The Wedgwood Safeway

7500 35th Ave NE

The square outline of a 1920’s neighborhood grocery building can be seen above the storefronts, built in 1949-1950, at the northeast corner of the intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 75th Street.

The intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 75th Street had no buildings at any of the four corners until after 1946.  The only building near to the corner was Ida’s Inn at 7500 35th Ave NE, which began as a small grocery store in 1926 and was converted to a tavern after Prohibition ended in 1934.  Ida’s Inn closed in 1948 but the building still exists and its square outline can be seen above the rooftop of the stores built in front of it in 1950.

In the period of 1945 to 1950 after the end of World War Two, Wedgwood really began to grow in population and bigger grocery stores started to come in at that time.  In 1946 the Safeway Corporation started planning to build at their present site on the southeast corner of the intersection of 75th & 35th, but first they had to apply for the zoning to be changed from residential to commercial.

Photo of proposed site of Safeway at 75th & 35th submitted with rezoning application in 1947. Photo #73832 courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

Photo of proposed site of Safeway at 75th & 35th submitted with rezoning application in 1947. Photo #73832 courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives.

The above photo was probably taken in 1946 as part of Safeway’s application, submitted in May 1947, for rezoning of their present site.  The photographer is standing with his back to the present Subway/Black Pearl building, looking east across 35th Ave NE and out eastward along NE 75th Street.  It is the first impression of everyone who looks at this photo that NE 75th Street eastbound, looks steeper than it is today.  This may be in part an optical illusion of the photo.  We also know that regrading of arterial streets in Wedgwood occurred in the 1950’s, which leveled out some of the high and low points of NE 75th Street which we see in this earlier perspective from about 1946.

On the edge of the photo, far left, can be seen the wall of the Ida’s Inn building and a house which was numbered 3516 NE 75th Street.  The Jacklin family owned most of that block and at the time of this photo their married daughter Frances lived in the house with her husband John Osbjornson.  The Jacklin’s own house was at 7528 35th Ave NE, north of Ida’s Inn.  Something not seen in the above photo is the Oneida Gardens (Wedgewood Estates) apartment complex on NE 75th Street between 37th to 39th Avenues NE, because the apartments were not built until 1948-49.

Safeway first bought their NE 75th Street corner property and then they began the rezoning application process with an appeal to local residents.  In March 1946 they distributed a letter to neighbors which said, in part:

As a property owner in the vicinity of 35th Avenue Northeast and East 75th Street, you will be interested in plans for a proposed new shopping center at that intersection.  Safeway Stores, Incorporated, has acquired a plot of seven and one-half acres at the southeast corner of these two streets with the intention of building at the corner one of our modern stores for the convenience of shoppers in that neighborhood.  The store would be of the latest type with an adjoining parking lot.

The remainder of the property offers excellent possibilities for development by other types of business in a manner similar to the attached architect’s sketch.  Owing to present building restrictions and constructions costs, we can offer no assurance as to how soon such additional facilities would materialize, but undoubtedly some development of this nature would follow within a short time as this entire area is due for rapid growth.  This intersection is a natural site for a modern shopping center to serve the residents of this section of the city.  The first step toward the completion of such a plan will be to obtain a rezoning order by the City Planning Commission.  Your support of the rezoning petition would be very helpful.  (signed) Mitchell Park, Division Realty Manager, Safeway Stores, Incorporated.

The architectural sketch (below) which was included with the letter to neighbors showed a design for Safeway to be built close along 35th Ave NE, and provision of other stores on-site.  It may have been Safeway’s intent to lease space to other commercial uses, as a theater is shown on the far right, and on the left may be a gas station (?)  These were only proposal ideas and were not actually fulfilled.

Safeway Shopping Center, architectural drawing submitted with rezone application. Seattle Municipal Archives Comptroller File #194270.

Safeway Shopping Center, architectural drawing submitted with rezone application. Seattle Municipal Archives Comptroller File #194270.

On May 22, 1947, Safeway officially petitioned the City of Seattle’s Planning Commission for rezoning at the corner of NE 75th Street, because only a portion of the 7.5 acre site was zoned for business and the rest was residential.  Mitchell Park, Safeway’s Division Realty Manager, wrote:

Your petitioner requests the rezoning of this tract from residential to commercial property to permit the construction of one of its modern retail food stores, with off-street parking facilities.  In addition, your petitioner proposes that the balance of this tract be developed into a centralized shopping center along the lines described in the attached letter, which has been mailed to neighboring property owners.

An architect’s drawing of one such possible development is attached to this petition.  It is considered by your petitioner to be more advantageous to this rapidly growing area that its business properties be concentrated into one well-planned unit rather than scattered at random along the main artery.  Such a center is justified by the location of this property, there being no contiguous stores to serve this area.  The proposed change has been looked upon favorably by most of the surrounding property owners.  (signed) May 22, 1947, Mitchell Park, Safeway Stores Incorporated.

Mr. Park had done his preparation work well.  Submitted along with the rezoning application was a petition signed by 248 surrounding property owners in favor of the Safeway store.  Mr. Mitchell correctly cited the City Planning Commission’s intention that commercial developments be clustered at major intersections such as NE 75th Street along 35th Ave NE.  About ten years later, another corporation applied for a rezone at the present site of Hunter Tree Farm and the Wedgwood Post Office because they wanted to build a grocery store complex there.  That petition was rejected because the site was in mid-block, and at that time (1958) the City Planning Commission reiterated that stores in Wedgwood should be clustered at NE 75th and NE 85th Streets.

The original real estate sign for Balch's real estate office at 8044 35th Ave NE is now used by the current businesses.

The original real estate sign for Balch’s real estate office at 8044 35th Ave NE is now used by the current businesses.

In 1947 the chairman of the City Planning Commission (a committee of appointees) was Clyde Grainger.  He was well familiar with Wedgwood because he had helped create it himself.  Along with Grainger’s architectural partner Harlan Thomas, the two architects had designed the original Wedgwood houses for developer Albert Balch.

Clyde Grainger continued in architectural practice into the 1950’s and he designed buildings for Balch, to be used as medical-dental offices, in the block between Wedgwood Presbyterian Church and the present Seattle Audubon building.

In his letter of recommendation to City Council, City Planning Commission Chairman Clyde Grainger noted the supporting petition of 248 surrounding property owners, and that a letter of support for the new Safeway had also been received from the Eastwood Community Club.  No protests of the Safeway plans were received.  The recommendation of the City Planning Commission was sent to City Council, and they approved Safeway’s rezoning application on June 23, 1947.

When completed in June 1951 the Wedgwood Safeway store building was at the top of the lot on 35th Avenue NE, as was seen in the proposal sketch, and was set back from the corner of NE 75th Street.  There was only the Safeway and not the other stores, theater, etc. which were in the proposal drawing.  There was access to the Safeway from driveways off of 35th Ave NE on both sides of the building, with 155 parking spaces.  It is not known why other stores, a theater, etc. were never built on the site.  Perhaps Safeway found that they needed more parking than they had anticipated so they did not want to give up the space.  Their present property is only 1.6 acres, showing that they divested themselves of most of the original 7.5 acre purchase.

A 1960 view of Sateway, taken over the roof of 3603 NE 75th Street, the house behind the store. The photo shows Safeway positioned at 35th Avenue NE with access on the sides. Photo courtesy of Don Morgan.

A 1960 view of Sateway, taken over the roof of 3603 NE 75th Street, the house behind the store. The photo shows Safeway positioned at 35th Avenue NE with access on the sides. Photo courtesy of Don Morgan.

The Wedgwood Safeway was so successful that by the early 1960s they made the decision to rebuild a larger store.  In June 1965 the new store building opened, which is the present building on the site.  This time the Safeway was set back so that an enormous parking lot was at the front, clearly visible from 35th Ave NE.  Perhaps this was done to create the psychological effect of a lot of space so that people would be more likely to pull in with their cars.

The Morgan house at 3603 NE 75th Street is now behind the towering wall of the Safeway as rebuilt in 1965.

The Morgan house at 3603 NE 75th Street is now behind the towering wall of the Safeway as rebuilt in 1965.

To reposition and rebuild the Safeway store in 1965, regrading work had to be done to build up the site, level the parking lot and create a higher foundation for the store at the back of the lot.  This resulted in a huge retaining wall being built to separate the site from the houses to the east, plus a steeply sloping driveway out onto NE 75th Street.

The Wedgwood Safeway’s most recent remodel, completed in August 2011, was done by bringing the front of the store out just a few feet, making better use of basement space, and upgrading systems.  All the store’s wiring, conduit and plumbing were replaced while the store managed to stay open during the process!

Sources:

The Wedgwood Safeway remodelling project, completed in August 2011, added space onto the front of the store.

The Wedgwood Safeway remodelling project, completed in August 2011, added space onto the front of the store.

“Petition of Safeway Stores, Inc. for rezoning of southeast corner of 35th NE and E. 75th St.”  Seattle Municipal Archives, Comptroller File #194270.  Photo #73832 and the architectural sketch of the proposed Safeway building were included with the application.

“Safeway Stores Opens New Branch at 35th Avenue NE and East 75th.” Seattle Daily Times, June 8, 1951, page 16.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for the Wedgwood neighborhood in Seattle, Washington.
This entry was posted in businesses, Neighborhood features, streets and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Wedgwood Safeway

  1. Paul says:

    This was such a fascinating story about a grocery store. Once again, you’ve done a fantastic job of telling it.

  2. alesiablogs says:

    Safeway should pay you for this story to run in their employee newsletter! Great history of modern America growing after WWII!

  3. Alesia, you are too funny! But thank you for the compliment. My intention is definitely to set the tone of the times (the 1950-1960’s growth of Wedgwood) and explain how things “came to be there.” Looking at the old photos, it is hard to believe that there was absolutely nothing at the major intersection of NE 75th Street on 35th Ave NE, until after World War Two. Wedgwood was still so rural.

  4. Love little bits of history like this! Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Steve A says:

    Cool. I see my parents’ house just north of 75th in the second photo. It has sure been white for a LONG time!

  6. I am glad you can identify anything in the photo because I sure have had a difficult time doing so!

  7. I drove by there just the other day! Knowing the stories of the world around you makes the world that much more interesting. Thanks for sharing!

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