In the 1940s and 1950s the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle began to take on its identity. The Wedgwood name gradually came into popular use when local businesses began using it, and it was solidified by the choosing of the name Wedgwood School in 1954.
The neighborhood community club, asked to define itself in 1956, chose the attendance boundaries of Wedgwood School as the official boundaries of the Wedgwood neighborhood, from NE 75th to 95th Streets, and from 25th to 45th Avenues NE.
The Wedgwood neighborhood grew rapidly during the post-World-War-Two housing boom in the 1940s and 1950s, because in those years northeast Seattle still had many vacant lots available for house construction. In addition to new construction, in the 1940s and 1950s it was much more common than it is now, for houses to be moved from one lot to another. Most were moved only a couple of blocks or within a mile, to an available vacant lot.
In the busy years of development of the neighborhood infrastructure, sometimes houses were moved because of regrading or widening the streets. On at least one occasion in Wedgwood, a house was found to be “in the road” and had to be demolished or moved. Some houses, like that of the VanderWel’s at 7512 35th Ave NE, pictured at right, ended up far above or below the street level due to regrading.
In the 1950s the McGillivray family were building a store next to the VanderWel’s house (the present Chase Bank building at 7512 35th Ave NE.) They purchased the house and had it moved, so that they could use the space for a parking lot for their store.
Another example of upheaval in the development of the Wedgwood neighborhood in the 1950s was that when the Seattle School District chose the location of Wedgwood School, houses which had already been built there had to be moved off of the site. The school property had been part of Albert Balch’s Wedgwood #4, and he continued to build houses near the school after that portion of the plat was taken.
Similar house-moving occurred during the creation of Dahl Playfield at 7700 25th Ave NE. The City of Seattle seized the property by eminent domain, and existing houses had to be moved off of the property.
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The creation of Dahl Field
House-moving occurred because of the creation of Dahl Field at 7700 25th Ave NE where today there are ball fields, a skate park and a childrens playground.
Before the creation of Dahl Field, NE 77th Street extended all the way across from 25th to 28th Avenues NE, with sidestreets of 26th and 27th Avenues NE intersecting with NE 77th Street. Today on the south side of Dahl Playfield there are still the side-streets of 26th and 27th Avenues NE, but these are only half-blocks. These streets have only six houses on each side with the northernmost house numbers going up to 7526 and 7527.
In the late 1940s some local groups advocated for the acquisition of land for parks and playgrounds in northeast Seattle, before all of the available open space was taken. In 1947 a group of parents of Scouts Cub Pack 165 began an initiative to acquire space from the Picardo Farm at 8040 25th Ave NE. They knew that after World War Two ended in 1945, the Picardos had already begun selling some of their land “around the edges” to developers for housing. The parents hoped that the City of Seattle could acquire some of the Picardo land for playfield space.
Picardo land transactions: would some of the farm become a playfield?
Up on the hill between 27th to 30th Avenues NE, NE 80th to 82nd Streets, in 1946 the Picardos sold this tract of land to developer Albert Balch. Balch is considered the “father of Wedgwood” because his first plat of houses, named Wedgwood, had given its name to the neighborhood. Balch continued to build tracts of houses with various versions of the name “Wedgwood.” The groups of houses on the hill above the Picardo Farm were named Wedgwood #3 and #5.
In 1946 the Picardos sold property on the northern edge of their farmland along the steep NE 82nd Street. Fourteen house lots were created on the southern side of NE 82nd Street and a builder named Howard Schultz began constructing one-story houses.
The Scouts/parents group wrote a letter to the City of Seattle Parks Board in 1947, requesting that the City look into acquiring some Picardo property for a playfield. They hoped that the City of Seattle would acquire land at the southern edge of the Picardo property where it was flat along 25th Ave NE, closest to NE 80th Street. They could see that this area would make a good place for baseball fields with access from 25th Ave NE. When the Scouts and their parents petitioned, the Seattle Parks Department began to look into the possibility.
Wedgwood comes into the City Limits with “improvements.”
Wedgwood was outside of the Seattle City Limits until the 1940s-1950s. As the City Limits gradually moved northward, the City began to extend services such as water and sewer lines out along arterial streets such as 25th Ave NE. As the City engineers did so, however, they did not realize that there was a peat bog bordering the east side of 25th Ave NE, centered at about NE 77th Street. When trenches were dug along 25th Ave NE for the laying of sewer lines, water poured out of the adjacent peat bog. Houses had already been built there, and some of the houses slid off of their foundations when the soil sank due to “unwatering of the trenches.”
In his investigation, Seattle City Engineer R.W. Finke wrote that:
“Claims totaling $5500 have been filed against the City of Seattle for damage to the houses within the area by reason of the sewer construction. The unwatering of the sewer trenches produced some subsidence (sinking) in the peat for distances as great as 100 feet from the trenches. The taking of the area for playfield purposes will eliminate the necessity for settling or contesting these claims. Considering the many economies which will result, it is our opinion that the site south of East 80th Street is preferable to the Picardo tract (for use as a playfield.) August 30, 1949.”
Due to what can be considered a “fortuitous engineering error” at the future site of Dahl Field, the Picardos escaped having their farm property seized via “eminent domain” to be used for a park or playground. Instead, the City concurred with the conclusion of City Engineer R.W. Finke, and in August 1950 the City condemned the land located to the south of the Picardo Farm, designating it to become Dahl Field.
Where did the houses go?
The decision to create a playfield meant that all remaining houses on the site would have to be moved or torn down. No record or “list” was kept of which houses were moved and where they went, but by examining property records, we can find some of the moved houses, including three which went up onto NE 82nd Street. These houses are now numbered 2609 (pictured at right), 2615 and 2625 NE 82nd Street.
Another house was moved to its present location at 3906 NE 70th Street which is about a mile east of Dahl Field. The two-bedroom, one bathroom house, pictured below, had been built at 7544 26th Ave NE in 1946, less than three years before the crisis of the sinking peat bog.
In 1951 this house at the (future) Dahl Field was purchased by a member of the Gebaroff family and moved to an available lot next to that of the family patriarch, Andrew Gebaroff. At first the moved-house was numbered 3830 NE 70th Street. The reason for this numbering was that 39th Ave NE had not yet been put through, so the house was numbered as in the 3800 block of NE 70th Street. The house number had to be changed yet again in the 1950s to 3906 NE 70th Street.
Wedgwood continues to develop new houses in the present era
In the present era it is rare to see a house being moved. It is much more common to see tear-downs with big new houses being built in new forms and with new materials.
The little house at 3906 NE 70th Street, which was moved from the site of Dahl Field, is bracketed by two houses which represent the changing eras in the Wedgwood neighborhood. Andrew Gebaroff’s house at the northwest corner of 40th & 70th, built in 1920, represents the time when houses in Wedgwood were few and far between, and people in northeast Seattle had large, farm-like lots.
In addition to working as a teacher, Mr. Gebaroff had greenhouses and grew plants for sale. He owned several lots along NE 70th Street and his adult children were able to build their own houses there.
On the other side of the former Dahl Field house now at 3906 NE 70th Street, is 3900 NE 70th (photo below), a house built in 2016 in modernist form and materials. Wedgwood is now “densifying” with bigger houses on small lots, since there is no more space for house-moving.
Dahl Field info — see another article on this blog with additional info about how Dahl Field came to be.
King County property survey: HistoryLink Essay #3692 tells the story of King County’s project during the years 1936 to 1940, to photograph every taxable structure for the purposes of correctly assessing property taxes according to valuation. Aerial surveys were done during this project, as well.
Park history documents, City of Seattle, including Ordinance 79175 of August 1950, authorizing condemnation of the land to be taken for park and playground purposes. At first the property was called the East 80th Street Playground. It was later named for Waldo Dahl, a Parks Department official, even though Mr. Dahl had nothing directly to do with the playfield acquisition and development. Today the Parks Department has rules for the naming of new parks or playfields which include local geographical or historical references. At this writing a “pocket park” in Wedgwood at the corner of 35th & 86th is awaiting its new name.
Property records: House photos and property records of King County are stored at the Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.
Seattle School Histories — Wedgwood School was named on April 16, 1954, while the students were in portable classrooms and the building was under construction. The building was ready in June 1955 just before the end of that school year.