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 include 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 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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Writing the Ways of Seattle Streets

The Seattle street system provides endless opportunities for puzzling over the “whys” of street names, as it can be difficult to find out who a street is named for.  One north Seattle street is clear in its tribute to Roosevelt — but which Roosevelt???  There were two, Teddy and Franklin, who each served as president of the United States.

Teddy Roosevelt cartoon portraying him as an outdoorsman activist

A new blog by Benjamin Donguk Lukoff called Writes of Way explores the stories of Seattle street names.  Here is Mr. Lukoff’s story of Roosevelt Way NE:

“This street runs nearly six miles from the north end of the University Bridge (at Eastlake Avenue NE and NE Campus Parkway) to Aurora Avenue North, just shy of the Seattle city limits at North 145th Street.

Roosevelt Way runs north–south for most of its length, but starting at NE 125th Street, its last 1½ miles cut a northwest–southeast diagonal across the street grid, making it Roosevelt Way North once it crosses 1st Avenue NE between N 133rd and N 135th Streets.

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Sorting Out Seattle Street Names

In Seattle’s early years, 1851  to 1889, owners of property could lay out a plan for streets and give them any names they chose.  But as the city grew, segments of a street would often have several different names as the street passed through these individually-laid-out plats of property.

Seattle rebuilt its downtown area after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889.

The Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889 burned a large section of the downtown core but instead of destroying the city, the Fire led to a rebirth of Seattle with explosive population growth.   The population jumped tenfold to about 43,000 people in Seattle as of 1890, and doubled again by the year 1900 to more than 80,000 people.  (Source:  Seattle Municipal Archives Quick Information population statistics).

Within three years of the Fire, four hundred new subdivisions were filed with King County, mainly in or near the Seattle City Limits.  Each subdivision had a layout of streets with lots for houses or commercial buildings, and property owners continued to give the streets in their plats, any name that they chose.  This resulted in a tangle of street names which were often repeated in different areas of the city.  Finally in 1895 City Engineer R.H. Thomson began renaming Seattle streets via City ordinances.  The street-renaming project also decreed that streets would be east-west and those that were north-south would be called avenues.

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Seattle Street Names North of Lake Union

Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside has previously cataloged the street names which were reorganized in a major City ordinance in the year 1895.  That was when the decision was made to have Seattle’s streets keep one name along their entire length, instead of each segment having a name chosen by that area’s land developer.  This first street name table organized by Rob, is included in my article about how Seattle’s streets were named.

Now Rob Ketcherside has added info about street names in Seattle north of Lake Union, including Fremont, Wallingford, Latona, and the University District (originally called Brooklyn).  Here’s the street names of the nearby Green Lake neighborhood.

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Fremont in Seattle: Street Names and Neighborhood Boundaries

The view from the Fremont Bridge

Fremont in Seattle began as a planned community after investors purchased the land and filed a plat map in May 1888.  A “plat” is any defined area of land for which a plan of lots and streets is laid out.

The investors, who were from Fremont, Nebraska, thought that Fremont would be a good name for this suburb, outside the city limits of Seattle at that time.

Before Fremont received its name in 1888, in the 1850s it had been the homestead claim land of William A. Strickler.  Strickler was a single man, age 30, who was from Virginia and who arrived in Seattle in 1853.

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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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South of the Bridge in Fremont

From the earliest years of white settlers’ arrival in Seattle in the 1850s, land speculators and businessmen were attracted to what is now the Fremont neighborhood at the northwest corner of Lake Union.  A big advantage of the site was a stream which early settlers called The Outlet, flowing westward toward Puget Sound.  Men such as homestead claimant William Strickler hoped to use water-power to float logs on the stream, out to the Sound and toward Yesler’s Mill on the downtown Seattle waterfront.

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle is located at the northwest corner of Lake Union. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

Thomas Mercer suggested the name “Lake Union” at the Seattle settlers’ Fourth of July picnic on the southern shore of the lake in 1854, at where Lake Union Park is now.  The “union” name was proposed because Seattle’s ambitious settlers saw that it would be possible to unite three bodies of water via a canal system.

A canal could connect from Lake Washington (on Seattle’s eastern border) through Lake Union and on westward to Puget Sound.  For this reason The Outlet at Lake Union’s northwest corner was already identified at this early date as part of the ideal route of the envisioned ship canal.

Little did Seattle’s settlers know that the ship canal idea would not come to fruition for more than sixty years, completed in 1917.  In the meantime, in 1887 businessman Thomas Burke and his associate Daniel Gilman set up a railroad which travelled east-west across Seattle’s midpoint.  That route is today the Burke-Gilman Trail which is on the north side of the ship canal and passes through Fremont.

In 1894 Ross and Fremont were shown as place names with railroad stops. The ship canal had not yet been built but there was a creek called The Outlet from Lake Union, flowing westward.  Dots on the map represent population.

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