July 2014 Update: Thornton Creek Confluence Project

The South Fork of Thornton Creek flows eastward through culverts under 35th Ave NE at NE 107th Street in Meadowbrook.  Work is underway this summer to widen and improve this channel of Thornton Creek.  Instead of a straight, vegetation-choked channel, meanders will be created and a floodplain to absorb more water during rainy seasons, as part of the overall plan for The Confluence of the two branches of Thornton Creek.  The culverts which carry the creek under 35th Ave NE are being replaced with much larger ones this summer.  As part of digging up the creek, fish are being counted and conserved.  Watch here:

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Street Trees on 35th Ave NE

Flame Ash trees on 35th Ave NE at about 107th Street, entrance to Meadowbrook Pond.

Flame Ash trees on 35th Ave NE at about 107th Street, entrance to Meadowbrook Pond.

The neighborhoods of Wedgwood and Meadowbrook in northeast Seattle enjoy a beautiful drive along the main arterial, 35th Ave NE, under the canopy of Flame Ash trees.  These street trees were planted between 1965 to 1972 as part of Urban Forestry, SDOT (Seattle Department of Transportation, which does all street-related work.)  Perhaps Wedgwood and Meadowbrook are among the most tree-oriented neighborhoods of Seattle.  At the nearby office of Seattle Audubon, neighbors can participate in the ongoing tree survey and find gaps where they can plant trees to improve the “canopy cover.”  Seattle Audubon Society has created a tree map program which is interactive for people to enter info.

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Ride for Ryther 2014

Valarie says:  Ryther at 2400 NE 95th Street is a residential treatment center which offers behavioral health services for children and families facing complex challenges.  A fundraiser, Ride for Ryther, is being held in the Seattle-to-Portland Bike Challenge, July 12-13, 2014.  Read here how you can help support the work at Ryther by sponsoring the Riders.

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The Confluence in 2014

In summer 2014 work will be done to enlarge the capacity for water at the point of NE 107th Street where the South Fork of Thornton Creek crosses under 35th Ave NE.  Some tree removal will be required to create more space for the creek channel.

In summer 2014 work will be done to enlarge the capacity for water at the point of NE 107th Street where the South Fork of Thornton Creek crosses under 35th Ave NE. Some tree removal will be required to create more space for the creek channel.

Road closure update:  As of June 2nd, 2014, 35th Ave NE is CLOSED at NE 107th Street.  Summer construction work will be done to enlarge the creek bed of the South Fork of Thornton Creek and put in new, much larger culverts under the road.

The Thornton Creek Watershed of northeast Seattle flows toward Matthews Beach at NE 93rd Street on Lake Washington. The Confluence is the flat area along 35th Ave NE between NE 107th to 115th Streets, part of the Meadowbrook neighborhood. It is the site of convergence of the North and South Forks of Thornton Creek, and many smaller tributaries join in this area, as well. The creek system flows into Meadowbrook Pond at about NE 107th Street on the east side of 35th Ave NE. The Pond collects and filters the water before it flows down to Matthews Beach and out into Lake Washington.

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A Log House Life in Wedgwood in the 1930s

The Reese brothers, Fred and Albert, grew up in a German-speaking farm community in Minnesota in the 1880’s. It was a hard-working life with limited opportunities, and the boys’ formal education ended at the eighth grade. From then on they worked on the farm and later in other laboring occupations.

Fred Reese married in 1906 at age 28 and he and his new wife, Nellie, lived in the home of Nellie’s parents James and Agnes Russell in Brainerd, Minnesota. The Russells ran a boarding house located near the town train station.  Both Nellie and Agnes helped with the cooking, while Fred Reese worked outside the home as a blacksmith.  Fred and Nellie named their first child Russell Reese, in honor of his maternal grandparents.  In those early years before 1910, we can speculate on whether Fred and Nellie had ever even heard of Seattle, let alone imagine that they would someday live there.

In 1932 Fred Reese built this log-sided house in Wedgwood.  The writing on the photo gives the plat name of Pontiac Addition, Block 49 Lot 2.

In 1932 Fred Reese built this log-sided house in Wedgwood. The writing on the photo gives the plat name of Pontiac Addition, Block 49 Lot 2. The house was at first numbered 3704 because there was as yet no 38th Ave NE. Later the house number was changed to 3804 NE 87th Street.

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A Princess in Wedgwood

In the 1950s and 1960s the Wedgwood Community Club (WCC) was busy dealing with issues of city limits, zoning, street improvements, establishment of a business district and needed services such as schools and postal delivery.  The Club was proud of the developing community, and the WCC president of 1955-56, J.J. Jackson, thought of a way to publicize Wedgwood.  He noted that “princess” candidates from Seattle neighborhoods competed each year to be chosen Queen of the Seas at the summer festival called Seafair.  Jackson proposed, “let’s have a ‘Miss Wedgwood” contest!”

The idea took off quickly.  A WCC committee was formed to take applications and set up a selection process, and the contest was advertised in the Wedgwood Echo newsletter of May 1956. “Wedgwood has become such an important community that we feel it should be represented by a queen in the Seafair activities,” said Harold Kester, incoming WCC president of 1956.

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Redefining the Boundaries of Wedgwood in the 1950s

In the 1940s and 1950s the neighborhoods of northeast Seattle grew rapidly, with housing developments filling up what had been semi-rural areas which were still outside the city limits.  Some people resisted the process of being absorbed into the City of Seattle, but eventually annexation placed the city limits where it is today, at 145th Street from Puget Sound all the way over to Lake Washington.

Houses on NE 84th Street in 1953, photo by Werner Lenggenhager.  An amateur photographer, Leggenhager left much of his collection to the Seattle Public Library.  He spoke approvingly of the Balch houses which were modest in scale and harmonious in style.

Houses on NE 84th Street in 1953, photo by Werner Lenggenhager. An amateur photographer, Lenggenhager left much of his collection to the Seattle Public Library. He spoke approvingly of Balch’s Wedgwood development with houses which were modest in scale and harmonious in style, and with the preservation of tall trees.

“Wedgwood” was first used in 1941 by Albert Balch as a plat name for a housing development from NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE.  This forty-acre tract of houses in similar scale and harmonious styles (with New England-style Cape Cod detailing) was a huge success.  After the end of World War Two in 1945, many war veterans got married and were able to buy a Wedgwood house with a GI loan.  Young couples flocked to the Wedgwood development to establish homes and start new lives, hoping to leave behind the hardships and deprivations of the war years.  Into the 1950’s Balch acquired more tracts of land near the first Wedgwood plat, and he did more well-planned, attractive streets and groups of houses on both sides of 35th Ave NE.  The neighborhood was gradually “becoming Wedgwood” by taking its identity from the orderly and charming Balch housing developments.

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Great Backyard Bird Count 2014

Don't forget to count me!  Photo of wood thrush by William Leaman/Alamy.

Don’t forget to count me! Photo of wood thrush by William Leaman/Alamy.

The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations. Participants are asked to count birds for as little as fifteen minutes (or as long as they wish) on one or more days of the event, February 14 to 17, 2014, and report their sightings online at www.birdcount.org.

Anyone can take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, from beginning bird watchers to experts, and you can now participate from anywhere in the world!  You can participate from your kitchen window by simply counting the birds you see in your yard.

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