The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle acquired its name and identity in the 1940s with the work of developer Albert Balch. Balch filed a plat plan on July 31, 1941 for a forty-acre tract of land (five square blocks) on the west side of 35th Ave NE from NE 80th to 85th Streets, which Balch named Wedgwood.
Balch offices in 1962, with the Crawford & Conover real estate sign at 8044 35th Ave NE. Photo 76719 Seattle Municipal Archives.
Balch did not deliberately set out to name the whole neighborhood, but his new housing development gave such a “sense of place” that the Wedgwood name was soon adopted by local businesses, the community club and a new elementary school. Wedgwood became the epicenter of the Balch construction and real estate businesses when he built his own offices at 8050 and 8044 35th Ave NE, which he used for the rest of his life.
The first group of Wedgwood houses had a unified appearance with all of the houses in consistent scale (size) and setback (distance from the curb). Balch asked his architects, Clyde Grainger and Harlan Thomas, to design houses with New England/Early American motifs including Colonial and Cape Cod styles. The house styles were all similar, and Wedgwood was a completely finished development with curbs and sidewalks.
Gateposts as entrance markers to the original Wedgwood plat
As an allusion to English estate properties, Balch put in gateposts as entrance markers on 35th Ave NE at NE 81st Street. The gateposts, reminiscent of an estate entrance, are ornamental-only but they do give a sense of arrival.
Now more than seventy-five years later, we are seeing tear-downs of small, 1940s Balch houses all around the Wedgwood neighborhood, with new kinds of designs, materials and house forms coming in. It can be visually jarring to see the contrast between old, traditional architecture and the new styles.
What are houses in Wedgwood “supposed” to look like? Do new kinds of house forms and materials “fit in” with Wedgwoodian house culture?