The history of the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle goes back only a little more than one hundred years. Wedgwood was slow to be settled because northeast Seattle was inland, not located on a water resource such as a river or lake, and not close to downtown Seattle for the convenience of commuting to places of employment. The first families in the area built small houses for ease of heating. They used wood or coal stoves until electricity came to Wedgwood in about 1923.
In 1919 the Seattle School Board established a new program of “intermediate education” for grades 7, 8 and 9. Up until that time, elementary schools went through the eighth grade and high school was four years. One of the main reasons for creation of intermediate schools was to relieve crowding in the elementary schools.
In the 1920s there was strong population growth in the north Seattle neighborhoods of Green Lake and Wallingford, and these were the first in north Seattle to get separate intermediate schools. After the 1920s there were no more intermediate or high schools built in north Seattle until the 1950s, including Nathan Eckstein School at 3003 NE 75th Street in the Wedgwood neighborhood.
Seattle’s earliest white settlers saw immediately that it would be possible to connect its freshwater lakes to the saltwater Puget Sound by means of a canal. At a Fourth of July picnic in 1854, Thomas Mercer proposed the name of Lake Union because that body of water was in the middle between Lake Washington to the east and Puget Sound to the west. Thomas Mercer and David Denny took land claims at the south end of Lake Union. Two single men, John Ross and William Strickler, searched out the land and in 1853-1854 they took claims at the northwest corner of Lake Union, which today is the Fremont neighborhood.
From those early times Seattle settlers thought to build a ship canal but little did they know that it would take more than sixty years to come to fruition. Finally in 1910-1917 all of the needed legislation, financing and public support came together to create the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
In 1940 the Wedgwood neighborhood did not yet exist in northeast Seattle. There were vast tracts of undeveloped land and except for Hansen’s Tavern at NE 85th Street, there were no other businesses at that intersection on 35th Ave NE. The other three corners of that intersection were unoccupied by any structures.
In the years from 1940 to 1955 the NE 85th Street intersection and the surrounding blocks were transformed by a visionary developer, Albert S. Balch, and acquired the neighborhood name of Wedgwood.
Today the Wedgwood neighborhood is defined by its commercial corridor along 35th Avenue NE, between NE 75th to 95th Streets.
It was a rainy Sunday in Seattle but cherry trees in bloom signaled the hope of Spring.
Seattle author David B. Williams is well-known for his geology walks and talks. In recent years he has been doing research into Seattle history and how the city has interacted with and altered its natural environment, and he wrote the story of Seattle’s regrading projects in Too High and Too Steep. On March 1, 2017, Mr. Williams launched his newest book, Seattle Walks: Discovering History and Nature in the City.