In the early 1900s Wedgwood in northeast Seattle did not have a name or definite identity as a neighborhood. Some areas of Seattle, such as Fremont, had been started with an official name. In May 1888 an investors group including Edward and Carrie Blewett from Fremont, Nebraska, platted Fremont, Seattle as a townsite. This was the official “start date” of Fremont. 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 and did not fully come into the Seattle City Limits until the 1950s.
Wedgwood did not acquire its neighborhood name until the 1940s. 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 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 used the same colorful names which had been given to voting precincts by King County Elections Superintendant Roy Erford. 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 the 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.
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 to be advertised in the newspaper. In that era some stores opened nearby, including Morningside Market at 9118 35th Ave NE. 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.
Morningside Substation (electrical) was put in 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. Owned by Seattle City Light up until December 16, 2013, the Morningside Substation property was then transferred to the Seattle Parks Department for future development as a neighborhood pocket park.
The Wedgwood Community Council has worked with the Seattle Parks Department for interim use of the future-park site at this highly accessible corner of NE 86th Street on 35th Ave NE. A Picnic Place has been created with tables, and food trucks have been invited to make the site a usable place for Wedgwoodians to hang out and meet neighbors.
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 congregational meeting on September 10, 1950, and they began meeting at the new site in March 1951.
“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 tavern which had been called Hansen’s at 8515 35th Ave NE was remodeled and enclosed as part of the new business block at 8507 to 8515 (present site of All That Dance, Satsuma Designs, and the Wedgwood Ale House.)
In 1945 after the building was remodeled, 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.”
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.
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. 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 blog post.) It was at this point that the Wedgwood Community Club sat 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 taken part of Balch’s Wedgwood #4 plat) and with businesses, churches and a community club named Wedgwood, that name was the most obvious choice. The new name, Wedgwood, represented a hopeful new era of community growth with young families, leaving behind the dreary 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 set NE 75th to 95th Streets as the attendance area for Wedgwood School, and in making a “boundaries” decision, the Wedgwood Community Club followed suit.
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 year 2010 the present Wedgwood Community Council voted 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 voted to reject the request of the Wedgewood Rock group to “join Wedgwood.” The Wedgwood Community Club determined that NE 75th Street was the southern boundary of the neighborhood. Even though Wedgwood Rock was a Balch development, it was located between NE 70th to 75th Streets, to the south of Wedgwood-proper. (see letter below) Wedgwood Rock itself is located at 7200 28th Avenue NE.