A “plat” is a section of land, any size, for which a plan of streets and lots is laid out. Plats are given a name by the real estate company or developer. Many neighborhood names are derived from plat names, such as Hawthorne Hills, Inverness, View Ridge, and Wedgwood.
Out in the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle, there was no neighborhood name in the early 1900s and areas were often known by their plat name. The census of early years listed some residents as living on or near McLaughlin Road.
Who were the McLaughlins?
McLaughlin Realty were men from Detroit who came to get in on the growth opportunities in Seattle in the early 1900s. They created Laurelhurst which they hoped would sell well due to its proximity to the University of Washington.
The McLaughlins worked on buying and developing other areas in Seattle, including out to the northeast of the University District. When the business owner’s son finished college and joined the firm in Seattle, a section of land was named in his honor, the Earl J. McLaughlin plat located in the (future) Wedgwood, from NE 85th to 90th Streets on the west side of 35th Ave NE.
The McLaughlin Realty Company had been successful in Laurelhurst because they were able to develop it with all utilities and build attractive houses, but the Earl J. McLaughlin plat of land proved to be too far away from the flurry of development near the University of Washington.
Electricity and water were not available yet in the (future) Wedgwood and so lots in the Earl J. McLaughlin plat sold slowly. It became a place where people could buy land and live inexpensively. Many of the early residents of the Earl J. McLaughlin plat were immigrants or first-generation Americans who were willing to live a rural lifestyle to gain the American opportunity of home ownership.
Early residents in the Earl J. McLaughlin plat
After they married in 1916, Aubrey & Marie Deery moved out to the Earl J. McLaughlin plat and built a wood-frame house at 3203 NE 86th Street, the only house on that block. Neighbors were few and far between. One nearby neighbor was Peter Haugen, a carpenter who was a Norwegian immigrant with a German wife, Clara. We may speculate that Peter Haugen built the Deery’s house, but we don’t know for sure.
Other McLaughlin plat residents in 1916 included Sam Conroy, who was born in Wisconsin of Irish parents, and was building a new house at 3239 NE 87th Street. Mr. Conroy became well-known in the neighborhood for his work with draft horses to do grading and excavations. He would dig basements with a horse-drawn scoop shovel, create driveways and plow gardens to turn over the soil in the spring.
At the time that the Deerys moved to their house at 3203 NE 86th Street, another nearby family was Lores & Hanna Goodwin of 3248 NE 89th Street, one of the earliest families in the neighborhood as they had come before 1910. Hanna was from England.
Lores Goodwin was one of the earliest known residents of the neighborhood who drove a car, as a newspaper report of 1910 told of his driving downtown to ask for City help with putting out a fire.
Out along 35th Ave NE lived Levi & Bertha Perrott; Levi was from Canada and Bertha was born in the USA of Scottish parents.
The Goodwins and the Perrotts became known as neighborhood boosters who helped organize a subscription bus service in 1926.
In 1932 the Perrotts built a house at 3056 NE 86th Street, across the intersection from the Deery house although by that time, Marie Deery’s brother Frank Kamla and his family were living in the house at 3203 NE 86th Street.
The Deerys had been among the group of original subscribers to the neighborhood’s NE Transportation Company. It is likely that Mr. Perrott knew Marie Deery’s brothers Herman and Joseph Kamla, as well, through Mr. Perrott’s work as a broker supplying meat to independent meat markets.
The Frank Kamla family arrives in the USA
When Frank & Bernice Kamla and their three children immigrated from Germany to the USA in 1928, they had the advantage of a “welcoming committee” of three of Frank’s siblings who had preceded them. Herman, Joseph, and Marie Kamla had settled in Seattle more than fifteen years before, and they were prospering. Herman and Joseph Kamla worked at their own meat markets, and Marie had married a hardworking young man, Aubrey W. Deery, who provided well for his family.
When Marie’s brother Frank Kamla arrived from Germany with his wife and three children in 1928, the Deerys sold their homesite at 3203 NE 86th Street to the Kamlas. The Deerys moved to 10732 Riviera Place NE on the Lake Washington waterfront.
Frank Kamla was 38 years old when he came to Seattle in 1928. He did not speak English, but Seattle was a place with a large German-speaking community where Frank could network for job connections.
Frank was able to find work as a bricklayer, his wife Bernice found other German housewives who could help her get settled, and the Kamla’s three children attended school and began to learn English.
Improving the homesite
To improve the home they had acquired at 3203 NE 86th Street, the Kamlas sought to have a basement dug. The house was lifted up and braced while the excavation was underway, but something went wrong, and the house collapsed into the dig site.
The Kamlas started again. They hired a neighborhood resident, Sam Conroy of 3239 NE 87th Street, to come with his draft horses and use a scoop shovel to regrade the house lot and finish the basement excavation. (This story was told to me by the grandsons of Sam Conroy, who had gone with him to help at the work site.)
Since Frank Kamla was a bricklayer, the new house, completed in 1936, was of sturdy brick construction.
In early days in Wedgwood many families owned more than one lot and on those spaces they had a well for water, a garden, and outbuildings such as a wood shed, chicken house, and freestanding garage or tool shed. The Kamlas owned the three lots to the east of their house along NE 86th Street for these purposes.
After the end of World War Two in 1945, Wedgwood became less rural and there was a post-war population boom with house-building. With Frank’s tidy brickwork, the Kamlas built houses on the three extra lots and sold the houses for income.
Early residents like the Deerys and the Kamlas lived through the rural era in the Earl J. McLaughlin plat, lived through the economic depression of the 1930s, the war years of the 1940s and lived to see “Wedgwood” become the name of the neighborhood.
A block south of the Kamla house, the heavily wooded site of a former ginseng farm became the first plat of Wedgwood houses, which eventually gave its name to the neighborhood in a gradual process of the name “catching on.” Circa 1945, new businesses in the neighborhood began to call themselves Wedgwood, after the name of Balch’s nearby housing development.
Two blocks to the west of the Kamla house, the former estate property of Leonard Y. DeVries, (born in the USA of parents from the Netherlands) was purchased by developer Albert Balch in 1950.
Balch “fit in” with the neighborhood immigrant heritage as he was the son of a Swedish immigrant mother, while Balch’s father was a descendant of one of the earliest colonists in America who had established Beverly, Massachusetts in 1623.
Balch planned for the former DeVries property to become a plat of houses called Wedgwood #4, but suddenly the Seattle School District appropriated part of the site to become Wedgwood School at the corner of NE 85th Street & 30th Ave NE. When the school was officially named on April 16, 1954, that choice seemed to solidify the name of the neighborhood as Wedgwood.
The immigrant residents of Wedgwood like the Kamlas and their neighbors worked hard, contributed to their community and raised their kids to be members of the community, too. We can still find houses in Wedgwood like that of the Kamlas which represents the growth of the neighborhood in early years.
Census and newspaper search on-line through the Seattle Public Library.
Many, many thanks to the Kamla family for sharing their story.
Thank you to the members of the “You Know You Are From Wedgwood IF…” Facebook page who have given me so many tips and ideas for my blog articles.