Like other American cities which had major fires in the 1800’s, Seattle received a publicity boost from its Great Fire of June 6, 1889. Telegrams went out to other cities’ newspapers telling of the heroic efforts to save property and that no lives were lost in Seattle’s fire. Afterwards city leaders quickly organized to rebuild Seattle’s downtown core on a better street grid and with improved utilities. The city population jumped, swelled by people from all over the USA who came hoping to get jobs in Seattle’s rebuilding program.
Out in Barnes County, North Dakota, a young man named Frank Vickers Cook heard about the Seattle Fire and thought of the opportunites that might be available to him. He had just one more thing to do before going to Seattle: complete his North Dakota homestead claim and then arrange to sell the land.
Frank Vickers Cook’s parents were English immigrants who farmed in New York State, where Frank was born in 1861. In the 1880’s Cook went out on his own to North Dakota and filed a land claim, but perhaps he got tired of the backbreaking farm work. When he heard of the Seattle Fire he knew that the city would rebuild and that jobs would be available. Cook arrived in Seattle in 1891 and his first job was as a butcher in a meat market at 2nd & Cherry in the heart of downtown.
F.V. Cook soon advanced himself by becoming an agent representing Swift & Co. pork packers & shippers, with offices at 2nd & Jackson. Along with Armour, Cudahy, and Frye-Bruhn, Swift & Co. was a major meat packer & wholesaler in Seattle in the 1890’s. Seattle’s population growth after the Fire created a brisk business in meat. In those days more meat was consumed per capita than today, and animal fat (lard) was the only available cooking oil.
Cook’s work as a representative of Swift & Co. helped him become familiar with Seattle and the surrounding areas as he visited meat markets & restaurants. His travels gave him a good overview of Seattle’s growth and helped him launch his next career: real estate. Cook made this career change in 1902 at age 40 and he spent the next twenty years working in downtown real estate offices.
In 1920 F.V. Cook made his next major life change: he moved from downtown to (the future) Wedgwood. On December 15, 1891 Cook had bought land in what would become Wedgwood, and he held the property all those years without developing it. We can speculate on why Cook bought land so far outside of what was then the city limit of Seattle. We know that land which was farther from downtown was less expensive than close-in areas such as Queen Anne or Capitol Hill. Land in Wedgwood was also less expensive than areas close to natural resources such as Lake Washington.
When Cook bought the Wedgwood property in 1891, the University of Washington had not yet moved to its present site, but there was a railroad line which went through the future campus. The train continued eastward to the mill town of Yesler (Laurelhurst) and then north along the shore of Lake Washington. Today’s Burke-Gilman Trail follows the line of this railroad. In addition to the railroad, by the 1890′s streetcar lines had been extended to the “suburbs” of Fremont, Green Lake, and Woodland Park. As a land speculator in 1891 when he bought his Wedgwood property, F.V. Cook might have anticipated that either a railroad or streetcar line would eventually extend out to the property he had purchased and cause it to increase in value. Cook was willing to hold the property and wait, but he waited in vain for streetcars to arrive; the closest they ever got was Ravenna. Wedgwood became more and more of an automobile neighborhood due to the lack of other transportation.
Finally in 1920, nearly thirty years after he had purchased his Wedgwood property, Mr. Cook built a house for himself at 3412 NE 75th Street. From the 1920’s Cook’s business listings in the city directory show that he worked out of this house as a local real estate agent.
By the 1920’s the Wedgwood area was not densely populated but it was growing, and there was some commercial development along 35th Ave NE. In the 8500 block, present site of All that Dance, there was a small store and a gas station. In mid-1933 as Prohibition was ending, a beer parlor opened on the present site of the Wedgwood Ale House. A little later, probably in about 1934, the Fiddler’s Inn was founded at its present location, 9219 35th Ave NE.
In the 1920’s at 7500 35th Ave NE, the northeast corner of the intersection, a two-story building contained an upstairs apartment and a street-level dry goods store where customers gave their list to a clerk who filled orders. (This was how shopping was done prior to the development of self-service groceries with aisles.) After Prohibition, in 1934 the store became a beer parlor called Ida’s Inn. But on the northwest corner of the intersection of 75th & 35th which Mr. Cook owned, there was only his house which faced NE 75th Street. Beginning in the 1920’s Mr. Cook sold house lots along the 34th Ave NE side of the block, but on the corner of 75th & 35th he continued to hold his property without development.
Mr. Cook continued to work as a Wedgwood real estate agent until he was well into his 80’s, and he was involved in building and developing the neighborhood. One of Mr. Cook’s activities in the 1940’s was to help bring Wedgwood into the City of Seattle. Ravenna had become part of Seattle in 1907 and Laurelhurst in 1910. After that, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that other northeast Seattle neighborhoods came into the city limits. This process, called annexation, required petitions signed by twenty percent of the registered voters to bring the issue to ballot, and Mr. Cook took charge of circulating the petitions in Wedgwood.
Annexation was a “piecemeal” process by voter precincts. In April 1945 a portion of the Wedgwood area, but only as far north as NE 85th Street, officially came into the City of Seattle. At that time the postal service made the decision that houses north of 85th Street had to have rural-style curbside mailboxes, a system which Wedgwood’s north-of-85th homes still have today. All of the geographical area of the Wedgwood neighborhood (75th to 95th) was included when the city limits were moved again in 1953, but Mr. Cook did not live to see it. Finally in 1954 the Seattle City limit was extended all the way out to NE 145th Street, which included neighborhoods such as Lake City.
When Mr. Cook turned 85 he began to scale back into retirement mode. On November 13, 1946, Mr. Cook sold his property at 75th & 35th to a developer, Marinus Halffman, who built the commercial building at 7501 35th Ave NE. Today the businesses in 7501 35th Ave NE are: Blossoming Buds Cottage child care, Wedgwood Barber, and the Seattle Coin Shop.
Mr. Cook didn’t want to give up his house when he sold the property at the corner of 75th & 35th, so he had his house moved to another site. Though it has been remodeled, Mr. Cook’s house still stands today at 7544 32nd Ave NE. Mr. Cook died there in 1951 at the age of 90. From his arrival in young Seattle in 1891 through his contributions to the development of Wedgwood in the years 1920 to 1951, Frank Vickers Cook was part of Seattle’s pioneer history and was an early Wedgwood neighborhood booster.
This article first appeared in the January 2012 edition of the Wedgwood Community Council newsletter, the Echo: http://wedgwoodcc.org/
Annexation map: http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/annexations/
Annexation list with the dates: http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/annexations/annex_list.htm
Council Bill Number 65101, Ordinance Number 73879, An ordinance relating to and providing for the annexation to the City of portions of Sonora, Ravenna, Sand Point and Ziria Precincts; passed by full Council March 19, 1945. (included Wedgwood up to NE 85th Street only.)
Census: Federal census of 1880, Broome County, NY; federal census of 1910 & 1920, Seattle, WA. Accessed through Heritage Quest, Seattle Public Library, www.spl.org/
City directories: Polk’s Seattle City Directory, 1890 to 1951, accessed at Seattle Municipal Archives, 3rd floor, City Hall, Seattle.
City of Seattle records: Clerk’s Files, Mr. Cook’s letters to the city: Seattle Municipal Archives, 3rd Floor, City Hall Seattle. Accessed 11/2/2011. Clerk’s File # and description of content:
#201837 Petition of F. Vickers Cook re city water situation on 32nd Ave NE (Feb 1949)
#184619 Petition of F. Vickers Cook for rezoning of NW corner of E. 75th & 35th (1945)
#176632 Petition of F. Vickers Cook for water charges/house moving (April 1943)
#173180 Petition of F. Vickers Cook for water for a new development (1942)
Government Land Office, Bureau of Land Management: Land Patent of Frank Cook, Barnes County, North Dakota, NDMTAA 117627, Issue Date 12/3/1887. www.glorecords.blm.gov/
Historical background material/neighborhood development: Early Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey Report and Context Statement, by Greg Lange and Thomas Veith. Seattle Historic Preservation Program, City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, 2005/revised 2009. http://www.ci.seattle.wa.us/neighborhoods/preservation/documents/Context_Pre1906.pdf
HistoryLink essays: www.historylink.org/
“Business and Industry in Seattle in 1900,” Essay #1669 by James R. Warren.
“Panic of 1893,” Essay #1972 by Greg Lange.
“Seattle doubles in size by annexing north-of-downtown communities on May 3, 1891,” Essay #2214 by Greg Lange.
“Seattle annexes the area north of N. 85th Street to N. 145th Street on January 4, 1954,” Essay #7514 by David Wilma.
Newspaper articles (in chronological order):
“Annexation asked, engineer mails out petitions.” Seattle Daily Times, Nov 29, 1941, page 3.
“Big annexation to City asked.” Seattle Daily Times, August 1, 1944, page 5.
“Frank Vickers Cook.” (obituary) Seattle Daily Times, July 3, 1951, page 22.
Property records/deed index/tax assessment rolls of the State Park Addition accessed 10/7/2011 at the Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue; Greg Lange, research advisor:
–Property card notation that Mr. Cook’s house was moved from 3412 NE 75th Street to 7544 32nd Ave NE in May 1948.
–Deed index shows purchase date Dec 15, 1891, F.V. Cook from E.O. Graves & wife. Deed, Vol. 141 D p. 579, Block 40, State Park Addition. Source: General index to deeds, King County, 1852-1903, Co to Cz.
–Deed index shows sale of property Nov 13, 1946, F. Vickers Cook to Marinus Halffman, Lots 6 to 10, State Park Addition. Vol. 2552 D p. 221, General index to deeds, King County, 1946-47, Volume 20.