A Farm Life in Wedgwood

Wedgwood didn’t acquire its identity until the 1940s when developer Albert Balch’s name for his housing development caught on as the name for the whole neighborhood.   In the early 1900s when the future Wedgwood area was still outside the Seattle city limits, the area was quite rural and it attracted young couples seeking inexpensive homes on large lots.   Many people thought that a rural lifestyle away from the city would be more healthful for their children, and they also hoped to live as inexpensively as possible by growing some of their own food.

A carpenter in north Seattle

Louis Roop came to Seattle in 1901 to make his fortune as a carpenter.  He began working in construction of houses in the growing neighborhoods of north Seattle, and by 1915 he had acquired enough capital to invest in land in what is now Wedgwood.  Roop began building houses on the blocks from NE 75th to 77th Streets, 43rd to 45th Avenues NE.  Roop and his wife Florence would live in one while he began another, then sell the completed house.  The Roops had no children, otherwise it would have been difficult to live as they did, migrating from house to house.

The Roops finally built a house for themselves  at 7545 45th Ave NE but by 1924 Mr. Roop was dissatisfied with the house.  What bothered him was that work had begun on a new golf course, Sand Point Country Club & Golf Course, directly across the street.  Mr. Roop felt that the golf course would be a nuisance and might devalue his property.

The house at 7545 45th Ave NE was built in 1921. This photo was taken circa 1938 when all structures in King County were photographed for tax assessment purposes. Photo courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives.

A house-swap

In 1924 a young couple, Emil & Mary Reitz, were living at 1862 E. Hamlin Street in the Montlake district.  Through a realtor they went to look at the Roop’s house, and then a swap was arranged.  The Roops acquired Reitz’s finished house in the convenient Montlake neighborhood, and the Reitzes got Roop’s rural house on several acres.

The Sand Point Golf & Country Club opened on July 4, 1927, and the Reitzes never found it to be a problem to them; in fact, it was a bit of a status symbol to say that they lived next to the golf course.

Mary’s garden

Because the (future) Wedgwood area was still outside the city limits in the 1920s and 1930s, many people had large gardens and they could keep chickens and other domestic animals.  While Emil Reitz worked as an engraver at a downtown printing company, Mary Reitz tended her kitchen garden of corn, beans, peas, potatoes, carrots and herbs.   As part of the family food supply, Mary raised goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, geese and even a sheep or two.

Mary Rietz is buried alongside her husband Emil at the Vashon Island Cemetery.

Like many early Wedgwood residents, the Reitz family thought of their home as a farm property.   Over time the house at 7545 45th Ave NE became the only one on the block which was still on a large lot, the surrounding lots all having been sold as Wedgwood grew up and was absorbed into the city of Seattle.   The Reitz family’s farm life of the 1920s and 1930s is a reminisce of old days in the “countryside” of Wedgwood.

Source:  Interview in 2003 with Mary Reitz at age 102; she lived to be almost 104.

UPDATE:  As of summer 2017 the “farm-style” house at 7545 45th Ave NE has been torn down.  The lot is to be subdivided and large new city-style houses will be built.  Farewell to a Farm Life in Wedgwood.

The farm house at 7545 45th Ave NE is no more. At center is the driveway of the house. At right is the neighbor’s house to the north.  Photo courtesy of Jeannette Voiland.

 

7545 45th AVe NE enclosed tree protection.October 7 2017

The house and its freestanding garage at 7545 45th Ave NE have been torn down.  The sign on the fence says that the tree area is to be protected.  Photo by Valarie.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for neighborhood history in Seattle, Washington.
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