The Nevins & Park plat in Wedgwood is five acres of land, one long block from NE 82nd to 85th Streets, 28th to 30th Avenues NE. To file a “plat” means to register the land with King County and give it a name, and have the plat surveyed and marked out with streets and house lots.
The plat was filed in 1918 by John R. Nevins and Earl G. Park, architects, who built houses on that block for their families. This blog article will tell how they acquired the property, and the houses they built on the block which are still there.
Land in remote northeast Seattle
In the early 1900s many people bought land in the future Wedgwood area as an investment only, and did not live on-site. In 1906 a man named Edward C. Fox bought five acres on the ridge along 30th Ave NE, where there was a good view of the valley of what is now 25th Ave NE by the Picardo Farm P-Patch. Fox’s land was from NE 82nd to 85th Streets, 28th to 30th Avenues NE although these streets were not put through at that time. Fox’s land was called Tract 13 of the Mary J. Chandler’s Addition to Seattle, a previously filed plat.
The property tax assessment rolls of 1910 listed no houses on Edward Fox’s five acres, which meant that he didn’t live there. The Seattle city directory listed a University District address for Edward Fox, and on the census of 1910 Fox’s occupation was listed as “dairyman.” It is possible that he had come to Seattle to get in on the business generated by the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition of 1909, a world’s fair held on the campus of the University of Washington. Fox had previously lived in Colorado and California, and he seemed to live only a few years in each place before moving on.
Nevins & Park buy a block of land on a hilltop
In 1913 Edward Fox sold his hilltop five acres to John R. Nevins and Earl G. Park.
In addition to their regular jobs in the office of Charles Bebb, an architect, Nevins & Park had for some years been buying land and building houses around Seattle. Their purchase of property in Wedgwood was on a contract basis and Fox directed Nevins & Park to mail payments to him.
Fox left Seattle in 1914 and over the next two years Fox sent back several changes of address for the land purchase payments. By 1916 the envelopes were returned, marked “not at this address.” The last known address for Edward Fox was in Cleveland, Ohio.
On January 23, 1917, Nevins & Park paid the King County Superior Court in Seattle the balance owing on the contract with Edward Fox, because Fox could not be located. Mr. Percy Thomas, clerk of the court, executed and recorded a deed showing ownership of the land by Nevins & Park, so that they could go ahead with their development plans.
Nevins & Park get ready to develop their block
In 1918 the block, which had been part of the Mary J. Chandler plat, was replatted as the Nevins & Park Addition to Seattle. The official plat recording meant that the land had been surveyed and lines for residential lots were marked. Nevins & Park began building houses for their families and three others who would be the first to live on the hilltop with its view of the valley.
In January 1921 Edward Fox resurfaced in Seattle and claimed that Nevins & Park had never paid him for the land purchase. Fox took them to court and also sued Percy Thomas, clerk of the court, claiming that he was “in on it” for personal benefit. Clear records had been kept and so, on September 21, 1921, Judge Boyd Tallman ruled in favor of Nevins & Park, that they legally owned the tract of land.
Edward Fox was entitled to the money which had been set aside for him in payment of the land contract, but there was another matter to be settled first. Fox would not answer questions about his marital status. It appeared that he was married, and Fox’s wife, whom he had left behind in Seattle, wanted her share of the land sale proceeds, which Fox had tried to conceal from her. With the perspective of one hundred years since these events, we can see from census records that Fox had left wives behind in Colorado and in California, as well.
Court case resolved, development begins on the block
After the court case was settled, Nevins & Park were free to continue their development plans for their property in Wedgwood, and they could start selling lots in the plat to other people.
While the land ownership had been under dispute, only one of the original five families lived in the one-block plat of the Nevins & Park Addition, in the house at 8234 28th Ave NE which was built approximately 1916 for Bert Wait’s family.
The other four original families, all headed by men who were architects or architectural draftsmen, began building their houses in the plat in 1918. One of the men worked for a different company, and the others all worked in the office of Seattle architect Charles Bebb: J.R. Nevins, Earl G. Park and his brother John, and Bert Wait.
More info: See articles on this blog about the lives of Earl G. Park and John R. Nevins; and about the earliest house on the block, 8234 28th Ave NE.
King County Superior Court Case #148863, Fox v. Nevins & Park, 27 January 1921. Accessed on microfilm at the Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.
Plat records and house build dates, Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA, repository of the property records of King County.