The Wedgwood neighborhood’s two pubs, the Wedgwood Ale House and the Fiddler’s Inn, anchor the business intersections of NE 85th and 95th Streets along the main arterial of 35th Avenue NE. The story of the founding of each tavern in the 1930s reflects the growth and development of the Wedgwood neighborhood. Today, the word “pub” is often used to indicate the expansion of the menu with meals as well as drinks, and activity programs of music, watching sports on TV, or special events such as a trivia contest.
In 1920 Joe W. Shauer and his family moved to a one-room house which they had built at the corner of NE 86th Street, present site of the Wells Fargo Bank. The 1920s was an era of relative prosperity and business expansion, especially for consumer products such as cars. Mr. Shauer’s tire shop at NE 55th Street & Roosevelt Way NE was so successful that he decided to expand into other car-related businesses at the site of his new home.
Even before 1920, the rough one-lane 35th Avenue NE was beginning to be used by cars because there was no streetcar or other transportation service out as far as the future Wedgwood neighborhood. In the 1920s the increasing number of northeast Seattle residents had to have a car to get around. Because of the increase in car traffic, Mr. Shauer thought that a gas station would be a successful business next door to his house on 35th Avenue NE, at what is now the main intersection of Wedgwood at NE 85th Street.
The Shauers owned one acre of land from corner-to-corner of NE 85th to 86th Streets including the area of the present All That Dance Studio, the Wedgwood Ale House and the Wells Fargo Bank. On this streetfront site next to his house, Mr. Shauer built a gas station and garage, with another house behind it for a tenant to live in, on what is now the parking lot behind the businesses.
In 1920 when the Shauers first moved to their house on the corner of NE 86th Street, they had very few neighbors. Today, the corners of NE 85th and 86th Streets on 35th Ave NE are commercial intersections, but in the 1920s these corners were vacant. Some properties were owned by absentee landlords such as Walter Fulton, now the site of the QFC grocery, Wedgwood Broiler restaurant, and other businesses.
On the southwest corner of NE 85th Street, a forty-acre tract from NE 80th to 85th was owned by Charles Thorpe, a grower of ginseng for the Chinese herbal-shop market in Seattle. Mr. Thorpe did not clear all of his land and its stand of tall trees can be seen in the background of the photo of the Shauers’ house and businesses.
Later in the 1920s as the neighborhood became more populated, the Shauers built a small grocery store which had basic supplies like flour, sugar, and eggs. But the prosperity of the 1920s took a downturn in 1929 when a stock market crash shocked the U.S. economy, setting off what was called the Great Depression. When investment and production of consumer goods was sharply cut back, a vicious circle of job losses and reduced spending caused the economy to spiral downward. One of the first ways that people tried to economize was to get rid of their cars, with the result that car-oriented businesses such as gas stations and tire shops closed. The Shauers also began to have trouble with their grocery store because customers would charge groceries but never come back to pay.
Which was first: The Wedgwood Ale House or the Fiddlers Inn?
During the economic depression in the early 1930s the Shauers turned their little grocery into a feed store selling poultry feed and live chicks, since everyone had gone “back to basics” and was trying to raise more of their own food. Next the Shauers tried opening a café which sold “three-two beer” containing 3.2% alcohol.
During the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt beginning in 1932, Congress voted that Prohibition (the ban on all alcoholic beverages) had been a failure, and they started the process of repealing it. Before Prohibition officially ended in 1934, as of April 1933 the sale of three-two beer was permitted.
In the 1990s I was privileged to interview Joe Shauer’s daughter Ruth and hear her tell about life in the Wedgwood neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s. Although the café did not have a name, Ruth’s recollection was that three-two beer was sold at the café beginning in 1933, proving that the Shauers had the first neighborhood establishment to sell any kind of alcoholic drinks.
The Shauer’s café didn’t last long. Ruth’s father was struggling because of economic conditions and he was unhappy about the lack of business growth in the neighborhood. The Shauer’s neighbor Charles Thorpe had sold his property to the Jesuits of Seattle University, who at first planned to move the school out to the site on the block to the south of the Shauers. Mr. Shauer felt that having the seminary nearby would not be a good business environment, so he decided to move away. Mr. Shauer could not have predicted that the planned Jesuit seminary campus would never materialize, and that the Shauer’s former home and business site at NE 85th Street would become the center of the future Wedgwood neighborhood.
The Wedgwood Tavern
The next owner of the Shauer’s house and store was Mr. Hansen, and in 1945 he re-built the site with a new tavern and a storefront building, the present All That Dance Studio. The first business to occupy the new storefront building was McVicar & Son Hardware.
Phone book listings show that circa 1945, the tavern’s business name was changed from Hansen’s Tavern to Wedgwood Tavern, the first in the neighborhood to call itself after the development started by Albert Balch. Today’s Wedgwood Ale House as it is now called, is the historic site of two “firsts” in the neighborhood: the first site to serve alcohol and the first business to take on the Wedgwood identity.
In 1940 the Jesuits decided not to move Seattle University and so they sold their forty-acre tract in the (future) Wedgwood to Albert Balch. Balch’s housing development called Wedgwood, between NE 80th to 85th Streets, 30th to 35th Avenues NE, gradually caught on as the name of the neighborhood. After the new storefront and Hansen’s Tavern building was re-named Wedgwood, other businesses began calling themselves Wedgwood.
The Fiddler’s Inn comes next
Walt Haines was a professional musician who struggled during the economic depression years of the early 1930s when people no longer had money to go out for entertainment. After Prohibition ended in 1934 and beer and wine were again being sold to the public, more and more people tried to go into that business. Walt Haines looked around at what others were doing and decided to open his own tavern.
Walt had been living in northeast Seattle in the 1920s and he was aware of the excitement caused by the opening of the Sand Point Naval Station. People in northeast Seattle were optimistic that the naval base would boost the economy and cause more development of businesses and roads.
In addition to the new Sand Point Way NE, one of the other new roads to be put through was NE 95th Street. In 1931 a contract was awarded to Fiorito Brothers to build this new arterial connecting Sand Point Way NE to Lake City Way NE. Wedgwood-area residents began opening businesses at the intersection of 35th Avenue NE & NE 95th Street in anticipation of more traffic. Today, the last original building at the NE 95th Street intersection is the barber shop (built 1939) which was fire-damaged on October 3, 2016. As of October 2017 the building has been refurbished and the barber shop has returned to business.
In 1934 Walt Haines took a look at the activity at the NE 95th Street intersection, with stores and businesses opening there, and he decided that it would be a good location for his new tavern. He built the tavern himself on 35th Ave NE at the corner of NE 94th Street, opening it later in the year 1934.
Walt’s decision to wait until autumn to open the Fiddler’s Inn had to do with the fact that he had become a single father. His little daughter Gerry would be old enough to attend first grade in September 1934. Walt and Gerry lived in rooms at the back of the tavern and Gerry attended Maple Leaf School.
We know that the Fiddlers Inn was the second tavern to open in the neighborhood, and today in Wedgwood the Fiddlers Inn has the second-longest continuous run with the same business name.
Neighborhood business names
Wedgwood’s longest-running business under the same name is the Morningside Market at 9118 35th Ave NE which opened in 1926-27. The Morningside Market was named for the Morningside real estate development nearby.
Morningside Market as well as the Fiddler’s Inn are markers of the growth of the neighborhood in the 1930s. They are also the last two original businesses closest to NE 95th Street, an intersection where businesses died out when the center of the neighborhood’s population and commercial development shifted southward to NE 85th Street, due to the influence of the Wedgwood development of Albert Balch.
While Joe Shauer’s property at NE 85th Street passed into the hands of other owners in the 1930s, by the 1940s developer Albert Balch owned the other three corners of that intersection. Although he was a residential builder and not a business developer, Balch leased out these corners to businesses because he wanted to create a convenient shopping area for Wedgwood residents. Because of the rapid residential growth of Wedgwood in the 1940s and 1950s and the convenient business district at NE 85th Street, this intersection became the heart of the Wedgwood neighborhood.
In the early 1900s “beer parlors” was the City Directory’s business listing for alcohol establishments. After Prohibition ended they were called taverns, and in current times it is common to see the listing of a pub or brewery. A pub (short for public house) implies that food is served and a wide range of drinks, including craft beers. The concept of a neighborhood pub has become a gathering place, often with a dining room accessible to families and a program of music, trivia nights, sports viewing or karaoke.
Wedgwood’s two neighborhood pubs, the Ale House and Fiddler’s Inn, advertise an extensive food menu, music and activity programs. The Wedgwood Ale House hosts a monthly music and spoken word evening called EasySpeak Wedgwood, and the Fiddlers Inn has a monthly calendar of music performers, special menu nights and baseball or football viewing.
Census and City Directory listings.
Interviews with Ruth Shauer Jameson and Gerry Haines Collins (daughters of original owners) in 1993.
Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, historic records – acquisition of Thorpe property by the Jesuits of Seattle University. See also Seattle University: A Century of Jesuit Education, by Walt Crowley, 1991. 378.79777, Seattle Public Library.
Property records, Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.
Seattle Daily Times, March 17, 1931, page 15, King County paving contract for NE 95th Street awarded to Fiorito Brothers.