club's confines.

Access to Paradiso, the primary and most private area of the nightclub, comes by way of a secure elevator across the dance floor at the back of the Inferno level.

New Kindred seeking respite within the Nine Circles are usually screened by the club's caretaker via intercom at the elevator, before being allowed access to the private 3rd floor. Guests are required to leave their "baggage" at the door, as any violation of the safety and security of the club, or the caretaker's temper, will be met with quick and severe retribution.

Ownership History
Early 2006 - Late 2006 (as Hammerstead): Damien
2007 - 2010 (as The 9 Circles): Eugene Krantz
2011 - Present : Morris Tobias, holding the property in trust

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