Old Houses and New Construction in Wedgwood: the Blue House

2316 NE 85th Street

The Blue House at 2316 NE 85th Street

The Blue House at 2316 NE 85th Street in Wedgwood is vacant and its future is uncertain.  Today in Wedgwood there are many sites where old houses are being torn down and new ones built in their place.

At some sites which are zoned multiple-residency or commercial, single-family homes are being replaced by townhouses or apartments, and perhaps the Blue House will fall to that fate.

Authors note:  Text and photos on this blog page are protected under a Creative Commons Copyright.  Please do not copy text or photos without permission.

Bigger, but is it better?

7022 29th Ave NE.June 2016

This three-story structure at 7022 29th Ave NE near Wedgwood Rock, replaced the former one-story-two-bedroom house on the site.

Just around the corner from Wedgwood Rock, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house at 7022 29th Ave NE, built in 1950, was demolished in April 2015 and a three-story structure was built in its place.

Whether a house is sixty-five years old like the original house in the Wedgwood Rock plat which has been torn down and replaced by a bigger house, or one-hundred years old like the Blue House at 2316 NE 85th Street, the pressure of development has caused a new-construction boom in Wedgwood.

Some houses on residential streets, like the one at Wedgwood Rock, are being replaced by much larger single-family homes.  In some instances such as that of the Big Green House, the site is now in a commercial or multiple-use zone and the former single-family home can be replaced by a townhouse structure or apartments.

In past times, especially in the 1950s, some older houses were considered to be still-usable and moving a house to a new location was done several times in Wedgwood.

Moving around Wedgwood

At the end of World War Two in 1945, Wedgwood in northeast Seattle began to grow, take form and acquire its name as a neighborhood.

Enormous tracts of vacant land were still available in the future-Wedgwood in the 1940s and were acquired by builder Albert Balch whose plat name, Wedgwood, eventually caught on as the name of the neighborhood.  The post-war community of young married couples caused businesses, seeking a customer base, to be attracted to Wedgwood, and during the period of 1946 to 1961 Wedgwood’s commercial district took shape along 35th Avenue NE.

This storefront building built in 1946 is at the northwest corner of NE 75th Street and 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood.

This storefront building built in 1946 is at the northwest corner of NE 75th Street and 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood.

During the post-war growth period in Wedgwood there were several times when an old house became surrounded by newly-created business buildings, and sometimes the old house was literally “in the way.”  One example of house-moving was Mr. Cook’s house which had been built in 1920.  His house faced NE 75th Street nearest to the corner of 35th Ave NE.

When Mr. Cook sold the corner-of-NE 75th property in 1946 for commercial development, builder Marinus Halffman built the storefront building, originally occupied by a pharmacy, at 7501 35th Ave NE.  Finally, after Mr. Cook had his house moved to a nearby residential street in 1948, another section was added onto the back of the pharmacy building.  In 2018 the former pharmacy space is being renovated for a new lease on life as the Grand Central Bakery & Cafe.

The Chase Bank building at 7512 was built in 1955 as McGillivray's Variety and Gift Store.

The Chase Bank building at 7512 was built in 1955 as McGillivray’s Variety and Gift Store.

In 1955 the McGillivray family built a very successful store at 7512 35th Ave NE (now the Chase Bank building) and they soon realized that they needed more parking for customers.  Next door to the north of McGillivray’s was an old house which had belonged to one of the neighborhood’s Dutch immigrant families, the Van der wels.   The McGillivrays bought the house and had moved to 7308 38th Ave NE, so that the space could become a larger parking lot for the McGillivray’s store.

Into the early 1960s the Wedgwood neighborhood struggled with zoning issues about how its commercial area along 35th Ave NE would develop.  A grocery store corporation wanted to put in a new shopping complex mid-block at the present site of the Wedgwood Post Office and the Hunter Tree Farm at 7744 35th Ave NE.  This site had been a plant nursery business with the property still owned by the Herkenrath family.  Finally when the zoning request for a mid-block grocery store was denied by the Seattle City Planning Commission in 1958, the site was sold to other entities.  The post office acquired 1/3 of the property and the Herkenrath house was moved from that site, northward half a block to 8004 36th Ave NE.

8921 - 25th Place NE

8921 – 25th Place NE

In most cases of house-moving, the house is moved only a short distance, such as the Herkenrath house which was moved to the corner of the next block.   There are two examples that I know of, of houses which were moved to Wedgwood from other neighborhoods, a distance of several miles.  One house now at 8921 25th Place NE came from 5816 5th Ave NE in the University District.  The house was moved in 1959 because it was in the path of the Interstate 5 freeway which was being built at that time, and the owners wanted to preserve the house and continue to live in it.

A house in the Roosevelt District along 15th Ave NE at Lake City Way NE, was crowded out by commercial development on that street and came to rest in Wedgwood in 1958.  The Blue House, built in 1914, was moved to 2316 NE 85th Street in a quiet area just to the east of Lake City Way NE.

A family builds a house

In the year 1909 Seattle’s world’s fair event, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exhibition on the campus of the University of Washington, attracted nation-wide attention.  Some visitors came to Seattle only to attend the fair but others came in search of jobs and a new start in a new city, Seattle, which seemed full of new prospects.

In 1909 Jay Holman lived in this boarding house at 1403 East Spruce Street, built in 1904.

In 1909 Jay Holman lived in this boarding house at 1403 East Spruce Street.

In 1909 a broken-hearted young man, Jay Holman, arrived in Seattle from Colorado.  At age 26 he had already been widowed and he went back to living as a single man again in one of Seattle’s many boarding houses.  Holman obtained a good job as a Seattle fireman, and within three years he was enfolded into a new life with a new family in Seattle.

Jay Holman’s job description was pipeman, the firefighter who is on the nozzle attacking the fire, and thus the closest to the heat and flames.  Jay Holman’s courage and presence of mind gained him the respect and liking of his Seattle Fire Department workmates.  He was invited to spend time at the home of fellow fireman Charles Aitken, where Holman soon fell in love with Charles’ sixteen-year-old sister Jennie.  The couple waited until Jennie turned eighteen and they married in December 1911.

Moving out into north Seattle

Original construction permit of 1913 for the Blue House at its first location, 8041 16th Ave NE.

Original construction permit of 1913 for the Blue House at its first location, 8041 16th Ave NE.

Jennie’s parents had moved to the growing residential area just northeast of Green Lake, and Jennie’s brother Charles Aitken and his new wife did the same.  Jay and Jennie Holman found a site near Jennie’s family members where they could build a new house at 8041 16th Ave NE.  The location was east of the Fairview real estate development where there was a fine new elementary school on Roosevelt Way NE at NE 78th Street.

The original construction permit for Jay and Jennie Holman’s new house is dated February 6, 1913.  The construction permit says that they will “build a 1 ½ story residence 26 by 36 feet,” with the address 8041 16th Ave NE in the Green Lake Reservoir plat.  J.W. Holman was listed as the homeowner, and the builder of the house was C. Jacobson who lived only a block away at 8224 16th Ave NE.

Looking toward 16th Ave NE, this parking lot is the original site of the Holman House. At left, the Mr. Villa Mexican restaurant faces Lake City Way NE.

Looking toward 16th Ave NE, this parking lot is the original site of the Holman’s house. At left, the Mr. Villa Mexican restaurant faces Lake City Way NE.

The Holman’s house was completed in early 1914 and they began to fill the house with children.  By 1920 two Holman boys and a girl played along 16th Ave NE with other neighborhood children and they all walked westward across NE 80th Street to attend Fairview Elementary School.  But Jay and Jennie Holman were becoming uneasy about their house’s location because of the busy streets with car traffic and the encroaching commercial district.

Car ownership had increased exponentially since the year 1900:  by 1920, there were 186,827 cars and trucks in the state of Washington.  Because so many more people owned cars, more new roads were demanded.  Unexpectedly, by 1920 the site of the Holman’s house was uncomfortably close to the planned new Victory Way Highway which would cut diagonally across the north end of their block, heading in a northeastly direction toward Lake City and continuing on out to Bothell.

The Holmans move their house

House-moving permit of 1920

House-moving permit of 1920

The Holmans decided to move their house southward on the same block, building a new foundation and basement for the house at the corner of NE 80th Street facing 15th Ave NE.  The house-moving permit which Jay Holman applied for on October 2, 1920 said the new address would be 8008 15th Ave NE.

Rapid urban growth continued around the Holman’s re-positioned house.  More commercial buildings were going in on that block and 15th Ave NE was widened.  After only ten years’ occupancy, in 1924 the Holmans gave up on their house and moved their family, now numbering five children, to a quieter neighborhood on Woodlawn Avenue at Green Lake.

New commercial development, new roads and more population

Here is David, the ever-helpful Husband of the Blogger, at Hudson Pub at 8014 15th Ave NE. The fence at right marks the second location of the Holman's house.

Here is David, the ever-helpful Husband of the Blogger, at Hudson Pub at 8014 15th Ave NE. The fence at right marks the second location of the Holman’s house.

A high school teacher, Patrick Murphy, bought the Holman’s house in 1924 and lived in it for the next thirty-five years, glad of the convenient location.  From the house facing 15th Ave NE the Murphys had ease of travel and access to stores along the newly created Victory Way NE, which cut across the block’s northern end (later renamed Bothell Way and then Lake City Way NE.)

In 1924 to 1926 new commercial buildings were going up all around on that block, including a grocery and pharmacy at 8014 15th Ave NE.  In recent years this address has been Hudson pub (pictured) and as of 2018 there is a Thai food restaurant.

Surrounding buildings all built in the same period, 1924 to 1926, include Pagliacci Pizza, Cafe Kopi, All the Best Pet Care and Mr. Villa Mexican Restaurant which all face Lake City Way NE where it cuts across 15th Avenue NE.

The Blue House gets moved a second time

As of 1958 the next owner of the Blue House made plans to move the house again.  Gene Merlino, member of a well-known Italian family in Seattle, was owner of a chain of gas stations.  He saw that the site of the Blue House at 8008 15th Ave NE, adjacent to other businesses and to busy Bothell Way NE (Lake City Way NE), was already zoned commercial and would be an excellent location for a gas station.

In the 1940s and 1950s it was still common to move houses rather than tear them down.  In Wedgwood, the McGillivrays had a house moved when they wanted to expand the parking lot next to their store.  Similarly, because Gene Merlino wanted the site of the Blue House for a gas station, he arranged to have the Blue House moved from 8008 15th Ave NE to another residential lot.

The Blue House gets zoned “multiple residence”

The Blue House is in rough shape after more than fifty years of hard usage as a boarding house.

The Blue House is in rough shape after more than fifty years of hard usage as a boarding house.  This photo was taken in September 2015.

In 1958 the Blue House was moved to 2316 NE 85th Street, just east of busy Lake City Way NE, and then Gene Merlino sold the house to another owner.  The Blue House became the Rogers Retirement Home, with the Rogers family living next door in house number 2312.

After only five years the Rogers were gone, and the Blue House was listed in the phone book as the Mary Ellen Retirement and Rest Home, with David & Mary Ellen James living next door in house 2312.  Barely another five years went by and then the Jameses were gone, too, with the Blue House listed as an apartment building as of 1969.

New townhouses on the same block as the Blue House

New townhouses on NE 86th Street

Years of heavy use have gone by with the Blue House cut up into individual rooms.  Most of its block is now zoned multiple-residence instead of single family, and townhouses have been built on the north side of the block along NE 86th Street, where another old house was torn down.  The blocks near the Blue House are part of Wedgwood’s Western Edge where zoning now gives increasing density.

The strange journey of the Blue House, now more than one hundred years old, may soon come to an end with demolition.  The house was sold in March 2018, to a neighborhood resident.

As of February 2017 the Blue House is boarded up.

The Blue House is vacant and boarded up.


ravenleaf-pub-wall-art-august-2016Biographical/genealogical info:  Ancestry.com; Washington Digital Archives; old city directories accessed at the 9th floor History Department, Seattle Public Library, downtown Seattle.

Business ownership changes:  The site of the Hudson, pictured below, became the Ravenleaf in 2016.  As of 2018 the business at 8014 15th Ave NE is a Thai food restaurant.

Construction permits (old):  Microfilm library of the Department of Planning and Land Use, Municipal Tower/20th floor, 700 5th Avenue, Seattle.

Construction permits (current):  City of Seattle Services Portal — look up addresses to see current permits for remodelling, demolition or new construction.

Property history:  Original records at the Puget Sound Regional Archives in Bellevue.  The property card for the Blue House shows all three of its addresses and the dates of moving.

Looking northward on 15th Ave NE toward the intersection with Lake City Way NE. Hudson Pub is at 8014 15th Ave NE and next to it is the former second site of the Blue House. It became a gas station until 1974, and is now an auto repair shop.

Looking northward on 15th Ave NE toward the intersection with Lake City Way NE.  The building at 8014 15th Ave NE says “Hudson” but it closed and two other businesses have been in there since I first took this photo in 2015.  Next to it (fenced) is the second site of the Blue House, which became a gas station until 1974, and is now an auto repair shop.

About Wedgwood in Seattle History

Valarie is a volunteer writer of neighborhood history in Seattle.
This entry was posted in Houses and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Old Houses and New Construction in Wedgwood: the Blue House

  1. Damon B. says:

    Another amazing story about the homes and lives of our neighbors. Great article, thanks for keeping us enlightened.

  2. Hi Valarie. This essay just turned into one of my all-time favorites from your collection of work here on WordPress. The fantastic journey of The Blue House particularly resonates with me because some time ago I lived up the street on 15th Avenue NE and NE 86th Street. I have various thoughts about this article, but at the moment I’m feeling discombobulated: Sad at the potential, likely fate of this place (if I had the money, I’d hire a crane to set The Blue House on top of my house as an act of protest…..or maybe I’d just have it crammed into my tiny backyard). But tickled at the storytelling and research that went into this piece.

  3. eyeamlothar says:

    Valarie, I’ve really enjoyed your blog. Thank you so much for researching and sharing Wedgwood’s history!

  4. I am glad you are enjoying Wedgwood history — I am having fun, too!

  5. alesiablogs says:

    So happy to see such an amazing bit of history put on your blog and it really shows the evolution of so many things. This story is unfortunately one of many and it gives your readers a view of where we are going in the future…Although you write history, it is evident what we are seeing, perhaps lessons to be learned are here. Blessings, Alesia

  6. Thanks, Alesia. Although it is true that houses do wear out, it is sad to see the lack of care for this beautiful structure. It could have been better preserved! All over the Wedgwood neighborhood there are tear-downs going on with much larger structures replacing the original houses. Some of the new structures are multi-family but some are just really, really large single-family homes, with fewer people living in more space.

  7. alesiablogs says:

    I know this is true. The richer get richer and the rest get poorer

  8. I really enjoyed this post, Valarie. So much great history that needs to be kept and chronicled. Thanks for sharing with us. 🙂

  9. This house is a puzzlement — still vacant. I am watching for permit applications, thinking the poor Blue House is likely to be torn down…… UPDATE: The owner of the house died in 2017; he lived in Oregon. In 2018 the house has been sold and we anticipate that it will be torn down; stay tuned.

  10. I’m afraid you’re probably right. 😦

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