Up until 1960 a woodsy corner of Wedgwood called the Maple Creek ravine was still protected from development or pollution, due to long-time landowners who were conservation-minded. The Rogers family who began living there in the 1930s kept some of their land as a nature preserve and then slowly began selling parcels only to people who would agree to conservation principles.
But then, in the busy years of growth in the Wedgwood neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, the pressures of development would begin to threaten the preservation of the Maple Creek ravine.
Growth pressures in Wedgwood in the 1950s and 1960s
Wedgwood’s Our Lady of the Lake church was built at 8900 – 35th Ave NE in 1940-1941. The building was quite small, with just a main sanctuary, a side room for storage, and an office. Perhaps the size of the building was constrained by finances, or the congregation did not foresee the population growth which would come after World War Two ended in 1945.
Rapid post-World War Two population growth in Wedgwood in the 1940s-1950s caused Our Lady of the Lake and its parish school buildings to be strained to the limit. In 1960 the decision was made to tear down Our Lady of the Lake’s first building and rebuild on the same site, but on a larger scale.
This church re-construction project at Our Lady of the Lake in 1960-1961 would put pressure on the nearby Maple Creek ravine in an unexpected way.
The Maple Creek ravine in Wedgwood
In 1959 Professor & Mrs. Steven D. Fuller had built their dream house overlooking Wedgwood’s beautiful Maple Creek ravine, which is between NE 88th to 92nd Streets, 40th to 45th Avenues NE. Several of Prof. Fuller’s colleagues from the University of Washington also lived at Maple Creek, and the ravine neighborhood was nicknamed Culture Gulch because of the many professors and artists in residence.
In 1962 in Prof. Fuller’s “Design and Materials” class at the University of Washington, one of his students, Dale Chihuly, had his first experience with fused glass artwork.
One quiet day at home in 1960, Mrs. Fuller’s ears heard an unaccustomed sound: a dump truck. Going outside to see what the commotion was, she saw that a truck carrying construction debris from the demolished Our Lady of the Lake church had rumbled down NE 90th Street and was dumping its load into the Maple Creek ravine!
The Apron Ladies make a defiant stand at the edge of the ravine
Mrs. Fuller quickly phoned some of her neighbors and soon several housewives came running, waving their aprons and shouting at the truck driver to stop. He did have a valid permit to dump his load, but the women joined hands and formed a human barricade along the ravine’s edge until the truck retreated.
This brave stand, known in neighborhood lore as The Day of the Apron Ladies, marked the start of the Maple Creek Association of residents working for protection of the ravine.
A proud day in Wedgwood history! We owe a debt of gratitude to the Apron Ladies for helping preserve a little piece of wilderness right in our neighborhood.