In the Spring of the year our thoughts turn to gardening.
The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle is luxuriant with wonderful home gardens nurtured by dedicated gardeners. Wedgwood also has a community gardening site for anyone who wants to have a P-Patch. The term P-Patch is an allusion to a “pea patch” for gardening, plus the P for Picardo, the family whose legacy is celebrated in Seattle’s P-Patch program.
The Picardo family, headed by patriarch Ernesto, were immigrants from Italy who had farmed in south Seattle before acquiring land in 1922 in what is now Wedgwood. The Picardo Farm was between 25th to 30th Avenues NE, NE 80th to 82nd Streets. Some of the original site is now occupied by University Preparatory Academy and Temple Beth Am at NE 80th Street.
Over the years the Picardo Farm “shrank around the edges” due to streets and development, reducing the land area from the original thirty acres to about twenty acres. When the arterial 25th Ave NE was put through it cut across the western border of the farm. On the survey map at right, 25th Ave NE is marked as Erickson Road.
The farm property continued to shrink in the early 1940s as the Picardos sold land for the building of houses on NE 82nd Street and on 30th Ave NE. Most of the houses on NE 82nd Street at the north edge of the Picardo Farm were built 1950-1951 by developer Howard Schultz, but there are three houses on that street which were moved off of the site of Dahl Field.
The photo below is estimated to have been taken in approximately 1943, facing east with 30th Ave NE at the top. A few houses which can be seen at the top of the photo are on the east side of 30th Ave NE, built in 1942 in Albert Balch’s original Wedgwood plat.
On the left side of the photo is NE 82nd Street which goes up to meet 30th Ave NE at the top. The house at top left is 8234 28th Ave NE which was built in 1916 in the Nevins and Park Addition. That one-block plat was developed by a group of architects for their family homes.
The house at far left in the photo is probably 2612 NE 82nd Street, built in 1933.
In the 1920s the extended Picardo clan moved from South Park in south Seattle to Green Lake in north Seattle, where the various families built houses clustered around that of patriarch Ernesto and his wife Luisa. Ernesto and Luisa had acquired an estate property called the Remsberg House at 2200 N. 77th Street on the east side of Green Lake.
Ernesto Picardo and his relatives lived at Green Lake while developing their farm in Wedgwood. At the time that Ernesto bought the Wedgwood farm property in 1922 there were Japanese gardeners leasing some of the land, and their leases were still good during the transfer of ownership. Some Japanese farm workers lived on-site at the Picardo farm until 1942, during World War Two, when all Japanese were ordered to leave Seattle.
Ernesto Picardo’s wife Luisa died in October 1942, and other relatives moved into the Green Lake house to take care of Ernesto. Ernesto did not want to be taken care of, so he built a house for himself at 2412 NE 80th Street. Although the house is on the west side of 25th Ave NE, it is on land which had been part of the farm before 25th Ave NE was put through, cutting off a slice of the farm property.
Ernesto Picardo died in 1961 at age 89. His son Orazio, nicknamed Rainie, continued to operate the farm to some extent. Rainie gradually allowed Wedgwood neighbors to use some of the land for their own gardens, and he would advise them as to what might grow well.
Rainie received many offers from developers who would have liked to put stores or other commercial buildings on the site, but Rainie could not bring himself to give up the wonderful soil and the joy of growing things. Seattle’s first official P-Patch was born in 1973 when the City of Seattle began the process to purchase the Picardo Farm, and now each Spring the legacy of gardening in Wedgwood continues.