Some neighborhoods of Seattle are characterized by a certain style of house, because the majority of their houses were built during that style’s period of popularity. Wallingford, for example, is known for its blocks of Craftsman houses built in a relatively short period of time, from 1905 to 1925 when the neighborhood was growing rapidly. Wedgwood does have some Craftsman houses as the style was very popular throughout Seattle in the 1920’s, but the Wedgwood neighborhood developed slowly in the period from 1900 to 1940 and has few houses representative of those years. By the 1930’s “revival” styles such as Spanish Colonial and English Tudor became popular in Seattle, and these houses used the building materials of brick and stucco. There are just a few examples of these in Wedgwood.
A Craftsman wood-frame house is one which has a strong foursquare appearance, often with a wide front porch, heavy porch posts, and a low-pitched roof with wide eaves. If the house is small (one to one-and-one-half stories) then it is called a bungalow. The style originated in California in the early 1900’s with the work of two brothers, the Greenes. One of the influences on the design was the Arts and Crafts movement, for Craftsman houses to have beautifully designed built-ins such as bookcases and fireplace surrounds. The popularity of Craftsman houses in Seattle had a lot to do with the rise of magazines such as House Beautiful and Ladies’ Home Journal, and of pattern books of house plans. Real estate developers began giving away a set of Craftsman house plans with lot sales, as was done in the Morningside Heights Addition in Wedgwood in the 1920’s.
Craftsman houses began to wane in popularity in Seattle by the end of the 1920’s. Like all kinds of trends, whether in fashion or in housing, it is hard to say exactly why something is popular. Styles will run their course and as the decade of the 1920’s ended, two other architectural styles began to be popular in Seattle: brick English Tudor or stucco Spanish/Mission. The economic crash of October 29, 1929 started an era called the Great Depression, and the catastrophic economic downturn affected all of the USA for the next ten years. As a result, there was financial insecurity and fewer people had money to buy a house. Perhaps for this reason, in the 1930’s brick and stucco houses had appeal as representing solidity and security.
Stucco can be considered a building material in the same category as brick because it is sturdy, has insulation value and has a slightly higher building cost than a simple wood-frame house. Stucco is a kind of finishing plaster mixed from lime or cement, sand, and water. It is applied wet as a paste over a wire screen or over bricks on the exterior walls of a house, where the stucco will dry and harden. Stucco houses are often associated with the southwestern USA, where there were Spanish missions and haciendas. How “Spanish” a stucco house looks can depend upon decorative details such as a red tile roof or black metal grillwork on windows or fence railings.
Because relatively few houses were built in Wedgwood during the 1930’s era of the popularity of stucco, they are rare in Wedgwood and there are not any with strong Spanish detailing. One of the stucco houses in Wedgwood is at 3202 NE 75th Street. The house was built in 1925 but property tax assessor’s records show that Charlie and Charlotte Schultz had lived on the site from about 1905. It is possible that they finally were able to build their new stucco house by enclosing the original house. The tell-tale evidence is the small brick chimney protruding from the center of the roof. The chimney indicates that the Schultz’s house was once heated by a centrally-located wood stove, prior to the 1920’s when electricity became available in Wedgwood to run other kinds of heating systems. The Schultz house is made of stucco but doesn’t have any Spanish detailing. In recent years someone planted a palm tree in the yard which does give a Spanish or Californian accent. Charlie Schultz was a first-generation German American and his wife Charlotte was a Swedish immigrant, so it might have seemed incongruous if their house had been rendered in Spanish motifs!
Another stucco house with no Spanish detailing was lived in by Danish immigrants, the Thuesens, at 7727 38th Ave NE. Their story is told on this blog as the possible “mystery tree-planters” of the scarlet oak on 38th Ave NE. In the 1920’s the Thuesens had a nursery business called Lily of the Valley Gardens. There is now a “monkey tree,” native to South America, at this house, which adds the flavor of some Spanish-style landscaping.
Brick houses in English style are sometimes called “builders houses” because there is often a whole row of them built by a developer. Neighborhoods near to Wedgwood, such as Bryant, Maple Leaf, and Roosevelt have many brick Tudor houses built circa 1930. The Tudor style is loosely based on ideas of an old English house with a steeply pitched, front-facing gable. The sharp triangular gable formed by the steep roof may be softened by rounded entryways or windows. An English Tudor house may be small and cottage-like, or tall with a castle motif, having medieval detailing such as a turret or leaded windows.
One brick English Tudor-style house in Wedgwood was built in 1932 by first-generation Italian Americans, Ray Giusti and his wife Laura Rosaia. Ray’s father was a bricklayer and contractor, and we can presume that he helped build the house for Ray and Laura at 2700 NE 91st Street. This house pattern was likely one that he had built in other locations as well. The house has the characteristic Tudor sharp triangular gable roof form, a dormer with decorative half-timbering like a medieval house, and a rounded arch over the front entry. The house was well-built and might have been more than a young married couple could afford in the 1930’s, but they had the help of Ray’s father, and both Ray and Laura worked in the prosperous Rosaia family floral business. Ray married into the business and became company president in the 1950’s.
The few number of 1930’s stucco or brick houses shows that Wedgwood was not an upscale neighborhood of costly building projects during the Great Depression years. In the 1930’s some people came to Wedgwood because they were trying to live as cheaply as possible, and they built simple wood-frame houses. It was not until the 1940’s that there was a pronounced increase in the number of houses built in Wedgwood. By that time, English Tudor brick and Spanish stucco had had their day and were no longer popular in Seattle as a building type.
There are many examples of brick and stucco houses in older neighborhoods near to Wedgwood. Near the southern end of Ravenna Park, NE Park Road has brick Tudor houses built in 1929-30. Their distinctive Tudor characteristics such as steeply peaked roofs, recessed doorways and castle-like appearance easily lends to transformation into a holiday village. Each year the residents create a Candy Cane Lane with lights and decorations.