Mary J. Chandler’s Addition to Seattle is the name of a plat in Wedgwood. The plat was filed in 1890 for land from 25th to 35th Avenues NE, NE 80th to 85th Streets. To file a plat means to have a land area surveyed with streets and lots marked out on a map, and to give the plat a name. Who was Mary J. Chandler, and what did she have to do with land in Wedgwood?
The Chandler family came to Seattle in the 1870s, a time when the city was small and unpromising. The 1870s was a decade of struggle in Seattle with economic ups and downs. There were setbacks and disappointments, such as the failed promise of a railroad connection coming from the East, and there was an economic slump which depressed the prices of the raw materials Seattle had to sell, such as lumber and coal. Still the city grew as more white settlers arrived from all over the USA. In 1860 there were only 302 people living in all of King County, and barely 100+ of those were living in Seattle. In 1870 there were 2,120 people in King County including 1,107 living in Seattle. By 1880 the population of King County had exploded to about 7,000 with 3,500 people in Seattle, tripling the size of the city in just one decade.
Aaron and Mary Chandler were from Machiasport, Maine. That seacoast town had a busy port which sent goods in schooners (sailing vessels) up and down the East Coast. The Chandlers had both been born and raised in Maine and on the census of 1870 Capt. Chandler, as he was always referred to, was listed as a Master Mariner. The Chandlers would seem to have been well-situated in Maine, but something caused them to leave the place they had always lived and start a completely new life in the frontier town of Seattle. The Chandlers chose this new life for their six children, as well, who ranged in age from 10 to 25 when they came to Seattle.
Why did the Chandler family move from Maine to Seattle?
It is possible that the Chandlers had been hearing tales of the Puget Sound country since the 1850s. At about the same time that Seattle was founded, in 1853 men from Maine founded Port Gamble on the northwest shore of the Kitsap peninsula. The men were looking for a place to set up a sawmill and they proceeded to create a replica of their hometown, East Machias, a village very near to Machiasport in Maine. In order to get enough workers, the mill owners made recruitment trips back to Maine for more men and equipment.
In the 1870s Capt. Chandler and his family settled in D’wamish, which would later become Georgetown, south of downtown Seattle. On the census of 1870 in Maine, the Chandler family was listed on a page along with neighbors who were all white people, all of whom had been born in Maine – not a very diverse community. On the census of 1880 in D’wamish, the Chandler family lived amongst people who had come from many different ethnic backgrounds and states of the USA. Near to the Chandlers was a settlement of native Americans whose occupation was listed as fishermen, and a number of other nearby native Americans who were working as farm laborers.
The census of 1880 listed Henry H. Miller, originally from Ohio, as a very near neighbor of the Chandlers in D’wamish. He was a pillar of the community, serving as postmaster since the first D’wamish post office opened in 1874. Another neighbor was Stephen Collins, son of D’wamish pioneer white settler Luther Collins. Census listings show that Stephen had taken a native American wife – something frowned upon by many of the white settlers. We don’t know how the Chandler family felt about all of this diversity but we do know that they stayed in Seattle.
The Chandler’s children marry and settle in Seattle
After arriving in the Pacific Northwest the Chandler’s children began to marry. The first was their son Aaron F. Chandler, who married in 1879 in Kitsap County. In 1880 he and his new wife Martha moved to Seattle and Aaron worked as a seaman.
The Chandlers had three marriageable daughters and with the shortage of white women in the Seattle area, the girls each had a pool of available men to choose from. In 1880 daughter Fannie, who was only 18, married Edward H. Plummer of a prosperous pioneer Seattle family. Edward’s father, Charles Plummer, had been one of the earliest white settlers of Seattle, arriving in 1853. Charles had married Ellender Smith, sister of another King County pioneer, Dr. Henry A. Smith (Smith’s Cove.) Ellender died giving birth to twin boys in 1859: Edward and his brother Elwood.
We know from census records that Charles Plummer was from Maine. Though he had arrived in Seattle twenty years before the Chandler family, it is possible that hearing about the Plummers or other Maine people had influenced the Chandlers to come to Seattle also. Census records for Maine show that there were men named Plummer who also were Master Mariners in Machiasport, as Capt. Chandler had been, so it is possible that the two families were acquainted.
On the census of 1870 in Maine, Capt. Chandler’s occupation had been listed as Master Mariner. On the census of 1880 in D’wamish, Chandler characterized himself as a farmer. It could be that Capt. Chandler was not actually farming in Seattle, but that he was describing himself as a landowner.
We do not know the precise reasons for the Chandler family’s radical move from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, but we know that they spent the rest of their lives in Seattle. For Capt. Chandler, that was not long, because he died after living only about ten years in Seattle. He died on December 6, 1884 at age 63.
Perhaps because he had died less than six months after filing his will, Capt. Chandler’s estate was very carefully processed to carry out the directions for his estate. The probate by William D. Wood, judge of probate court of King County, Washington Territory, included signed statements from the three men who had witnessed the July 1884 signing of Capt. Chandler’s will. The three men were Angus Mackintosh and W.R. Reeves, business partners in a banking venture, and M.V.B. Stacy, a well-known real estate agent who was also from Maine. An Affidavit of Publication was signed by Thomas W. Prosch, publisher of the Weekly Post-Intelligencer newspaper, that a Notice to Creditors would run in the paper for four weeks in February and March 1885 to make sure that there would be no claims against Chandler’s estate.
Capt. Chandler’s land purchase in Wedgwood in July 1884
The Chandlers may have brought money with them to Seattle, having sold everything in Maine, or perhaps they had received an inheritance. In Seattle they invested in land in several places, including the remote northeast area which would become Wedgwood. In July 1884, around the same time that he wrote his will, Capt. Aaron W. Chandler filed a homestead claim for some land in Wedgwood, meaning that he was the first white settler to be listed as owner of that property. It was a cash sale at $1.25 per acre, so the Chandlers were not required to live by homestead claim rules on the land which they had bought. It appears that the land which the Chandlers bought in Wedgwood was for investment only. Census and city directory records show that the Chandlers continued to live in D’wamish.
In 1890, five years after her husband’s death, Mary filed a plat in her own name for the Wedgwood land: Mary J. Chandler’s Addition to Seattle. The plat was from 25th to 35th Avenues NE and from NE 80th to 85th Streets. To file a plat means to have a land area surveyed with streets and lots marked out, so that lots can be sold for houses. Mary gave the streets in her plat the names of coastal towns in Maine, such as Salisbury (part of Bar Harbor.) Through the center of the plat, what is now NE 82nd Street was named Chandler Avenue. However, the street diagram was all “on paper.” No actual streets were built in the plat in 1890 – only markings on the plat map of where the streets were supposed to go. It would be many more years before any streets were put through in what would become the Wedgwood neighborhood.
Big changes in Seattle after the Great Fire of 1889
Capt. Aaron Chandler may have intended that his land investments serve as a kind of life insurance for his family. For many years after her husband’s death, Mary Chandler lived off of income from the sale of properties. By 1890 she may have thought that the time was ripe to file a plat for the Wedgwood land and begin selling lots, just as many other people did throughout the city that year.
It has been said that Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889 caused the rebirth of the city in an unprecedented growth spurt. In what came to be called Seattle Spirit, the people rose up to rebuild. News of Seattle’s optimism brought in a surge of newcomers from around the USA and set off a real estate boom. People were sure that land values would rise as the city got a second chance at greatness. After the Fire, newcomers started arriving in Seattle at the rate of about 2,000 new people per month, hoping to take advantage of the construction and development frenzy.
Not only did a large number of new buildings begin construction downtown, but also after the Fire of June 1889 the outlying areas increased in population. Some satellite towns such as Fremont had already been made reachable by a horse-drawn streetcar trestle line in the 1880s and many people thought that with the arrival of electricity, the trolley system would continue to extend out farther and farther. Beginning in 1890 Green Lake developed rapidly as a streetcar suburb. (The developer was William D. Wood, who had started out as Clerk of Probate in 1884 and had done the probate of Chandler’s will.) In Georgetown where Mary Chandler lived, electric streetcar service arrived by 1893. Like others who were caught up in enthusiasm after the Seattle Fire of 1889, Mary Chandler may have thought that her remote Wedgwood plat was finally ripe for development – perhaps streetcar service would be coming to Wedgwood soon!
Post-fire economic boom followed by a economic bust
The post-Fire optimism in Seattle carried the city forward but development came to a screeching halt with an economic crash which started at the New York stock market in May 1893. By the summer of 1893 the economy in Seattle was feeling the effects of the crash. The Seattle streetcar system went bankrupt and even some city fathers such as David Denny lost everything and had to start over. Mary Chandler’s remote plat in Wedgwood did not even have any roads leading to it, let alone streetcars, so it was not very saleable. Property tax records show that by 1895 Mary Chandler was still stuck with her unprofitable investment – not a single lot had sold.
Money started to loosen up when the Yukon Gold Rush of 1897 brought eager customers to Seattle as a jumping-off place to the goldfields. By the year 1900 property records show that Mary Chandler had been able to sell all of the lots in her plat. But the buyers were only a new generation of investors: tax assessment rolls for 1905 did not list any houses, barns or other structures in the plat, which meant that no one lived there. It would take another few years before anyone came to live in the Mary J. Chandler plat, and some of the first residents came to farm in the fertile soil along 25th Ave NE.
The plat map for Mary J. Chandler’s Addition to Seattle shows that Mary knew about the rich soil in what is now the P-Patch community garden at 8040 25th Ave NE. The eastern half of her plat, up on the hillside from 30th to 35th Avenues NE, was marked out in residential lots. But in the lowlands along 25th Ave NE, Mary had the land marked out on the plat map in five-acre “small farm” tracts. However, it was not until 1920 that real farmers, the Picardo family, began farming at the present site of the P-Patch.
Birth, census, death, marriage dates and documents: Washington Digital Archives.
Georgetown beginnings: “D’wamish post office opens on June 24, 1874.” Essay #426, Greg Lange, December 6, 1998.
“Panic of 1893 sends King County and the Puget Sound region into a four year depression on May 5, 1893.” Essay #1972, Greg Lange, October 3, 1999.
“Plummer, Charles (1822-1866.)” Essay #398, Junius Rochester, November 27, 1998.
“Port Gamble – Thumbnail History.” Essay #5505, David Wilma, August 7, 2003.
“Turning Point 15: Seattle’s other birthplace: from hop field to Boeing Field.” Essay #9291, David Wilma, September 21, 2001.
Historic background info: Early Neighborhood Historic Resources Survey Report and Context Statement by Greg Lange and Thomas Veith, 2005 (revised 2009.) The report is listed as “Residential structures constructed prior to 1906” under context statements, Seattle Dept. of Neighborhoods historic preservation page.
Homestead claim records: Government Land Office, Bureau of Land Management. Land Patent of Aaron W. Chandler, Number WAOAA 071944, cash sale 12/5/1884.
Probate case: Frontier Justice Case Number KNG-7886, Probate of the Will of Aaron W. Chandler, 1885. Accessed March 8, 2012, Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.
Tax Assessment Rolls of King County, Mary J. Chandler’s Addition to Seattle, 1890 to 1925. Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.