The Rite-Aid Building in Wedgwood

It’s easy to have a nice day in the charming Wedgwood business district.  Photo by Valarie.

Wedgwood was just beginning to take shape as a neighborhood during the 1940s. At the intersection of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE, there was only one building, Hansen’s Tavern, as of 1945.

In 1945 the tavern owner rebuilt the building to include storefronts, and he re-named his business the Wedgwood Tavern.  The new stores adjacent to the tavern included McVicar Hardware, 8507 35th Ave NE.

As of 1945-1946 the tavern (today’s Wedgwood Ale House at 8515 35th Ave NE) was the first of the neighborhood businesses to name itself after the nearby Wedgwood housing development built by Albert Balch.

In the 1940s developer Albert Balch acquired ownership of the other three corners of the intersection at NE 85th Street, which he reserved for commercial buildings.  The intersection grew with a variety of stores in response to the population growth of Wedgwood.  Today the intersection of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE is the heart of Wedgwood’s business district.

Copyright notice:  the text and photos of this article are protected under Creative Commons Copyright.  Do not copy without permission.

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How Did Lake City in North Seattle Get Its Name?

Lake City in northeast Seattle, map courtesy of HistoryLink.

Lake City is the northeasternmost neighborhood of Seattle and did not come completely into the City of Seattle boundaries until 1954.

Though it was platted as a suburban area of single-family homes, Lake City also developed its own commercial district around the intersection of NE 125th Street, and Lake City had a strong community identity from early years.  Today Lake City has an active neighborhood association and a busy business district.

The Shoreline Historical Museum, located at 18501 Linden Ave N., has a lot of information about north Seattle areas which were once outside the City of Seattle.  Museum director Vicki Stiles has written this wonderful essay about how Lake City got its name, which I (Valarie) am re-posting here.

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The Copestick Building in Wedgwood

During World War Two from 1941 to 1945, Americans put their personal plans on hold so that they could serve in the military, work in war production industries or in support services.  After the end of World War Two the focus of American life turned from supporting the war effort, to pursuing the dreams of home and family which had been deferred during the war.  There was pent-up demand for houses and for consumer goods which had not been produced for civilian use during the war.

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

The Wedgwood neighborhood took on its identity in this period of rapid growth in the post-war years of the 1940s and 1950s, when large numbers of young couples got married and started new lives with their own homes.

As of the 1940s there was an incredible amount of vacant land still available in northeast Seattle which became areas of new housing.  Developer Albert Balch’s first tract of Wedgwood houses (a plat name) on the west side of 35th Ave NE from NE 80th to 85th Streets, was so popular that local businesses wanted to identify with it, and so the Wedgwood development gradually gave its name to the new neighborhood.

Businesses were attracted to the growing Wedgwood neighborhood with its potential customers, the young couples in Balch houses.  Businesses began to be established at the major commercial intersection of NE 85th Street and nearby blocks along 35th Ave NE.

Wedgwoodians want their commercial district to have a variety of locally-owned shops.

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Car Show and Cancer Fundraiser at the Wedgwood Broiler

Sunday, August 26, 2018 will be a day of fun, 10 AM to 3 PM, at the Wedgwood Broiler, 8230 35th Ave NE, for the Eleventh Annual Wedgwood Car Show and Cancer Fundraiser.

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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, and two new houses are in its place.

In this year of 2018 it seems that there are tear-downs all around.  In August there was 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 house has been demolished to be replaced by a new-style house.

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 Albert Balch, developer of the original Wedgwood.

Demolition occurred on August 8, 2018, 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.  What is wanted by Wedgwoodians is retail storefronts, but due to the zoning issues, townhouses are being built in former commercial sites.

8044 35th Ave NE.demolished 8 August 2018

Demolition of 8044 35th Ave NE on August 8, 2018.  This original Balch office building will be replaced by townhouses like those at right.  A very big thank-you to a neighborhood resident who drove by and took these photos — I could not get there in time.

The story of Shearwater and the remaining Decatur Annex building

Another demolition which is pending, 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, pictured below, is the last remaining building from the former Shearwater Housing lived in by Navy families, built in 1945.

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 accounting, architecture, development and real estate 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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