Old-Time Stores and Gas Stations on Sand Point Way NE

Establishment of the Naval Air Station on the shore of Lake Washington in 1927 was the catalyst for street improvements and commercial development along Sand Point Way NE.  The City of Seattle officially named Sand Point Way and coordinated with King County in efforts to complete the road and pave it, for better access to the naval base.  With roadway improvements came more access to the area, and then little stores and gas stations sprang up along the way.

Photo of 1960, looking southward on Sand Point Way NE we see the entrance of the NAS at left and Dooley’s Restaurant at right. Photo from Seattle Municipal Archives.

Today, Sand Point Way NE is a very wide arterial from its point of origination at 45th & Union Bay Place NE, northward as far as the gate of the former Naval Air Station at NE 74th Street (present Magnuson Park).

North of the present Magnuson Park, Sand Point Way NE suddenly narrows down to only two lanes.  With the aspect of a country road, Sand Point Way winds its way along, parallel to the lake shore, until ending with a curve onto NE 125th Street.

In the 1930s gas stations and corner stores were built along the road north of the naval base, but most of these commercial enterprises only lasted a few years.

This blog article will note stores and gas stations which were on Sand Point Way NE but which are gone now.

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Sand Point Way NE: Stores and Stations at NE 97th Street

The establishment of the Naval Air Station at Sand Point in the 1920s caused Sand Point Way NE to become an arterial street.  Even though the naval base grew slowly at first, its presence caused northeast Seattle to hope for economic benefits of jobs at the base and commercial growth nearby.

The entrance of the Naval Air Station was at NE 74th Street on Sand Point Way NE

The City of Seattle officially named Sand Point Way NE in 1927 and worked with King County to pave the road.  Today, Sand Point Way NE is a wide arterial from Union Bay Place/NE 45th Street out as far as the gate of the former Naval Air Station at NE 74th Street.  North of there, the road narrows to one lane in each direction.

Sand Point Way NE marked in blue at right

In the 1920s and 1930s little corner stores and gas stations sprang up along Sand Point Way NE out as far as NE 125th Street.  Due to the narrowness of the roadway north of the naval base and low population density in northeast Seattle, the little stores retained a rural aspect.

In this blog article we will look at the stores and the gas station which were at the NE 97th Street intersection on Sand Point Way NE.  Nothing remains of these now, except for an auto repair shop on one corner.

The little corner groceries only lasted about twenty years or so until other kinds of food outlets, such as 7-Eleven convenience stores or large, multi-department groceries won out in the competition for customers.

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A Market on Sand Point Way NE

During the Civil War in the 1860s, 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 the leap from Minnesota out to Seattle, where he got a job with a grocer at the Pike Place Market.

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Wedgwood’s NE 95th Street Gas Station Intersection

In the 1940s the intersection of 35th Avenue NE and NE 95th Street had gas stations on three corners, and a used-car lot as well.   This intersection on the northern boundary of the Wedgwood neighborhood was once called Morningside or sometimes Maple Leaf, in reference to the elementary school on NE 100th Street.

Up until the 1940s, the intersection of NE 95th Street had more “going on” than the intersection of NE 85th Street.  For a while there were gas stations on three of the four corners of NE 95th Street and some small stores.  But gradually in the 1940s and 1950s, with the development of Albert Balch’s Wedgwood neighborhood centered at NE 85th Street, the residential population grew more there and businesses began to cluster around NE 85th.  That intersection ultimately became the heart of Wedgwood, while the intersection of NE 95th Street lacked further business development.

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Wedgwood’s Commercial Intersections

Wedgwood has a linear commercial district along 35th Ave NE running through the center of the neighborhood from NE 75th to 95th Streets.

Wedgwood has a linear commercial district along 35th Ave NE running through the center of the neighborhood from NE 75th to 95th Streets.

In early years before the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle acquired its identity, it did not have a commercial center on 35th Ave NE at NE 85th Street as it does today.

In the 1920s there was much more residential development near the NE 95th Street intersection.  In the 1930s local businessmen opened stores on 35th Ave NE at NE 95th Street where they thought a commercial district would thrive.

Today, there isn’t much “going on” at NE 95th Street and the heart of Wedgwood is found at the NE 85th Street intersection, instead.  This blog post will explore the reasons why.

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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, district by district, sections and voting precincts voted themselves into the city.  The annexation process placed the north 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, the government assistance program for veterans.

After the war, 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 1950s 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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Roy Erford and the Euphonious Election District Names

Wedgwoodians of the 1940s may have been puzzled to learn that their voting district was called Sonora, which is a place name in Mexico.  Those living north of NE 85th Street and east of 35th Ave NE were in the Sand Point Precinct, and that made a little more sense – but not too much.  Before the era of precinct numbers, the King County Election Superintendent, Roy Erford, gave each voting area a colorful name.

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Names in the Neighborhood: Before There Was A Hawthorne Hills

Part of the fun of blogging is being able to network with other writers.  Here I am sharing a wonderful article written by Zach about the northeast Seattle neighborhood of Hawthorne Hills.

In the years before a real estate company named and developed Hawthorne Hills, the area was the land claim of a man who was determined to live there even without the legal right to do so.

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Homewaters

When Seattle author David B. Williams started his most recent project he never could have imagined that the research, writing and publication of his latest book would take nearly five years.  Now Mr. Williams is able to share his wonderful discoveries of the human and natural history of Puget Sound in his book, Homewaters.

Here is what Mr. Williams has written about Homewaters:

“It weaves the stories of people and place across more than 10,000 years of history. This includes warfare, transportation (canoe culture and mosquito fleet), and resource extraction. In addition to addressing salmon and orca, I also explore lesser known, but ecosystem-critical species such as rockfish, herring, kelp, Olympia oyster, and geoducks. Ultimately, my goal is to create a more nuanced and complex picture of this beautiful place and to illustrate that we are at a critical moment where we can work together to make it more habitable for all.”  (Quote from the author’s website geologywriter.com)

Homewaters can be borrowed from the public library and copies of the book can be purchased from the website of David B. Williams or from any University of Washington Press books outlet.

In these pandemic days we can’t yet attend in-person books talks but the author is giving a number of free presentations via Zoom.  By going to his website or to that of the UW Press Events Page, you can see the author’s list of upcoming book talks about Homewaters.  The Zoom meetings are free (though sometimes phrased as “purchase a ticket” when you register.)  By registering for a Zoom meeting, a link to the meeting will be sent to you.

From the University of Washington Press Blog Page, here is David B. Williams’ story of how he wrote the book Homewaters:

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Along the Road: From Pontiac to Sand Point Way NE

Sand Point map of 1894

There was not yet a road called Sand Point Way NE when the first commercial activities began at about NE 70th Street on Lake Washington.  In the 1880s Edward F. Lee had a boat-building shop there, and Osborn M. Merritt had a shingle mill.  Merritt was from Pontiac, Michigan, and the name he chose for his business, Pontiac Shingle Mill, “caught on” as names sometimes do, as a name for the area.

The next business to open was a brickmaking plant owned by the investors group of Thomas Burke, Morgan J. Carkeek and Corliss P. Stone.

With fortuitous timing, the brick plant at Pontiac was set up and ready to operate just before Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889.  The Fire burned a wide swath of downtown Seattle business blocks which had almost all wood-frame buildings.  In the rebuilding after the Fire it was ordered that new structures must be built of brick and stone.  The Pontiac Brick Company roared into production to make bricks for new buildings in Seattle.

Judge Thomas Burke was an attorney, real estate investor and civic activist in Seattle.

The Pontiac Brick Company was sited for access to clay for making bricks and it was also alongside the tracks of the new Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad (SLS&E) which had just been put through in 1887.

Thomas Burke and his railroad co-developer Daniel Gilman planned the railroad line for this very purpose, to access sites of natural resources and commercial production.  The SLS&E route has been preserved as today’s Burke-Gilman Trail.

Pontiac at Lake Washington had a lot of activity for a few years.  Mr. Lee of the boat building shop served as postmaster for the mail which came by train.  There was a Pontiac School for the community’s children from 1908-1911.  The school closed as there was not much activity in the area any more.

This blog post will tell how Sand Point Way NE developed as an arterial road because of the Naval Air Station at about NE 74th Street on Lake Washington.

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Names in the Neighborhood: Chelsea and Lake City

Seattle north of the ship canal has many neighborhoods which derived their names from plats of land development.  Sometimes the naming was deliberate, such as Laurelhurst, in which the developers reconfigured the streets and promoted the sale of houses in the community they named and built.

Balch’s original stone gateposts at NE 81st Street marked the entrance to Wedgwood on 35th Ave NE.

Albert Balch, the developer of View Ridge and Wedgwood, did not deliberately set out to name these neighborhoods.  These areas did not have a definite identity before Balch built plats of houses.  As the population grew in the 1940s and 1950s, place names gradually evolved.

Wedgwood was a neighborhood of young married couples in those years.  They had lived through World War Two in the 1940s and they were experienced in community-organizing such as for civil defense.  They applied their organizing skills to their new neighborhood for fire protection, development issues, activities for families and mutual aid in weather events.  Gradually the neighborhood began identifying with the Wedgwood name.

Wedgwood is the plat name for a group of harmoniously-designed houses built by Albert Balch in the 1940s, on the west side of 35th Ave NE between NE 80th to 85th Streets. The spread of Wedgwood as a name can be attributed to the first business to use it, the Wedgwood Tavern in 1946.  As soon as the tavern adopted the Wedgwood plat name, other nearby businesses took up the name as well.

Chelsea, a vanished place name in northeast Seattle

Like LaVilla which doesn’t exist as a place name in northeast Seattle anymore, Chelsea is marked on the City of Seattle map but no one uses that name now, for what was once a real estate promotion.

We know from our exploration of plat names near today’s Nathan Hale High School, that in the early 1900s landowner Mae Yates gave the name Chelsea to NE 110th Street.  The Yates house still marks the corner of 30th & 110th, with Nathan Hale High School now on the south side of the street.

In the 1920s a widow, Carrie Palmer, continued to use the name Chelsea for plats of house lots.  Carrie Palmer’s real estate developments were on the east side of today’s Jane Addams Middle School, and she leased out a Chelsea Store at the corner of 34th Ave NE & NE 110th Street.

This blog article will show that in the 1920s “Chelsea” was used to advertise housing in northeast Seattle on or near NE 110th Street, though use of the name has disappeared in present times.

The Yates house, built in 1914, is still at 3004 NE 110th Street.

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Names in the Neighborhood: from Chelsea to Meadowbrook

In 1961 residents of northeast Seattle petitioned the City to give them some geographic identity by preserving the name “Meadowbrook.”  The Meadowbrook Golf Course at NE 110th Street had closed because the property had been purchased by the Seattle School District.  A new high school was to be built on the golf course site and members of the community thought that the school should be named Meadowbrook.

Randy Raider, Nathan Hale High School in Seattle

At first it seemed that there was a good possibility of a Meadowbrook High School.  Then the school district asserted rules about the naming of schools, that they should be named for presidents or for other figures in American history.  Thus the name Nathan Hale, a hero of the American Revolution, was chosen for the high school which opened in September 1963.

The new high school was sited at NE 110th Street closest to the corner of 30th Ave NE.  Other portions of the property were used for parking lots and athletic fields.  Later developments of the site included a community center building and a swimming pool accessed from 35th Ave NE. Continue reading

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Names in the Neighborhood: Chelsea Becomes a School Street

Hugh Benton and Victor Palmer were young attorneys who arrived to make their fortunes in Seattle in the early 1900s.  In those days attorneys would often expedite property transactions because the category of real estate agent as a profession had not yet been developed.  Benton & Palmer were successful both in their law practice and in their own investments in the booming Seattle real estate market.

Edwin & Ruth Shidler lived in this home on the same block with Ruth’s parents, the Bentons.

Hugh & Mary Benton settled at 5560 29th Ave NE in the Ravenna neighborhood, where their family grew to seven children.  Hugh’s brother Benjamin lived at 5566.

Adult children of both Benton families occupied nearby houses, such as Hugh & Mary’s daughter Ruth who married Edwin Shidler in 1923 and lived at 5540 29th Ave NE.  Mr. Shidler became well-known in the 1930s as the principal of Maple Leaf School on NE 100th Street.

Over many years time the Benton & Palmer families would become developers of housing near NE 110th Street in today’s Meadowbrook, once called the Chelsea neighborhood.

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Names in the Neighborhood: Chelsea

NE 110th Street in the Meadowbrook neighborhood of northeast Seattle is today dominated by two large school buildings:  Nathan Hale High School on the south side of NE 110th Street and Jane Addams Middle School on the north side.

Hidden in the history of today’s “school street” is the story of a highway of a century ago, and a neighborhood name, Chelsea.  Chelsea referred to NE 110th Street before the present schools were built, Jane Addams Middle School (built 1949) and Nathan Hale High School (built 1963 on the former Meadowbrook Golf Course and Fischer Farm property).

Pictured below is Jane Addams Middle School, looking south with NE 110th Street at the top of the photo.  On the far left of the photo is 35th Ave NE.  Before the school was built, the housing developments we see here were referred to as Chelsea.

Looking southward, we see Jane Addams Middle School circa 1960. NE 110th Street is at the top of the photo showing the golf course property on the south side of NE 110th. The golf course later became the site of Nathan Hale High School.

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A Civil War Veteran in Seattle: Edward Lind

Civil War monument at Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Seattle.

The Civil War of the United States was fought from 1861 to 1865 and yet, 160 years later, we are still fighting issues of the unity and principles of what it means to be an American.  Throughout their lifetimes, veterans of the Civil War were instrumental in their promotion of national unity, always active in commemorations such as Memorial Day.

Washington Territory did not send troops to the Civil War but afterward, over many years’ time, Civil War veterans migrated out to Seattle.  They were active in public life in Seattle, always patriotic and contributing to their community.  Today, the project of Seattle’s Civil War Legacy is to highlight the lives of these veterans and their sacrificial service.

This blog post will outline the life of Edward Lind, a Norwegian immigrant who fought in the Civil War, became part of western migration and came to the City of Seattle.  He is buried in Seattle’s Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery dedicated to Civil War veterans.

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