During World War Two from 1941 to 1945, Americans put their personal plans on hold so that they could serve in the military, work in war production industries or in support services. After the end of World War Two the focus of American life turned from supporting the war effort, to pursuing the dreams of home and family which had been deferred during the war. There was pent-up demand for houses and for consumer goods which had not been produced for civilian use during the war.
The Wedgwood neighborhood took on its identity in this period of rapid growth in the post-war years of the 1940s and 1950s, when large numbers of young couples got married and started new lives with their own homes.
As of the 1940s there was an incredible amount of vacant land still available in northeast Seattle which became areas of new housing. Developer Albert Balch’s first tract of Wedgwood houses (a plat name) on the west side of 35th Ave NE from NE 80th to 85th Streets, was so popular that local businesses wanted to identify with it, and so the Wedgwood development gradually gave its name to the new neighborhood.
Businesses were attracted to the growing Wedgwood neighborhood with its potential customers, the young couples in Balch houses. Businesses began to be established at the major commercial intersection of NE 85th Street and nearby blocks along 35th Ave NE.
Growth of the business district in the new Wedgwood neighborhood
Except for Hansen’s Tavern at 8515 35th Ave NE, as of the 1940s there still were no buildings at the corners of the intersection of NE 85th Street on 35th Ave NE, which today is the heart of the commercial district of Wedgwood. In the post-war period other businesses came in to serve the growing residential population of Wedgwood.
The first post-war commercial building to be completed in what would become Wedgwood’s business district at NE 85th Street, was a new storefront building which enclosed the old Hansen’s Tavern. In 1945 that tavern became the first business to take on the name which became the name of the neighborhood, “Wedgwood.”
The first store in the new building adjacent to the Wedgwood Tavern was McVicar & Son Hardware. The McVicar family lived in northeast Seattle. Like the McVicars, in the 1940s and 1950s many other local people began to open stores, gas stations and various businesses in the new commercial district near the intersection of NE 85th Street.
The Copestick Building at 8611-13 35th Ave NE
Paul Copestick was a northeast Seattle resident who decided to build a new storefront building in the growing Wedgwood commercial district in 1956. At that time there was a Mobil gas station, Miller & McInnis, at 8605 35th Ave NE on the northwest corner of NE 86th Street. Paul Copestick chose his new storefront location, 8611-13 35th Ave NE, to be located next to/on the north side of the gas station. Today the corner of the former gas station site is open space which is on-hold to be developed as a pocket park.
Paul Copestick was born in Minnesota and came to Seattle as a young man with his parents. After Paul married a local girl, Mabel, in 1915, the couple lived in the University District of Seattle close to their network of family members. Members of the family gradually migrated to northeast Seattle where Paul and Mabel lived for many years at 7302 34th Ave NE (the house is gone now).
Paul and Mabel had a daughter, Elsie, who married C.F. Stockton and lived at 8901 32nd Ave NE in the Wedgwood neighborhood.
C.F. Stockton was a contractor who built his father-in-law’s new storefront at 8611-13 35th Ave NE, a fact mentioned by the Wedgwood Echo community newsletter with pride in the activities of neighborhood residents and business owners.
Paul Copestick worked as a U.S. Customs Inspector for 26 years and it was not until after he retired in 1955 that he decided to build a storefront on 35th Ave NE as a business investment.
Paul Copestick’s building was built in two phases, 1956-1957, and even today the differences between the two conjoined sections can be seen. At first, in 1956, there was a two-office building which had Russell’s Barber Shop and the Walt Adams Insurance agency. Today this two-office space at the south end of the building has an accountant’s office and the Walt Adams Insurance agency at 8613 35th Ave NE.
The photo below shows the original two-office-space building. The name Earl J. McLaughlin on the photo, is the plat name as part of the legal description. The photo was taken by the King County Property Tax Assessor.
The Copestick building expands into another section in 1957
After the first section which was completed in 1956, Paul Copestick expanded the building northward with more storefronts. The first tenant of the northern portion of the building built in 1957 was an electrical & heating contractor. In Wedgwood’s growing years of the 1940s-1950s there were more of these types of home-supply and home-improvement stores including McVicar Hardware at 8507 35th Ave NE, a paint store at 8500 35th Ave NE and an appliance store in the 7300 block of 35th Ave NE.
As of 1957 the northern half of Paul Copestick’s building had Jenny Oakvik’s Wedgwood Cafe, a cleaners, and the electrical & heating contractor. Today this building has Café Javasti, Creative Images Hair Salon, and the Wedgwood Laundromat.
Annexation, growth, and City of Seattle regulations
Paul Copestick’s building was in the northern part of the Wedgwood neighborhood (north of NE 85th Street) which did not come into the boundaries of the City of Seattle until 1953.
Mr. Copestick may have thought that everything was “finished” as of annexation in 1953, including street work on the arterial 35th Ave NE, but after his building was built in 1956-1957, City regulations and street work began to affect it.
Mr. Copestick disputed the City of Seattle regulations about business signage and he filed an appeal which he ultimately won. He also protested the further widening of 35th Ave NE, which would cut into his property in front of his building.
Mr. Copestick won the first round, which was a dispute with the City of Seattle Planning Commission about whether a blade sign for Jenny Oakvik’s Wedgwood Café stuck out too far over the sidewalk and street. The exasperated chairman of the commission, James J. Chiarelli, an architect, said that since Mr. Copestick INSISTED that his building was the required number of feet set back from the street, that they would OK the business signage. City Councilman Clarence F. Massart, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, signed off on the decision.
But little did Mr. Copestick realize that over the years, there would be more street work and improvements to 35th Ave NE which would continue to eat into his business frontage.
The summer of 1968: the widening of 35th Ave NE
In the summer of 1968 I (Valarie) was sixteen years old and I was learning to drive. I well remember the change in the driving conditions in the Wedgwood commercial district in the year 1968 when 35th Ave NE was widened to four lanes.
Prior to 1968, 35th Ave NE was a two-lane arterial with angle-in parking in front of some of the stores. When I interviewed Grant McVicar in 1992, he told me some funny stories about the angle-in parking, though it was not humorous to him at the time that the events happened in the 1950s.
Mr. McVicar told me that more than once, some drivers put their car into “drive” instead of reverse to get out of the angle-in parking spaces, and their cars slammed into the wall of the McVicar Hardware Store at 8507 35th Ave NE. Mr. McVicar implied that these incidents occurred late at night when patrons were leaving the Wedgwood Tavern, next-door to McVicar’s.
The widening of the arterial 35th Ave NE in 1968 was done to ease traffic flow and to eliminate the hazards of angle-in parking, for which cars had to back out into the lanes of oncoming traffic. Some Wedgwood merchants squawked at the 1968 change in the roadway plan because curbside parking spaces would be fewer than the former angle-in parking.
Mr. Copestick also objected to the taking of more of the frontage of his building in order to widen the street, but this time his objections were overruled. City of Seattle engineers stated that “private real estate developers who laid out lots when the section was outside the city, failed to make adequate allowance for future street improvements.”
Street “improvements” of the year 2018
In the year 2018 a major Wedgwood neighborhood controversy is ongoing due to the City of Seattle’s latest plan for “improvement” of 35th Ave NE. The plan calls for the elimination of curbside parking in the heart of the Wedgwood business district, to be replaced by bike lanes.
It remains to be seen how the bike-lane plan will be carried out and how it will affect the businesses like the ones currently in the Copestick building, if customers will not be able to park their cars out front at curbside.
A neighborhood church, University Unitarian at the corner of NE 68th Street, has reacted to the bike-lanes proposal by making plans for a larger parking lot for the church. UUC stated that the city’s plan to eliminate curbside parking on 35th Ave NE will be a problem for their attendees.
Along with plans for interior renovations and expansion of their church building in 2018-2019, UUC will construct a larger off-street parking lot. These plans resulted in the elimination of the low-income housing which the church had, located south of the church building. The houses will be demolished for the expansion of the church building and a bigger parking lot.
“An ordinance relating to the engineering department, authorizing the acquisition of property necessary for the 35th Avenue Northeast Widening Project.” Council Bill Number 88038, Ordinance Number 96507, March 1968. Seattle Municipal Archives, Legislative Records.
“Appeal of Paul W. Copestick from decision of Board of Adjustment on a variance application,” City of Seattle Comptroller File 241694, January 1961. On microfiche at the Seattle Municipal Archives, Seattle City Hall.
Bike lanes: at this writing the proposed bike lanes and parking restrictions had not yet been enacted in the Wedgwood commercial district on 35th Ave NE around NE 85th Street. This article will be updated as road work is completed. A well-stated comment in the August 30, 2018 Rant and Rave column of the Seattle Times newspaper points out that it is discriminatory for the City of Seattle to spend so much money on so-called road improvements (bike lanes) which benefit so few people: “RANT To the massive amounts of money spent on biking accommodations in Seattle. In our neighborhood a street was modified for bikes several years ago and now four blocks away another street is having bike lanes added. The Burke Gilman trail is only a few blocks from these two! Only 3.4% of Seattle’s population commutes by bike. It’s discriminatory to prioritize funding for transportation that’s not available for the less than optimally fit, parents with children, or people with lengthy commutes. And it’s galling when bicyclists ride on roads in the car lanes holding up traffic when there’s a bike trail a few feet away.”
Census and City Directory Listings, Seattle Public Library genealogy resources.
Copestick name: the website surnamedb.com tells that the name Copestick means cut + stick, an occupational name for a woodcutter. The name can be traced in records back to before the year 1300 in England.
“Copestick fiftieth wedding anniversary,” Seattle Times, October 7, 1965, page 56.
Earl J. McLaughlin: The Copestick building is in the plat of Earl J. McLaughlin, the name of an early real estate developer. The plat name is part of the legal description of the Copestick building property along with the street address.
Property record cards and photos: Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA, repository of the property records of King County.
“Seattle church to replace homeless housing with parking spots,” by Scott Greenstone, Seattle Times, November 15, 2017; renovation info posted on the University Unitarian Church webpage.
“Wedgwood Electric,” Wedgwood Echo community newsletter, April 1957, pages 1 and 7.
“Wedgwood Square Shopping Center to Gain New Merchants,” Wedgwood Echo community newsletter, March 19, 1957, page 1.