Seattle’s Regrading Mania

David B Williams book coverFrom the time that settlers first arrived in Seattle in 1851, they began redesigning the landscape.  There just seemed to be something about wanting to reconfigure the topography to suit civic purposes, which drove a near-mania for regrading.  It has been said that Seattle is the most engineered city in the world.  From the sluicing of Denny Hill to the digging of a ship canal, Seattle’s transformation has made its original form nearly unrecognizable.

In his new book, Too High and Too Steep, author David B. Williams has combined research, scientific background, and personal observations on how and why our city has been altered.  The book will be introduced for the first time on Wednesday, September 9th at 7 PM at the University Bookstore, 4326 University Way NE in Seattle.  David B. Williams will tell about his research and will autograph copies of Too High and Too Steep.

Here is a preview of the book with a video interview of author David B. Williams.  If you can’t make it to hear him on September 9th, other upcoming Seattle-area dates are:  Saturday, October 10 at the downtown Seattle Public Library; Thursday, November 12 at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park.

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A Walk Through Wedgwood History

Take a Walk Through Wedgwood History with me, Valarie, on any/all Saturdays in September 2015.  We will meet under the Safeway sign, 35th Ave NE at the corner of NE 75th Street at 10 AM.  We will look at the buildings we have in Wedgwood today and how Wedgwood got that way, during the post-World-War Two building boom.  Prior to the war’s end in 1945, there were no apartment buildings in Wedgwood and there still were many people who kept chickens and cows.   Today all the vacant spaces in Wedgwood are filled up and the neighborhood is beginning to experience the pressures of urbanization.

A 1953 view of NE 81st Street in the original Wedgwood emphasized its natural setting in tall trees. Photo by Werner Lenggenhager in the Seattle Public Library Historic Photos Collection.

A 1953 view of NE 81st Street in the original Wedgwood emphasized its natural setting in tall trees. Photo by Werner Lenggenhager in the Seattle Public Library Historic Photos Collection.

Wedgwood began to grow very rapidly after the end of World War Two in 1945.  With the end of the war came large numbers of returning servicemen who married and began looking for a place where they could have a house and raise a family.  As of 1945, while other parts of Seattle were already built up, in Wedgwood there were vast tracts of heavily treed, vacant land still available.  The post-war pressure for housing led to the creation of the Wedgwood neighborhood which is still in evidence today, with single-family homes on either side of a linear commercial district along 35th Ave NE.

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Names in the Neighborhood: LaVilla

In March 1945 during the final battles of World War Two in Europe, a homesick soldier wrote a letter to the Seattle Daily Times newspaper.  Lieutenant Ralph A. Penington, age 34, was with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division in Italy.  He told that after crawling into his sleeping bag one night, he had been able to drift off to happy dreams while reminiscing about his boyhood days as a newspaper carrier in northeast Seattle.  Lieut. Penington wrote,

Penington“It was twenty-five years ago this coming fall that I first started “in business” out in Morningside.  At that time I was nine years of age and I believe I had the grand circulation of fifteen papers.  Then as time went on I promoted Times circulation in Sand Point, LaVilla, Chelsea, Lake City, Cedar Park, Riviera and way points.”

As of 1920 when nine-year-old Ralph became a newspaper carrier, his family lived at 9404 25th Ave NE in the Morningside Heights plat from NE 90th to 95th Streets, 25th to 35th Avenues NE.  Morningside had been named and promoted by a real estate firm but the Morningside designation gradually fell into disuse in the 1940’s because of the rising popularity of Wedgwood as the new name for the neighborhood.

Ralph Penington’s letter of 1945 gave the names of northeast Seattle communities which are still recognized today, such as Sand Point, Lake City, and Cedar Park as well as Riviera which is a street name along Lake Washington.  Chelsea was the name of a store at 3400 NE 110th Street, present site of the Meadowbrook Apartments, and in the 1920’s it was understood to mean the nearby residential area as well.   Chelsea was replaced by the name Meadowbrook because of the golf course which opened in 1932 at the present site of Nathan Hale High School at NE 110th Street.

One of Lieut. Penington’s northeast Seattle neighborhood designations, LaVilla, is unfamiliar to us now.  Where was LaVilla?

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Where Nature Lives

Hummingbird by Larry Hubbell August 2015 exhibitThis hummingbird photo along with more than a dozen other framed bird photos is part of an exhibit at Fuel Coffee in Montlake during the month of August 2015. The exhibit is entitled, “Where Nature Lives” by photographer and artist Larry Hubbell of the Union Bay Watch blog.

All of the photos are from western Washington and all but two are from around Union Bay near the Arboretum and near the University of Washington, Montlake and Laurelhurst neighborhoods of northeast Seattle.

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The Future of 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood

Some of the commercial buildings in Wedgwood are very old and could be ripe for redevelopment.

What is the future of 35th Ave NE?  This arterial corridor through northeast Seattle has businesses clustered mainly at the intersections of NE 65th, 75th, 85th and 95th Streets.  As buildings age and are replaced, we want to have a say in how new buildings look and what the commercial offerings will be.  In a grass-roots process, the future of 35th Ave NE has been considered.  Proposed zoning changes may require that in the future, new commercial buildings on 35th Ave NE must have a pedestrian-friendly street environment with storefronts at sidewalk level.

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Go Klondike Legacy Day

The Seattle unit of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park preserves the story of the 1897 stampede to the Yukon gold fields and Seattle’s crucial role in this event.  On Friday, July 17, 2015, you can join in with activities to commemorate the Gold Rush.

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The Theodora in Northeast Seattle

The Theodora is on 35th Ave NE nearest to the corner of NE 68th Street.

The Theodora is on 35th Ave NE nearest to the corner of NE 68th Street.

The Theodora building in northeast Seattle, located on 35th Ave NE closest to the corner of NE 68th Street, is going through a transition to new use.  The Theodora Home was formerly low-income housing operated by the Volunteers of America, which had been on the site in a series of buildings since 1914.  The present Theodora, built in 1965, has been sold to a private developer who will renovate it as a regular apartment complex.

The sale of the Theodora was finalized in March 2015 and the building has been designated as a historic landmark under Seattle’s historic preservation program.  The nomination report, describing the building and its design, can be read here.

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