Continuing the Maple Creek Legacy

The story of the Maple Creek ravine in Wedgwood is that of dedicated conservationists who passed along the legacy from generation to generation.  Beginning in the 1930s Dr. & Mrs. Philip Rogers held their fifteen acres as a nature preserve.   In the 1950s they began looking for other like-minded people to share it with.

The Rogers original estate house, built 1937 in the Maple Creek ravine section of the Wedgwood neighborhood.

Like many young couples in the post-World War Two era, Bob & Martha Cram settled in Seattle and searched for a home where they could raise a family.   After their marriage in 1952, Bob & Martha dreamed of building their own house.  They searched all over north Seattle without finding a location that seemed right.

In the meantime Bob, a military veteran, accessed the servicemen’s benefit program called the GI Bill so that he could attend art school in Seattle and become a commercial artist.   For income, Bob and a friend formed the Ken & Bob Ski School and taught ski lessons.

Maple Creek Ravine

Two of Bob’s ski students were sons of Dr. & Mrs. Philip M. Rogers (Annah.)  Annah was very interested in nature, natural products such as herbal medicine, and the development of a home as a retreat, ideas which were expressed in the Arts & Crafts movement in housing.   The Rogers had built their house in 1937 on fifteen densely-treed acres in the northeast corner of what is now Wedgwood, off of 42nd Ave NE in an area called the Maple Creek ravine.  The location was so remote that in the 1920s a local Scout troop had used the ravine as a wilderness camp.

In the 1950s the Rogers decided to sell some plots of land for income, but they wanted to sell only to those who would cherish the natural environment as they did.   They placed restrictions on building projects.   No bulldozers were allowed during construction, because Annah Rogers believed that “you can’t do anything impetuous with a No. 2 shovel.”

Through their association with the Rogers family Bob & Martha Cram were invited to look at a wooded lot on the edge of the ravine, which they bought for $4,000.   Then came the struggle to design and build a house which the Crams would be able to afford.   One architect set forth a design with a livingroom of 10 x 12, which the Crams knew would be too small for their growing family.

The Cram house: Northwest Modern style by Carl Gould, Jr, architect

Bob & Martha waited and saved more money, then contacted Carl Gould Jr., son of the famed founder of the UW School of Architecture.   The Crams asked Carl Gould Jr. to design a house with simple construction that they could add onto in later years, and the Cram’s house was completed in 1958.   Like other Maple Creek houses of the 1950s and early 1960s, the Cram’s house was Northwest Modern in architectural style and was set deeply nestled in a grove of trees.

The Maple Creek Ravine developed as a community of preservationists who, over time, fought the City on initiatives such as widening the roadway past the ravine houses.  The most famous of the preservation stories was the Day of the Apron Ladies in 1960, when housewives joined hands to stop a truck which was backing up to dump construction debris into the ravine.

Bob Cram 1925-2017

Bob Cram    1925-2017

The Crams were active in preservation of Maple Creek though they were defeated in a 1992 court challenge; they were not able to prevent subdivision of the original Rogers homesite into smaller lots with no trees.   In subsequent years the Crams and other neighbors put some of their own property into a land conservancy so that the ravine, with its stream and trees, would remain intact.

The Crams and their neighbors established stewardship of the Maple Creek ravine via the land conservancy covenants which are kept in place through successive owners.   In 2009 the time came for Bob & Martha Cram to move into retirement and transfer their Maple Creek home to others to enjoy.   Just as the Rogers did with their property when they looked for like-minded purchasers, the Crams found a like-minded buyer for their house.  The covenant of the land conservancy will continue to protect the Maple Creek legacy.

In 1992 Bob Cram drew this cartoon to illustrate the need to preserve trees in the Maple Creek ravine area.  The cartoon appeared in the newsletter of the Wedgwood advocacy organization, the community council.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer writer of neighborhood history in Seattle.
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