Annexed Cities

Wedgwood banner cartoon by Bob Cram, Wedgwood Community Council Newsletter of March 1996.

One of the most common questions I receive on my blog is about the Seattle City Limits and on what date different areas came into the city.

Some neighborhoods of Seattle such as Ballard and Ravenna started out as separate cities but they found, over time, that they were not able to keep up with the need to have utilities such as water and electricity, and the need of improvements such as roads.

I have written a blog article about how the Wedgwood neighborhood came into the city limits.  Annexation of the northeastern areas including Wedgwood, occurred gradually over the 1940s to 1950s with separate sections voting themselves in at different times.  It was a controversial process with some people resisting because they thought that coming into the Seattle City Limits would not benefit them.

The northern portion of Wedgwood (north of NE 85th Street) and areas up to 145th Street, including Lake City, were among the last to be included with the final annexation taking effect in 1954.

The Seattle Municipal Archives has a map of annexations and a list of the dates of annexations.   I am posting the SMA’s essay and info here:

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Life and Legacy in Wedgwood in the 1930s: the Hentschell Family

The University Bridge as it looked in February 1932. Photo 5441, Seattle Municipal Archives.

The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle was never reached by a streetcar system, and the area remained outside of the City Limits until the 1940s-1950s.

Up until after the end of World War Two in 1945, the (future) Wedgwood area was semi-rural with scattered houses and no commercial district.

Northeast Seattle was hard to reach until after the ship canal was completed in 1917.  After bridges were built across the ship canal, roads extended out northward from there.  It might seem surprising that so many people in northeast Seattle owned cars in the early days of the 1920s-1930s, but they did, and they drove to work.

The University Bridge (built 1919) and the Montlake Bridge (1925) led to population growth in northeast Seattle because people were now able to live farther out in the less expensive northern areas of the city and drive across the bridges to work in downtown Seattle.

Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

The Hentschell family were among those who moved out to the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle in the 1930s, leaving behind the conveniences of the city in order to find an affordable place to live.

The Hentschells became active contributors to the life of the neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s.  The neighborhood had not yet acquired an identity as “Wedgwood” but among other neighborhood activities, a Catholic parish was in formation.

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Binek’s Electric Bakery, a Beloved Business in Wedgwood in the 1950s

High school graduation portrait of John Binek of Minnesota

During the World War Two years of the 1940s the population of Seattle swelled with military and with civilian workers. People left other states in the USA to come to Seattle and get jobs in wartime industries such as Boeing Aircraft. People used to joke that some states such as Minnesota and the Dakotas had emptied out because it seemed that the entire population had relocated to Seattle.

So it was that the Binek family of Minnesota made a migration to Seattle in the 1940s.  Eldest son John Binek, a restaurant owner, joined the Army and was stationed out of a Seattle-area military base.  John’s widowed father thought it would be advantageous to start a new life in Seattle, and he brought some of his other young adult children to Seattle, as well.

John Binek’s father settled on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill and opened a bakery at 3207 West McGraw Street in a newly-built block of storefronts.  Binek’s Bakery prospered in this commercial district.

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A House of Creativity in Wedgwood

Many artists, writers, and others in creative pursuits have made their home in the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.

The house at 7756 30th Ave NE was designed and built in 1941 by an artist who drew cartoons and portraits for the Seattle Times newspaper.

The next owner of the house was a man who resolved to discover the secret of success in the game of golf, spending many years analyzing the mechanics of the golf swing and writing a book about it.

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Immigrants in the Earl J. McLaughlin Plat in Wedgwood

A “plat” is a section of land, any size, for which a plan of streets and lots is laid out. Plats are given a name by the real estate company or developer.  Many neighborhood names are derived from plat names, such as Hawthorne Hills, Inverness, View Ridge, and Wedgwood.

Out in the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle, there was no neighborhood name in the early 1900s and areas were often known by their plat name.  The census of early years listed some residents as living on or near McLaughlin Road.

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Immigrants in the Oneida Gardens Plat in Wedgwood

In the 1920s and 1930s the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle became the home of numbers of immigrants, most especially from Germany, Holland and Sweden.

The house at 7500 43rd Ave NE in Wedgwood was built in 1910 by German immigrant Gustav Morris.  Photo courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.

East of 35th Ave NE in what was called the Oneida Gardens blocks, many immigrant settlers worked in building trades such as carpentry and plumbing.  One of the earliest was Gustav Morris, an ethnic German from Latvia, who built a house at 7500 43rd Ave NE in 1910.  Morris worked as a bridge carpenter from 1910 to 1920, during the era when the ship canal and its bridges were under construction.

In the year 1926 Oneida Gardens received an influx of new residents due to the increasing availability of roads, electric & water utilities, and schools in northeast Seattle.  Near Gustav Morris’ house, the block between 41st to 42nd Avenues NE was settled by four Swedish families in 1926.

The text of this article is under a Creative Commons Copyright. If you choose to cite the article then please include the source, and that goes for photos as well.

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Before There Was a Wedgwood Safeway: From Rural to Urban

The area around the NE 75th Street intersection in Wedgwood never had an organized scheme of development.  As a result, people who came to live there in the 1920s saw startling changes over the years in everything from road grading to commercial growth.

Northeast Seattle residents near NE 75th Street started out in the 1920s with chickens and cows. By the 1960s their houses were surrounded by stores and businesses.

In 1938 the King County property survey showed a chicken house or barn on what later became the site of the Wedgwood Safeway store. We are looking east with NE 75th Street at the left. Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives.

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Before There Was a Wedgwood Safeway: the Plat of Public Lands

The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle is defined as from NE 75th to 95th Streets. Wedgwood has a linear commercial district along 35th Avenue NE.

Today’s Wedgwood neighborhood is defined as extending from NE 75th to 95th Streets along the central arterial of 35th Ave NE. These “boundaries” are arbitrary but were suggested by the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods in the 1980s to help give neighborhoods a sense of identity and pride of place.

Before Wedgwood began to coalesce and gain an identity as a neighborhood in the 1940s-1950s, the area was made up of disparate sections of land under different plat names.  This blog post will tell how some plats (sections of land) were developed in an organized way,  such as the first Wedgwood plat by Albert Balch.  In contrast to what Balch had done, the nearby plat of land owned by the Washington State Office of the Commissioner of Public Lands did not have an overall scheme of development.

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House-Moving from Shearwater in Wedgwood

The Wedgewood Cottage Apartments are the former “little houses” which were moved to 7318-7320 35th Ave NE, viewed here from the east on 38th Ave NE.

In January 1972 a very unusual house-moving event took place in the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.  Twelve small houses (600 square feet each) were moved from 40th Ave NE near Decatur School, to 7320 35th Ave NE in the business district of Wedgwood.

Behind a Dairy Queen building near the Wedgwood Safeway grocery store, the little houses were stacked up on a hillside and became an apartment complex.  These little houses were the last vestiges of the long-running Shearwater controversy which had begun on the blocks around the present Decatur and Thornton Creek School buildings.

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House-Moving from Dahl Field in Wedgwood

The Welcome to Wedgwood sign on 35th Ave NE at the corner of NE 95th Street.

In the 1940s and 1950s the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle began to take on its identity. The Wedgwood name gradually came into popular use when local businesses began using it, and it was solidified by the choosing of the name Wedgwood School in 1954.

The neighborhood community club, asked to define itself in 1956, chose the attendance boundaries of Wedgwood School as the official boundaries of the Wedgwood neighborhood, from NE 75th to 95th Streets, and from 25th to 45th Avenues NE.

The Wedgwood neighborhood grew rapidly during the post-World-War-Two housing boom in the 1940s and 1950s, because in those years northeast Seattle still had many vacant lots available for house construction.  In addition to new construction, in the 1940s and 1950s it was much more common than it is now, for houses to be moved from one lot to another. Most were moved only a couple of blocks or within a mile, to an available vacant lot.

Seattle Engineering Dept. photo of June 1951 shows the retaining wall in front of the VanderWel’s house at 7512 35th Ave NE. The McGillivray’s Store (Chase Bank building) had not yet been built. The parking sign in the foreground is for the other stores at the corner of NE 75th Street.  The VanderWel’s house was moved to 7308 38th Ave NE.  Seattle Municipal Archives photo #42951.

In the busy years of development of the neighborhood infrastructure, sometimes houses were moved because of regrading or widening the streets. On at least one occasion in Wedgwood, a house was found to be “in the road” and had to be demolished or moved.  Some houses, like that of the VanderWel’s at 7512 35th Ave NE, pictured at right, ended up far above or below the street level due to regrading.

In the 1950s the McGillivray family were building a store next to the VanderWel’s house (the present Chase Bank building at 7512 35th Ave NE.)  They purchased the house and had it moved, so that they could use the space for a parking lot for their store.

Another example of upheaval in the development of the Wedgwood neighborhood in the 1950s was that when the Seattle School District chose the location of Wedgwood School, houses which had already been built there had to be moved off of the site.  The school property had been part of Albert Balch’s Wedgwood #4, and he continued to build houses near the school after that portion of the plat was taken.

Similar house-moving occurred during the creation of Dahl Playfield at 7700 25th Ave NE.   The City of Seattle seized the property by eminent domain, and existing houses had to be moved off of the property.

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