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.
Posted in Architecture, Balch, Neighborhood features
Tagged Future of 35th Ave NE, historic preservation, Neighborhood History, retail storefronts, Seattle, urban planning, urban renewal, Wedgwood's business district, WPLongform
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.
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.
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.
The NE Seattle Tool Library is a community-based nonprofit organization for sharing tools and knowledge of how-to-fix-it. The Tool Library has been very successful in its mission and now it has now moved to a good new site at 10228 Fischer Place NE in the historic LaVilla Dairy Building.
The early years of the Wedgwood Community Club in the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by the dedicated involvement of young couples who had developed leadership skills through the World War Two years of the 1940s. Mylo Lindgren was just such a community activist: he served in the war, married and then spent more than fifty years as a Wedgwood resident and community leader.
Billboard of April 1971 courtesy of the Seattle Times newspaper
A HistoryLink article by Greg Lange tells of the large-scale layoffs of employees at Boeing Aircraft which set off a recession in Seattle from 1967 to 1972. The population of Seattle plummeted as people left town to find work elsewhere. Two local real estate agents thought it would be funny to put up a billboard about the exodus, saying, “Will the Last Person Leaving Seattle – Turn Out the Lights.”
Besides Boeing employees, many other people such as restaurant workers, lost their jobs when the population of Seattle decreased and small businesses could not sustain themselves. In that time period the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle had been established and growing for about 25 years and was beginning to show signs of the end of one era and the start of another. We can see how the slowdown in the economy affected Wedgwood at the start of the 1970s, with fewer and fewer small, locally-owned stores, and the coming of more banks and larger chain stores. Gas stations went out of business, too, because of higher operating costs and fewer customers.