Remembering Shearwater

The Big Green House at 7321 35th Ave NE was demolished in February 2015 and townhouses were built in its place.

When I started this blog in January 2012 I did not anticipate that, as time went on, I would have to do so many updates to my articles as changes have taken place in the Wedgwood neighborhood.  I wrote about some houses which I knew would eventually be torn down, such as the Big Green House.    There have been other demolitions which were unpleasant surprises, such as The Farmhouse, and I had to add a postscript on my blog article to tell that the house is gone now.

In this year of 2018 it seems that there are tear-downs all around.  Soon there will be the demolition of 3103 NE 80th Street, a house built in 1956 which had replaced an older house that I wrote about (The House in the Road).  Now ironically in its turn, the present 3103 house will be demolished and replaced.  The lot has been subdivided for the building of two new houses.

The clock is ticking for some other structures in Wedgwood which we know will eventually be torn down, such as the Blue House (no demolition permit on file yet, as of this writing.)

Townhouses are being crammed into spaces of the former office buildings built by Balch.

Tear-down is imminent for Balch’s original real estate office at 8044 35th Ave NE.  I am very sad that my efforts to get this building historically landmarked were not successful, and I am very disappointed that Wedgwood’s community-planning efforts, including a request to adjust the zoning on this block to preserve the business district, have been ignored by Seattle City Council.

Another demolition scheduled for the year 2018 is of a no-longer-used building called the Decatur Annex on the corner of NE 77th Street and 43rd Ave NE, on the site of Decatur School.  The Decatur Annex is the last remaining building from the former Shearwater Housing lived in by Navy families.

The Decatur Annex faces NE 77th Street nearest to 43rd Ave NE.

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A Market on Sand Point Way NE

During the Civil War, northern industrialists went to Scandinavian countries to recruit workers for mining, logging and factory operations, in place of American men who had gone to fight for the Union.

Frank Harold Rovainen (pronounced Rov-EYE-nen), born in Minnesota in 1905, was the grandson of a man who was in the first group of immigrants from Finland to Minnesota in 1865.  In the century following the Civil War, many immigrants and their descendants continued to move westward in search of other opportunities.  So it was that in 1936 Harold Rovainen, age 31, made a leap from Minnesota out to Seattle, where he got a job with a grocer at the Pike Place Market.

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Saving Wedgwood: Historic Preservation and Best-Use Planning in the Commercial Zones

In the 1940s during World War Two the population of Seattle swelled with war workers, and in the 1950s the population continued to increase with people who wanted to make their homes here in the beautiful Seattle area.

Young married couples of the 1950s loved the affordable homes built by Balch in the new Wedgwood development.

In the 1950s in Seattle, a new generation of young married couples was starting new lives and wanted their own houses.  The thinly populated northeast Seattle area, much of which was still outside the official Seattle City Limits, began to fill up with single-family housing.

A developer, Albert Balch, acquired and built on tracts of land which became the Wedgwood neighborhood.  Wedgwood is centered around NE 85th Street with a commercial district on 35th Ave NE and with single-family homes to the east and west of 35th Ave NE.

The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle has a linear commercial district along 35th Avenue NE.

Because Wedgwood did not come completely into the Seattle City Limits until 1954, Balch’s housing developments were not yet subject to City zoning regulations.  Balch did his own urban planning, reserving the intersection of NE 85th Street for commercial development along on the arterial 35th Ave NE.

Balch built office buildings at 8050 and 8044 35th Ave NE for his personal office and that of his development and sales staff.  Other buildings in that complex from 8014 to 8050 35th Ave NE were medical and dental offices.  But Balch did not know that his office complex contained a fatal flaw:  it was built in a block which up to the present time is still zoned residential, not commercial.

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Dooley’s Tavern on Sand Point Way NE

Safeco Plaza at 1001 Fourth Avenue (northwest corner of Madison Street) is on the former site of the Lincoln Hotel. To take this photo, I am standing with my back to the downtown Seattle Public Library, looking across Fourth Avenue.

A few minutes after midnight on April 7, 1920, the lights began to blink and go out at the Lincoln Hotel on Fourth & Madison Streets in downtown Seattle.  The desk clerk and the night watchmen smelled smoke, and they began telephoning the rooms and going along the hallways to rouse guests to flee the fire.  But before they could get very far, the heat and smoke of the rapidly-spreading fire forced them to leave the building, and they watched as flames shot up the central courtyard and began to consume the upper floors.  There were more than 300 people staying in the hotel.

When the fire department arrived there was little they could do to save the building, as the streams of water directed at the fire were not enough to quench the raging inferno.  Firemen commenced to rescue guests who were still inside the hotel.

This photo taken in 1906 shows the foundations being laid for the Seattle Public Library. Looking westward across Fourth Avenue we see the Lincoln Hotel.  Photo courtesy of Seattle Public Library Historic Photos Collection.

As crowds watched from the sidewalk, Fireman Carl R. Dooley climbed a fire department ladder as far as it would go, up the exterior wall to the fifth floor of the hotel.  Then Dooley continued climbing up by using an extension pole called a pompier or hook ladder, to reach a woman who was frantically waving for help out of a seventh-floor window.

Dooley lowered the woman with ropes to Police Officer Phil McNamee, a former fireman, who pulled her in through a fifth floor window.  Then Dooley climbed back down himself.  Fireman Dooley and Patrolman McNamee received commendations from the Mayor of Seattle for their heroism on the day of the Lincoln Hotel fire, having rescued a number of people.

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Wilson’s Food Store in Wedgwood

From 2012 to 2018 the building at 2415 NE 80th Street was the home of the NE Seattle Tool Library, an initiative of the NE Seattle Sustainable movement.  The Tool Library is a lending library for items which can be borrowed, saving money from having to buy seldom-used equipment such as a power-washer.  The NE Seattle Tool Library is also known for its classes and exchange of services, such as a Fix-It Night when people can bring household items and learn how to repair them.

In June 2018 the NE Seattle Tool Library has moved to a larger space at the historic LaVilla Dairy building, located just east of Lake City Way NE at 10228 Fischer Place NE.

The little building at 2415 NE 80th Street started out as a neighborhood convenience store in 1946.

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A New Cafe Coming to Wedgwood

Good new businesses are always welcome in Wedgwood’s commercial district along 35th Avenue NE.  A Seattle company, the Grand Central Bakery, has announced that they will open a Wedgwood cafe at 7501 35th Avenue NE, in the former View Ridge Pharmacy building.

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