Hugh Benton and Victor Palmer were young attorneys who arrived to make their fortunes in Seattle in the early 1900s. In those days attorneys would often expedite property transactions because the category of real estate agent as a profession had not yet been developed. Benton & Palmer were successful both in their law practice and in their own investments in the booming Seattle real estate market.
Hugh & Mary Benton settled at 5560 29th Ave NE in the Ravenna neighborhood, where their family grew to seven children. Hugh’s brother Benjamin lived at 5566.
Adult children of both Benton families occupied nearby houses, such as Hugh & Mary’s daughter Ruth who married Edwin Shidler in 1923 and lived at 5540 29th Ave NE. Mr. Shidler became well-known in the 1930s as the principal of Maple Leaf School on NE 100th Street.
Over many years time the Benton & Palmer families would become developers of housing near NE 110th Street in today’s Meadowbrook, once called the Chelsea neighborhood.
The Wisconsin farm home of Victor Palmer
Victor Palmer began life on a farm in beautiful Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, near Lake Winnebago. Victor, born in 1873, was the twelfth and last child of his parents Enoch & Sarah Palmer.
The course of Victor’s life was changed when, at age nine, his father died. The farm was sold and the family moved away.
Victor was able to go on with his education, graduating from college and then finishing law school at Columbia University. In Seattle in 1900 Victor Palmer joined the prestigious law firm of Burke & McGilvra, two names of pioneer Seattleites.
Victor & Carrie Palmer build a home in Seattle
In 1907 Victor Palmer and his wife Carrie built their own house in northeast Seattle at 4815 36th Ave NE in what is now called the Bryant neighborhood. The Palmer’s house was north of today’s Sand Point Way NE with Laurelhurst on the south side. The name Laurelhurst had just been invented by its real estate developers in November 1906.
The old name for Laurelhurst was the Village of Yesler, where there had been a sawmill at the present site of the Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 NE 41st Street. This sawmill was an extension of the work of Henry Yesler’s original sawmill at the downtown Seattle waterfront.
In choosing a family homesite at 4815 36th Ave NE, Victor Palmer may have considered the convenience of living in northeast Seattle which was expanding with real estate opportunities at that time. When the campus of the University of Washington was chosen in 1906 to become the site of a world’s fair event, the AYPE, it set off a land rush in nearby northeast Seattle areas like the one where the Palmers built their house in 1907.
An additional consideration for the Palmer’s new homesite was the available school for the Palmer’s son, who had been born in 1903. The Yesler School building was on the next block at 4706 36th Ave NE. This school preceded Laurelhurst and Bryant Schools.
While building their house the Palmers were able to acquire vacant property on most of their block, as well. Perhaps they envisioned a home with some acreage where their son, and future children, could play outdoors as though in a country setting, and still be able to access conveniences such as the nearby Yesler School.
Victor Palmer might even have envisioned that someday his son would be able to attend the University of Washington. It was not to be, however, because Victor Palmer’s early death changed the course of life for his family.
Victor Palmer’s death notice of 1908 said that “Perhaps no attorney of his years at the Seattle bar was better known up to the time when, recently, through careful investments, his property interests began to demand so much of his time that he had commenced to retire gradually from the practice of law.” Victor Palmer died of diphtheria at age 35, leaving behind a broken-hearted widow, Carrie, and the Palmer’s five-year-old son.
Carrie Palmer goes home to Wisconsin
After Victor’s death in 1908, Carrie Palmer decided to return home to live with her parents in Wisconsin. Over the next fifteen years as Carrie raised her son, Carrie helped take care of her parents and two elderly aunts of the household. By 1925 all had died, including Carrie’s son who passed away at age 21. The only people left in the family were Carrie Palmer and her brother John Denison.
Despite her removal to Wisconsin, it is clear that Carrie Palmer left investments in Seattle which were still growing in value, and her friends the Bentons were still in Seattle and were available to help her.
In 1924, while they were still in Wisconsin, Carrie and her brother John Denison filed a plat for land in Seattle that they had owned for about twenty years. The plat filing showed that it was facilitated by the Bentons in Seattle. To file a plat means to record a layout of streets and lots, showing intent to sell the lots for houses or commercial structures.
Upon the passing of all of their other family members, John Denison gave up his work as a banker in Wisconsin and moved with his sister Carrie back to Seattle, where they filed a second plat of land in 1928. The names of the two plats, filed in 1924 and 1928, were Benton’s First and Second Additions to Chelsea. The plats of land were located adjacent to today’s Jane Addams Middle School in what is now the Meadowbrook neighborhood. As of the 1920s, there was not yet a school building and the term “Meadowbrook” had not yet been created.
Carrie Palmer returns to Seattle
Carrie Palmer and her brother John Denison moved into the house which Carrie and her husband Victor had built at 4815 36th Ave NE. Carrie had retained ownership of the house and kept it rented out during nearly twenty years away from Seattle.
It is clear that during her time in Wisconsin, Carrie Palmer had kept up with her real estate investments in Seattle. The plats that Carrie Palmer filed, showing division of the land for house lots, were named in honor of her friends the Bentons.
Even though Carrie was still in Wisconsin in 1924 when she filed the plat of Benton’s First Addition to Chelsea, she had been apprised of the development of areas near the land she owned. Carrie knew that neighboring property owners, Melvin & Mae Yates, had named the area “Chelsea.”
The Yates’ property was on 30th and 31st Avenues NE on the west side of today’s Jane Addams Middle School. The Yates built their house on the corner at 3004 NE 110th Street.
Carrie Palmer’s plat of Benton’s First Addition to Chelsea included land bordered by NE 110th Street on 34th and 35th Avenues NE, on the east side of today’s Jane Addams Middle School (the school was not there yet in 1924.)
Chelsea on NE 110th Street in today’s Meadowbrook
In 1914 Melvin & Mae Yates had built their house at 3004 NE 110th Street on ten acres that they owned from 30th to 31st Avenues NE. They knew that a new highway had just been put through with a turning-point at that corner of 30th Ave NE and NE 110th Street, in order for the road to pass along the sides of the Fischer Farm (present site of Nathan Hale High School).
The Yates had bought the property in 1906 but waited until the highway created greater accessibility, when it would be the right time to advertise house lots. The highway was called the Gerhard Erickson Road or the Bothell Highway. The highway came to a stop sign at 30th Ave NE and NE 110th Street, at the corner by the Yates house. Drivers would then travel along NE 110th Street and turn northward again at 35th Ave NE.
In 1917 the Yates started advertising lots for sale, naming the neighborhood “Chelsea.” Mae Yates was from Chelsea, Iowa.
Carrie Palmer probably thought that Mr. & Mrs. Yates would use the name Chelsea in their plat layout of streets and lots, but they never did. The Yates filed a plat in 1927 and just called it the Yates Addition from NE 110th to 113th Streets, 30th to 31st Avenues NE.
Carrie Palmer and her brother John Denison filed a second plat in 1928, Benton’s Second Addition to Chelsea. Legal descriptions on the plat filing showed that the Bentons were going to receive some of the income from lot sales.
Like the Yates’ property, the plat of Benton’s Second Addition to Chelsea was on several portions of the former Schlossmacher’s 5-Acre Tracts.
Benton’s Second Addition to Chelsea was L-shaped and went up to NE 115th Street, wrapping around to the north of the Yates property.
Chelsea Corner commercial properties
Although it was the Yates who first named the development Chelsea and advertised lots for sale, it seemed that the Benton-Palmer-Denison real estate investors were more savvy than the Yates in their development schemes. Property records show that they built houses in their Chelsea plat beginning in 1924 and they retained ownership of some as rental properties.
At the corners of 34th & 35th on NE 110th Street, Palmer-Denison leased sites for commercial buildings. Property records of the Chelsea Store say that it was built in 1926 and that local farmer August Fischer was the lessee. It may have first been a “market stand” for produce from his farm, as the store was prominently placed on the stretch of the highway where drivers had to turn at the corner of NE 110th Street & 35th Ave NE to continue traveling to and from Bothell.
Also in that year of 1926 a gas station was built on the corner of 35th Ave NE, where the Benton-Palmer-Denison investors retained ownership and leased out the site.
Names in the neighborhood can change
Another “name in the neighborhood” which once had a strong showing was that of Maple Leaf School. From 1910 to 1926 the school was in a wood-frame building on the southeast corner of NE 105th Street and 35th Avenue NE. Maple Leaf School was an independent school district, outside of the Seattle City Limits at that time, and was in unincorporated King County.
The photo here is from 1948, showing a cropped section of the larger photo below, of the construction site of Jane Addams School. Here we see the former Maple Leaf School at upper right, a long white building. It was on the southeast corner of NE 105th Street and 35th Ave NE. In 1926 the school moved out, and the building was then used as a community center.
At left in mid-photo (dark roof) is the Chelsea Store on the northeast corner of NE 110th Street and 34th Ave NE.
Maple Leaf School had a long history of community support, as the local families had formed their own school district in 1910 and built the wood-frame school at 105th & 35th. The school started with two rooms, then was expanded to three. Steady population growth in the neighborhood led to the construction of a new building on NE 100th Street.
The community took great pride in their new Maple Leaf School building which opened in 1926 at the corner of NE 100th Street & 32nd Ave NE.
When the school closed in 1979 the name association declined, and today the only remaining Maple Leaf entity is the Lutheran Church across the street from the former school site.
“Maple Leaf” eventually became the name of another neighborhood of north Seattle.
Along with Maple Leaf School, today “Chelsea Corner” has been forgotten, superseded by the name Meadowbrook.
Meadowbrook began as the name for the golf course which opened in 1932 on the former Fischer Farm property. Gradually other entities, including other developers, adopted the Meadowbrook designation until it became the name of the neighborhood which is used today.
NE 110th becomes a school street
In 1944 the Shoreline School District was formed, contiguous with Seattle on the north. Shoreline began buying properties for the construction of new school buildings. They bought part of the Chelsea property on NE 110th Street in the middle between the Yates and Benton’s plats, from NE 31st to 34th Avenues NE.
This middle section property was flat at NE 110th but rose steeply up to NE 115th Street, and probably for that reason it was considered an unbuildable site for houses. It was left as a pasture on the lower section, and wooded along the hillside. Early neighborhood residents recounted that in the 1940s it was still possible to see deer and other animals in the area.
In 1948 the Shoreline School District began site preparation for the new school building. They cut down the trees and brought in road-grading equipment to do some leveling and create fields for school use.
The new Jane Addams Junior High School opened in September 1949, but it never gave its name to surrounding streets such as becoming the “Addams neighborhood.” This might have been because, when the school opened, the golf course with the Meadowbrook name was still open on the south side of NE 110th Street. The golf course was open from 1932 until about 1961 when the property was purchased to become the site of a high school.
Jane Addams Junior High School only belonged to the Shoreline School District for five years. The Seattle City Limit moved northward until finally, in 1954, the line was set as it is today, at 145th Street.
Once Jane Addams was included within the Seattle City Limits, it became a Seattle school. (See Source List below, for more links to info about Seattle City Limits and about neighborhood names.)
Seattle Public Schools began efforts in the 1950s to acquire the Meadowbrook Golf Course property for a new high school, and it was a long struggle because the golf course owners did not want to give it up. Action was taken called “condemnation” which was a legal process to affirm that the property would serve to the benefit of the public, so the school district could buy it even from an unwilling seller.
Once the golf course site was acquired in 1961, there was a long timeline for construction due to issues with water from the South Fork of Thornton Creek flowing eastward through the property.
The school was temporarily named Meadowbrook High School until new rules for the naming of schools led to the choosing of Nathan Hale, a hero of the American Revolution. Nathan Hale High School opened in September 1963. Today the former Chelsea District on NE 110th Street is dominated by the presence of the high school on one side and the middle school on the other.
Census and City Directories; Washington Digital Archives.
Find A Grave: Victor Edwin Palmer portrait.
“King County Land Use Survey.” HistoryLink Essay #3692 by Paula Becker, 2002.
“Meadowbrook Condemnation Approved.” Seattle Daily Times, October 13, 1960, page 25.
“Meadowbrook High Name is Backed.” Seattle Daily Times, October 26, 1961, page 26.
“Young Attorney Well Known in Profession.” Seattle Daily Times, October 21, 1908, page 7.
Plat maps — available on the King County Parcel Viewer.
Property records, Puget Sound Regional Archives, Bellevue, WA.
Victory Way — Bothell Way: Today’s Lake City Way NE is technically also called State Route 522. Victory Way opened in 1922. After some widening and straightening, in 1939 it was called Bothell Way. Similar to the Northgate Mall which petitioned for a name change on an adjacent road, in 1967 Lake City merchants applied to have the highway name changed to Lake City Way NE on that portion inside of the Seattle City Limits. Reference: “It’s Lake City Way NE.” Seattle Times, October 27, 1967, page 23.