From Morningside to Wedgwood Presbyterian Church

In the 1920s and 1930s before Wedgwood acquired its name, its sense of identity and defined boundaries, the name Morningside was often used for the neighborhood.  Beginning in 1913 the Morningside Heights plat on the west side of 35th Ave NE from NE 90th to 95th Streets was the first advertised development in what would later become part of Wedgwood.  The residents of Morningside Heights wanted the benefits of community life, and one of the first actions taken was to start a church with Sunday school for the children of the neighborhood.

3201 NE 91st Street property card photo.built 1925

The Morningside Heights plat has many 1920s Craftsman-style houses like this one at 3201 NE 91st Street, built 1925.

A real estate company, Burwell & Morford, sold lots in the Morningside Heights plat beginning in 1913.  They gave away free sets of house plans to encourage the building of good-quality homes, and they offered a cash prize in a contest for the nicest flowers and vegetable gardens.  Many of the early Morningside Heights residents were themselves carpenters and contractors who built their own houses in the plat.

The do-it-ourselves folks of Morningside Heights soon set to organizing their community in several different ways.  One of their first efforts was to establish a church group with the emphasis upon a Sunday-school format for children with stories from the Bible and singing.  These organizing efforts, which began about 1915, were supported by the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Seattle, which helped by buying property for a meeting place and sending church workers out to lead Sunday school classes for children.

In 1917 Morningside Sunday School was at the corner of NE 92nd Street and 27th Ave NE.

In 1917 Morningside Sunday School was at the corner of NE 92nd Street and 27th Ave NE.

Original King County Tax Assessors property records show that in 1917 a structure was built on NE 92nd Street in the Morningside Heights plat for the group called the Morningside Sunday School Union.  The site was purchased by First Presbyterian Church of downtown Seattle as part of their extension program to help establish branch churches in outlying areas.  Today there are two houses, 2548 and 2558 NE 92nd Street, at what was once the Morningside Sunday school property at the northwest corner of 27th Ave NE and NE 92nd Street.

Churches spread into northeast Seattle beginning in 1908 

First Presbyterian’s extension efforts in northeast Seattle began with the University District when a world’s fair was planned for June 1909 on the campus of the University of Washington.

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was held on the campus of the University of Washington in 1909.

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition was held on the campus of the University of Washington in 1909.

Preparations for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) led to the improvement and growth of northeast Seattle neighborhoods.  In a mad scramble to get ready for the AYPE, the City of Seattle sought to improve the University District which did not yet have paved streets, trolley lines or electric service.  Proximity to the University of Washington (the fairgrounds of the AYPE) caused property values to increase and there was a sudden migration of people to this area of town where new jobs and businesses were being created.  Real estate agents flocked to the area and began to open new nearby districts of housing such as Laurelhurst.

Churches of Seattle soon realized that they should get in on the AYPE activity, so they began buying sites to establish churches in the University District.  Today’s University Presbyterian Church was founded in 1908 as a branch of Seattle First Presbyterian.  More than one hundred years later, University Presbyterian Church is one of the largest congregations in Seattle, due in part to the church’s advantageous location near the University of Washington.

Rev. Mark Matthews as depicted in Argus Magazine cartoon of 1906.

Rev. Mark Matthews as depicted in Argus Magazine cartoon of 1906.

In 1910 Seattle First Presbyterian Church (downtown) was the largest Presbyterian church in the USA with more than 4,000 members.  Its dynamic pastor, Rev. Mark Matthews, served from 1902 until his death in 1940.  After the AYPE, Rev. Matthews realized that the population of northeast Seattle was growing and he promoted outreach, establishing branch churches in many northeast Seattle neighborhoods, including Lake City, Laurelhurst and Wedgwood (Morningside).  First Presbyterian purchased meeting sites for the branch churches and helped by sending teachers for Sunday meetings and children’s programs.

Ahead of his time in many ways, Rev. Matthews emphasized social justice and added Chinese, Korean and Japanese pastors to his staff so that congregations could be developed for immigrants.  At Morningside, the congregation was integrated because the Nishitani family attended and their children participated in classes.

Miseo Sakamoto arrived from Japan in 1919, joining her parents, the Nishitanis, and her older siblings who had come to the USA earlier and had established a plant nursery business at Ravenna Ave and NE 98th Street.  Even though she could not yet speak English, Miseo enjoyed “singing school” at the little Morningside Sunday School building on NE 92nd Street.  Periodically the Morningside children all went to Seattle First Presbyterian to participate in song contests with children from thirty other branch churches.  On these visits Mrs. Sakamoto recalled being awed by the powerful preaching of Rev. Matthews.

Morningside’s pivotal year of 1926

Morningside Heights real estate brochure of 1923.

After the Morningside Heights plat was filed in 1913, it gave its name to that corner of the neighborhood and that is why the Sunday school used the name Morningside, the first entity in the neighborhood to do so.  Morningside Heights was the first development in what would become Wedgwood, which was promoted by a real estate company.  While not densely settled, there still was population growth in this plat more than other nearby blocks, as Wedgwood had much vacant property in those years.

The population of the Morningside neighborhood continued to grow in the 1920s.  It was still a semi-rural area but was becoming increasingly convenient as city water and electric service became available in the period of 1923-26.  In about 1926 the Morningside Grocery opened at 9118 35th Ave NE — even though it was across the street from the plat, the name association was used.  The year 1926 seemed to be one of organizing, as the neighborhood started a bus service called Northeast Transportation, and a new Maple Leaf School opened at 3212 NE 100th Street.  Morningside Heights resident Bill Lovell was general contractor for construction of Maple Leaf School.

The Morningside Sunday School needed a bigger building, and so in 1926 First Presbyterian purchased property for them at 9505 35th Ave NE, present site of the Northeast Veterinary Clinic.  Located at the major intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 95th Street, it was thought that this would be an ideal site because of its visibility and convenience of access.  The congregation commenced to build, but only had enough funds for a basement.  A roof was put on the basement building to await the growth of the church and more funding.

The property card for the church building from the King County tax assessors records shown below, has the date of 1926 for purchase of the property by First Presbyterian Church.  At the bottom of the card, 1947 is the date that title of the property was transferred to Morningside Church.  The last line (light-color ink) shows a date of 1951 when the Morningside church building was sold to a veterinary clinic (Dr. William H. Sudduth).  The veterinary clinic, under a series of owners through the years, is still in operation today at 9505 35th Ave NE.

The original property card for the Morningside Church site at 9505 35th Ave NE shows the basement-with-a-roof building. Courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives.

The original property card for the Morningside Church site at 9505 35th Ave NE shows the basement-with-a-roof building. Courtesy of Puget Sound Regional Archives.

The population of the Morningside neighborhood continued to increase in the 1920s, but the economic depression years of the 1930s and the war years of the 1940s slowed the development of businesses and institutions such as churches.  The basement-with-a-roof building continued to be used as-is by the Morningside group for more than twenty years, from 1926 until about 1950.

In February 1947 the branch church officially organized and became independent of First Presbyterian, with the property ownership transferred to Morningside.  The first order of business for the 31 charter members of Morningside Presbyterian Church was to consider their future.  It was agreed that the church needed a better site with a properly-built building.

Morningside Presbyterian makes a move

Church groundbreaking ceremony at NE 80th Street (undated photo circa 1949).

Church groundbreaking ceremony at NE 80th Street (undated photo circa 1949).

In December 1947 property became available for purchase on 35th Ave NE at the corner of NE 80th Street.  That site had an old house on a large lot which seemed more centrally located in what was becoming the business district of Wedgwood.  By that year, the name “Wedgwood” had caught on, spreading from Albert Balch’s housing developments into the names of businesses.  At their congregational meeting on September 10, 1950, Morningside Church voted to change their name to Wedgwood Presbyterian in anticipation of building completion on the new site.  The first church services were held at 8008 35th Ave NE, the church’s present building, in March 1951.  By that time the church had an active membership of about 100 people.

The center of the neighborhood shifts to Wedgwood

The Morningside church could have expanded or rebuilt at NE 95th Street, but instead, in 1947-1948 they made the decision to move to the corner of NE 80th Street on the arterial 35th Ave NE.  Morningside followed up that decision by changing their name to Wedgwood Presbyterian.  These two decisions illustrate that the concept of a Wedgwood neighborhood had come into existence, and that the center of gravity for residential and commercial development had shifted to the areas between NE 80th to 85th Streets.

Albert Balch, developer of Wedgwood

Albert Balch, developer of Wedgwood

In 1941 developer Albert Balch began building a unified tract of houses from NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 85th Avenues NE.  This plat was the first Wedgwood.  In the 1940s and 1950s Balch acquired more and more nearby sections of land and gave the developments similar names such as Wedgwood #2, 3, 4, 5, Wedgwood Park, Wedgwood Rock, etc.  The Wedgwood name caught on, nearby businesses began calling themselves Wedgwood and a Wedgwood neighborhood identity began to form.

In the 1920s there had been Joe Shauer’s store and gas station at NE 85th Street (present site of All That Dance at 8507 35th Ave NE) but those businesses closed down for a time in the 1930s when the Shauers moved away.  The unpaved road, 35th Ave NE, was not yet an arterial and there was a long expanse of “nothing” as shown in this photo of Dutch-immigrant teens, looking northeast along 35th Ave NE at about NE 81st Street.

In the 1920's when this photo was taken along 35th Ave NE at about NE 81st Street, there were no businesses in that block. Now the block behind the teens has Seattle Audubon Society and medical office buildings.

In the 1920s when this photo was taken along 35th Ave NE at about NE 81st Street, there were no businesses in that block. Now the block behind the teens has Seattle Audubon Society and medical office buildings.  Photo courtesy of Dora Nicklas; do not use this photo without permission.

In the 1930s the center of the neighborhood had been the residential district of the Morningside Heights plat between NE 90th to 95th Streets, and businesses nearby at the intersection of NE 95th Street.  There was Morningside Market at 9118 35th Ave NE, and Faulds Corner Grocery at 9500 35th Ave NE with Andy Bloomer’s Drugstore beside it.

In the early 1940s Balch’s Wedgwood building program started out with housing for war workers.  After World War Two ended in 1945, the pace of building increased to satisfy the post-war demand.  The once-rural neighborhoods of northeast Seattle were rapidly being laid out with streets and houses, and would soon be absorbed within Seattle City limits. Large numbers of young couples came to live in Balch houses south of NE 85th Street on either side of 35th Ave NE, and more stores opened in the 1940s including major groceries Safeway at NE 75th Street and IGA Foodliner at 8606 35th Ave NE (present site of the Jasper Apartments.)

Balch offices in 1962.Municipal Archives photo 76719

Balch offices in 1962, with the Crawford & Conover real estate sign at 8044 35th Ave NE. Photo 76719 Seattle Municipal Archives.

In the 1950s builder Albert Balch owned three of the four corners of the intersection at NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE.  He began leasing out sites for businesses, including the present site of the QFC grocery.  Balch built his own construction and real estate offices on the next block along with medical and dental offices.  All this growth and development showed that the center of neighborhood population and commerce was no longer at NE 95th Street.  Morningside Church joined the southward migration, became Wedgwood Presbyterian and relocated to the corner of NE 80th Street.

Booming into the 1950s

In 1957 the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building was expanded. Photo courtesy of David Chamness.

In 1957 the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building was expanded. Photo courtesy of David Chamness.

The term “Baby Boom” describes the years following the end of World War Two in 1945, when returning servicemen married and started families.  Because of the large number of young families with children, the 1950s and 1960s were busy, active years at Wedgwood Presbyterian with Sunday school classes and programs for children and youth.  By the end of the 1950s the church membership (adults) was over 500, and 600 children were enrolled in Sunday school.  The church building was straining at the seams, so in 1957 construction of an addition began.

The original 1951 church building ended at the back of the sanctuary.  The Fireside Room, library, nursery, NE 80th Street entrance, upstairs offices, hallway and upstairs restrooms were all part of the 1957 building addition.  Today the Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building at 8008 35th Ave NE is still heavily used not only for its own programs but as a meeting place for community groups.

Northeast Veterinary Clinic

The old Morningside Church building at 9505 35th Ave NE was sold in 1951 to a veterinary practice headed by Dr. William H. Sudduth.  From that date until the present time the building has been a veterinary clinic, under a series of different owners through the years.  The basement-with-a-roof building was used as-is until 1968 when it was remodeled in a design by Northwest Modern architect Paul Hayden Kirk.   On the tax assessor’s property card, shown here, the architect’s name is written three lines below the vet clinic address of 9505 35th Ave NE.

The Tax Assessors property card for the Northeast Veterinary Clinic show the remodelling was done in 1968 by architect Paul Hayden Kirk. Card courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives.

The Tax Assessors property card for the Northeast Veterinary Clinic notes that the architect of the 1968 remodelling was Paul Hayden Kirk. Property card courtesy of the Puget Sound Regional Archives.

Sources:

AYP Exposition, Suite of articles on HistoryLink.org

Dutch teens photo courtesy of Dora Verhamme Nicklas.  The presence of electric lines along 35th Ave NE indicates that the photo was taken after 1923.  The teens are sitting on a hollowed-out log which had been used by Mr. Thorpe, a ginseng farmer, as a watering trough for his horse.  Mr. Thorpe’s land on the west side of 35th Ave NE, from NE 80th to 85th Streets, became the site of a Catholic chapel from 1929 to 1940 and then was bought by Albert Balch, who developed the site for the original Wedgwood plat of houses.

Interviews with Nishitani family members Misao Sakamoto and Martha Nishitani, 1995.

Northeast Veterinary Hospital building.9505 35th Ave NE

Northeast Veterinary Hospital at 9505 35th Ave NE was designed by architect Paul Hayden Kirk.  The building is on the original site of the Morningside Presbyterian Branch Church of the 1920s.

The Life of Mark A. Matthews, by Dr. Ezra P. Giboney and Agnes M. Potter.  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1948.  Book in the library of University Presbyterian Church.  Page 66ff:  “One of the distinctive features of the Seattle pastorate was the setting up of the Branch system of Sunday Schools and Churches.”

Each new-church outreach of First Presbyterian attempted to locate close to new schools which were being built in outlying areas, drawing upon the same population of families with school-age children.  Branch outreach organizers were paid staff members of First Presbyterian Church.    Page 76 of Mark Matthew’s biography said that the Sunday Schools’ annual Song Contest brought in children from 28 branches, as many as 1800 children.  The young minister who was trained to work with the Morningside Branch Sunday School in the 1920s was Rev. B.G. Stablein (page 79, Mark Matthews’ biography.)  In those days ministerial training was often done like an apprenticeship with a local pastor rather than by attending seminary.

Men Behind the Seattle Spirit: The Argus Cartoons.  H.A. Chadwick, editor, 1906.  Seattle Room RB.0 AR38M Seattle Public Library (Central).

Wedgwood Presbyterian Church on 35th Ave NE

Wedgwood Presbyterian Church at 8008 35th Ave NE

The First Fifty Years: Wedgwood Presbyterian Church History by Connie Mahan, 1997. Booklet produced for the fiftieth anniversary of the church.

The Presbytery of Seattle, 1858-2005, by Robert L. Welsh, 2006. University Presbyterian Church library, 285.1.

Property records:  Tax Assessment Roll of 1920 showing First Presbyterian Church ownership of two lots at what is now 2548 and 2558 NE 92nd Street; original photo and property card of Morningside Branch Sunday school building at 9505 35th Ave NE.  Property records accessed at the Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.

“Rev Mark Matthews,” HistoryLink Essay #8049 by Dale Soden, 2007.

Wedgwood Presbyterian Church building remodelling photo of 1957 courtesy of David Chamness.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer history writer for neighborhood history in Seattle, Washington.
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