In the early 1900s Wedgwood in northeast Seattle did not have a name or a definite identity as a neighborhood. It took a post-World-War-Two growth spurt in population, and a housing development by Albert Balch, for the neighborhood to coalesce around the plat name he had chosen, “Wedgwood.”
Some areas in or near Seattle, such as the Fremont neighborhood, had been founded with an official name. In May 1888 an investors group including Edward & Carrie Blewett from Fremont, Nebraska, platted Fremont, Seattle as a townsite. This was the official “start date” of the Fremont neighborhood. As soon as lots began to be sold in 1888, there was a kind of land rush to populate Fremont. In contrast, Wedgwood had no developers, planners or namers in early years.
Northeast Seattle areas including Wedgwood grew very slowly over many decades. The biggest growth in Wedgwood came after World War Two ended in 1945, when serviceman returned home from the war and got married. These young couples looked for housing to start their new lives. Wedgwood began to acquire its neighborhood name in that era, after developer Albert Balch filed a plat of land and built houses called Wedgwood in 1941. Wedgwood did not fully come into the Seattle City Limits until the 1950s.
Early residents in northeast Seattle
On the census of 1880, homesteaders in Wedgwood such as Capt. DeWitt C. Kenyon were listed in the Lake Washington Precinct. In the year 1900 the census recorded those in northeast Seattle as part of the Yesler Precinct, a reference to the sawmill village which had sprung up; Yesler later became Laurelhurst.
For the census of the years 1910 and 1920, northeast Seattle was called the Union Precinct. In 1930, what is now Wedgwood south of NE 85th Street was in the Ravenna census tract, and north of NE 85th Street was called Morningside.
By 1940 the census tracts of northeast Seattle were known by the same colorful names which had been given to voting precincts by King County Elections Superintendent Roy Erford. The voting precinct south of NE 85th Street was called Sonora, and north of NE 85th Street was the Chelsea Precinct. Chelsea was a place name taken from a plat and development of houses at NE 110th Street near today’s Nathan Hale High School. There was a Chelsea store, now the site of the Meadowbrook Apartments at 3400 NE 110th Street. The voting precinct east of 35th Ave NE was later called the Sand Point Precinct.
Neighborhood nicknames before Wedgwood
Neighborhood nicknames for the Wedgwood area during the 1920s were Little Holland and Dutch Hollow because NE 77th to 80th Streets held the homes of an interrelated group of immigrants from Holland. But Wedgwood did not become a “Ballard,” characterized by one regional or ethnic group. The immigrants from Holland desired to enter the mainstream of American life and blend in, and they did not keep themselves separate in their own cultural group.
The plat of Highhurst on the Hill, in the 7301 block of 35th Ave NE, was probably the first Wedgwood-area property to be advertised in the newspaper. Alexandrina McKenzie, the property owner, hired a real estate agent for a few months in 1907, to run ads in the newspapers and conduct buyers out to see the property. But Highhurst was not a “development” in the sense of having an overall plan, and the name Highhurst never spread in general use for the neighborhood.
Maple Leaf was another neighborhood name which was in very early use, but different from today’s Maple Leaf in north central Seattle. The Maple Leaf of what is now Meadowbrook, was so-named when the Maple Leaf School was built in 1926 at the intersection of NE 100th & 32nd Avenue NE.
Beginning in the 1920s there were some businesses at NE 95th Street which used the name Maple Leaf, including Maple Leaf Gardens, a plant nursery and florist.
The only remaining reference is the Maple Leaf Lutheran Church across the street from the former school site, at the corner of NE 100th Street and 32nd Ave NE.
Morningside Heights development gives its name to the neighborhood
Morningside was a name for the neighborhood which had at least some sticking power in the 1920s. It was the invention of a real estate company, Burwell & Morford, which platted NE 90th to 95th Streets on the west side of 35th Ave NE as the Morningside Heights development.
A sales push for Morningside Heights began in 1923, and it was the first Wedgwood-area development with a whole plan (streets, utilities installed) to be advertised in the newspaper. In that era some stores opened nearby, including Morningside Market at 9118 35th Ave NE. Today Morningside Market, built in 1926, is the only business which has kept the original name.
In the 1920s and 1930s a business district developed at the intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 95th Street, as that seemed to be the center of the neighborhood. In 1931 as part of development of roads leading to the Naval Air Station on Sand Point Way NE, NE 95th Street was put through as an arterial, all the way from Lake City Way NE to Sand Point Way NE. This caused “neighborhood excitement” and businesses set up at the intersection of 95th & 35th.
Morningside Substation (electrical) was at 8605 35th Ave NE and even though the equipment was removed years ago, the site was referred to by that name through the year 2013. A leased building on the site was demolished on November 26, 2013 to clear the property for transfer of ownership from Seattle City Light to the Seattle Parks Department.
Owned by Seattle City Light up until December 16, 2013, ownership of the Morningside Substation property was then transferred to the Seattle Parks Department. At present the site is “land banked” to wait for possible development as a pocket park. For now, it is still being referred to as the Morningside Pocket Park as an official name for it has not yet been announced.
The Morningside Church becomes the Wedgwood Church
At the present site of the Northeast Veterinary Hospital, 9505 35th Ave NE, Morningside Branch Sunday School met in a partially-completed building in the 1920s. They were still there in 1947 when they officially organized as Morningside Presbyterian Church, but they were already thinking of moving to another location.
The Morningside group bought property and started construction at 8008 35th Ave NE during the time when “Wedgwood” had clearly caught on as the new name of the neighborhood. The church officially renamed themselves Wedgwood Presbyterian as of their congregation’s organizing meeting on September 10, 1950, and they began meeting at the new site in March 1951.
The church’s renaming and their move to a site at NE 80th Street, shows how the Wedgwood name had already caught on in general use, and that the population center of the neighborhood had shifted to the areas around NE 85th Street, Albert Balch’s Wedgwood housing developments.
“Wedgwood” is the legacy of 1940s developer Albert Balch, although he did not deliberately set out to name the whole neighborhood. Balch’s unified tract of houses in the first Wedgwood plat, filed in July 1941, was such a success that the name began to spread to nearby businesses.
The first to rename itself “Wedgwood” was the tavern which had been called Hansen’s at 8515 35th Ave NE. In 1945 the tavern building was rebuilt and expanded with additional storefront space at the southern end of the block closest to the corner of NE 85th Street.
It is not unusual for a building or business to change its name after moving or remodelling. In 1945 after the Hansen’s tavern building was rebuilt, Hansen’s changed its name to Wedgwood Tavern. Soon other businesses followed suit, though there was some controversy over whether to spell it “Wedgwood” or WedgEwood.” Today the tavern is known as the Wedgwood Ale House at 8515 35th Ave NE.
After World War Two ended in 1945, residential construction accelerated to meet the demand for housing of returning veterans, and there was a boom in growth and development in northeast Seattle.
As of the 1940s vast tracts of undeveloped land were still available in what is now Wedgwood. Developer Albert Balch kept acquiring land and building more and more sections of houses, some of them numbered Wedgwood #2, 3, 4, 5, and some with names which included the Wedgwood reference, such as Wedgwood Rock and Wedgwood Park.
Balch acquired and reserved the corners of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE, for stores and businesses for the convenience of the growing residential areas on both sides of 35th Ave NE. He leased properties for grocery stores to be built, and he built a complex of office buildings to be used by doctors and dentists.
The first community club identifies with the Wedgwood name
The first Wedgwood Community Club was organized in the post-war years (late 1940s) to address issues of the growth of the neighborhood. On the east side of 35th Ave NE, disgruntled residents felt that west-side Wedgwoodians were not in tune with their issues, so they started a separate club called Eastwood. The two groups finally realized that unity would give them a greater voice, so they merged in 1949. This created a Wedgwood entity on both sides of 35th Ave NE, not just the original plat on the west side. Once the groups combined forces, they were very effective in monitoring growth issues and advocating for the neighborhood.
In a Balch development south of NE 75th Street between 25th to 30th Avenues NE, the neighborhood group called itself the WedgEwood Rock Community Club. In June 1956, this club with 170 members requested to merge with the main Wedgwood group. (See the letter of request at the end of this page.)
The letter from the WedgEwood Rock Community Club in 1956, seemed to be the catalyst which caused the Wedgwood Community Club to sit down to define “what is Wedgwood.” The Club then set boundaries of recognition for the neighborhood at NE 95th Street on the north and NE 75th Street on the south – leaving out the Rock-dwellers. Therefore, Wedgwood Rock is in Ravenna.
Why did the Wedgwood Community Club set its boundaries at NE 75th to 95th Streets?
Wedgwood Elementary School, 2720 NE 85th Street, opened in September 1953 and was officially named in April 1954 – even though there was no school building yet. The all-portables school had to wait for their building to be completed, but there was no delay in choosing a name.
Balch’s Wedgwood housing developments surrounded the school site — in fact, the School District had appropriated part of Balch’s Wedgwood #4 plat, taking it by eminent domain for the site of the new school.
With businesses, churches and a community club named Wedgwood, that name was the most obvious choice for the new school. The new name, Wedgwood, represented a hopeful new era of community growth with young families in the 1950s, leaving behind the dreary 1940s years of World War Two with its fears and deprivations.
As Wedgwood began to define itself, it used the most traditional definition of all: that of a school, with families and children as the heart of community life.
The School District had set NE 75th to 95th Streets as the attendance area for Wedgwood School. In making a “boundaries” decision, the Wedgwood Community Club followed suit, using school attendance boundaries as the official determinator of “Wedgwood.”
The boundaries of Wedgwood as a defined neighborhood from NE 75th to NE 95th Streets have remained nearly the same since that 1956 Community Club decision. In the 1980s the City of Seattle created a Department of Neighborhoods which encouraged the formation of community councils along “boundary lines.” In the year 2010 the Wedgwood neighborhood’s community council voted to adjust their boundaries description, to include an area on the western edge of the neighborhood as far as Lake City Way NE, to align the official boundaries with that shown on the City of Seattle map.
Ironically in November 1956 the Wedgwood Community Club had voted to reject the request of the WedgEwood Rock group to “join Wedgwood” (see letter below).
As of 1956 the Wedgwood Community Club determined that NE 75th Street was the southern boundary of the neighborhood, even though Wedgwood Rock was a Balch housing development.
Balch’s plat of Wedgwood Rock is located between NE 70th to 75th Streets, 25th to 30th Avenues NE, to the south of Wedgwood-proper. Wedgwood Rock itself is located at 7200 28th Avenue NE.