In 1961 residents of northeast Seattle petitioned the City to give them some geographic identity by preserving the name “Meadowbrook.” The Meadowbrook Golf Course at NE 110th Street had closed because the property had been purchased by the Seattle School District. A new high school was to be built on the golf course site and members of the community thought that the school should be named Meadowbrook.
At first it seemed that there was a good possibility of a Meadowbrook High School. Then the school district asserted rules about the naming of schools, that they should be named for presidents or for other figures in American history. Thus the name Nathan Hale, a hero of the American Revolution, was chosen for the high school which opened in September 1963.
The new high school was sited at NE 110th Street closest to the corner of 30th Ave NE. Other portions of the property were used for parking lots and athletic fields. Later developments of the site included a community center building and a swimming pool accessed from 35th Ave NE.
The old Chelsea Street
One name for the new high school which was not suggested by anyone, was “Chelsea.”
By the 1960s there were no more Chelsea references in the neighborhood because the most visible, the Chelsea Store at 3400 NE 110th Street, had closed. Soon a new building, the Meadowbrook Apartments, arose in place of the Chelsea Store.
Today NE 110th Street between 30th to 35th Avenues NE could be described as as a “school street” with Nathan Hale High School (opened in 1963) on the south side and Jane Addams Middle School (opened in 1949) on the north side.
In the 1920s there were not yet any school buildings on NE 110th Street but there was a real estate development called Chelsea. Mae Yates, who was originally from Chelsea, Iowa, gave NE 110th Street this name.
Advertisements ran in Seattle newspapers in 1917 for house lots at Mae Yates’ property which was on the west side of today’s Jane Addams school building, along 30th and 31st Avenues NE.
Then in 1924 a widow, Carrie Palmer, began developing her property on the east side of today’s Jane Addams School building, along 34th and 35th Avenues NE. Carrie named her plats Benton’s First and Second Additions to Chelsea. Carrie and her co-investors built and sold houses, and they also created a commercial district at the corner of 35th Ave NE with a gas station and the Chelsea Store. Local residents referred to the district as Chelsea Corner.
Neighborhood names rise and fall
In the 1960s a new name, Northgate, was on the rise in north-central Seattle, north of Green Lake. The Northgate shopping mall opened in 1950 even before the Interstate 5 freeway which now borders it.
The Northgate Mall became very popular for its cluster of stores in one convenient location. Soon businesses on surrounding streets began to call themselves Northgate, too. In 1967 the Northgate Mall owners petitioned the City of Seattle for a street name change along NE 110th Street, the northern border of the mall between 1st to 5th Avenues NE.
Up until that time, NE 110th had several names including Chelsea Place NE on the eastern end of the street where it met Lake City Way NE. The City agreed that the name should be NE 110th Street along its entire length, consistent with street naming policy in Seattle to give a street one name instead of several.
Aside from being consistent with street-naming policy, Northgate got a publicity boost by having a street named for it. From Aurora Avenue on the west to Lake City Way NE on the east, people knew that they could find the mall by traveling along Northgate Way.
Those of us who grew up shopping at the Northgate Mall never could have imagined that most of the stores would close and that an ice hockey practice rink would take much of the mall space. We can’t imagine that the road name could ever be changed from Northgate Way to “Kraken Way” in honor of Seattle’s new professional ice hockey team, but? It could happen! This is an example of the changes to street names over time, reflecting current happenings and place identifiers.
The last reference to Chelsea
Probably the last official reference to the Chelsea name was in Seattle City Light documents of the year 2012. Small electrical substations were listed in a report, identified as no longer needed due to changes in the way electricity was distributed.
In 2012 the list of substation properties were declared surplus and were offered for sale, including Chelsea Substation at 2321 NE 95th Street and Morningside Substation at 8605 35th Ave NE.
The Chelsea Substation property was sold to a developer and today there are houses on the site.
The Morningside electrical substation property at the corner of NE 86th Street is in the heart of the Wedgwood business district. It was purchased by the Seattle Parks Department and awaits development as a pocket park.
Census districts define neighborhood names and boundaries
Every ten years a census is conducted in the USA. The census is like a survey of American life which records information such as national origin, occupation and family groupings.
The most basic purpose of the census is to count the number of people within a geographic area so that the corresponding numbers of representatives in Congress can be adjusted if needed. Americans are mobile and every census documents population shifts, such as people moving to warmer climates or to places where they seek economic opportunity.
At every census, enumeration districts were assigned so that one enumerator (census taker) would be able to cover the ground to visit every house in that district. Names were assigned to the enumeration districts. These names often reflected the changes in how neighborhoods were defined geographically, as to names and boundaries.
In the source list at the end of this article are links to info about the Seattle City Limits, street names and neighborhood definitions.
The census of 1930: Morningside (not Chelsea)
For the year 1930, the area around NE 110th Street (today’s Meadowbrook) was included in the Morningside Enumeration District.
Morningside arose as a neighborhood name because of an early real estate development from NE 90th to 95th Streets on the west side of 35th Ave NE. Morningside Heights had been opened in 1913 when the Gerhard Erickson Road (Old Bothell Highway) began to make northeast Seattle more accessible.
The developers of Morningside Heights began advertising this new area of housing even more in 1923 after a wider and better highway was put through, Victory Way (today’s Lake City Way NE).
These two roads, the Old Bothell Highway and the new Victory Way, bordered Morningside Heights on the west. Greater development of roads made it possible for people to live outside of the Seattle City Limits and travel to work by car.
The choice of the Morningside name for the Census Enumeration District of 1930 reflected the greater population increase in the Morningside Heights development between NE 90th to 95th Streets. Out at Chelsea on NE 110th Street, there were still very few houses.
Chelsea fades, Meadowbrook trends
The origin of the Meadowbrook name was the golf course which opened in 1932 on the site of the former Fischer Farm, present site of Nathan Hale High School on the south side of NE 110th Street.
In the 1920s the Fischers began reducing their farm operations. At first they were going to try to sell the flat field area platted for house lots. An unexpected offer of purchase from golf course investors caused the former farm field to be preserved whole.
Because of the Meadowbrook Golf Course, the name “Meadowbrook” became a point of geographical reference on NE 110th Street. The name “stuck” even with very few other references such as businesses, as there were no Meadowbrook stores at that time. Even after the golf course closed in 1961, residents felt that the Meadowbrook name was strong enough to be given to the new high school and to the neighborhood itself.
Developers began using the name for nearby plats of houses such as Meadowbrook Park and Meadowbrook Estates. These housing areas were not adjacent to NE 110th Street but were east of 35th Ave NE, showing that the concept of “Meadowbrook” had generalized itself over a wider area.
The Meadowbrook name was solidified in the early 1990s when a community council was organized under the umbrella of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods.
The neighborhood names we see around north Seattle today are a legacy of efforts to encourage a sense of place and personal investment in one’s community. The Meadowbrook Community Council still functions today to identify issues of concern and promote volunteerism.
Meadowbrook now has a community center building at 10715 35th Ave NE and the Meadowbrook Pond on the east side of 35th Ave NE, a flood control project. Meadowbrook Pond is the site of The Confluence of the two major branches of Thornton Creek. The South Fork flows eastward past Nathan Hale, and under 35th Ave NE to reach the water detention area.
Meadowbrook Pond is “inside the block” and not visible from 35th Ave NE. The entrance to the pond is on the east side of 35th Ave NE directly across from the community center building.
In 2014-2015 a new bridge replaced a section of 35th Ave NE to create a free-flowing creekbed underneath. On the east side of 35th Ave NE is where the South Fork joins the North Fork of Thornton Creek. A flood plain has been created for stormwater, in addition to the pond which helps filter sediment from the water.
Introduction to census records, website of the National Archives.
City Limits: the north Seattle City Limits were finally set at 145th Street in 1954. It was a gradual process through the 1940s and 1950s when election precincts voted themselves into the City. The “directional designations” changed in 1961 so that East 75th Street, for example, became NE 75th Street. At the end of my blog article about Election Districts is a source list to the dates and a map of precincts. Info about the inclusion of separate cities, such as Ravenna, is in this article about annexations. Info about the system of Seattle street names is in this article.
“City Light substations declared surplus and authorized for sale.” The list included the Chelsea Substation at 2321 NE 95th Street and Morningside Substation at 8605 35th Ave NE. Ordinance #124013 of October 9, 2012. Accessed at Seattle Municipal Archives.
“Meadowbrook Condemnation Approved.” Seattle Daily Times, October 13, 1960, page 25. (see article below)
“Meadowbrook High Name is Backed.” Seattle Daily Times, October 26, 1961, page 26.
“Petition of Northgate Centers, Inc., and others, to change the name of North Mineral Springs Way, North 110th Street, Northeast 110th Street and Chelsea Place Northeast to Northgate Way.” Comptroller File 259872, filed January 2, 1968. Accessed at Seattle Municipal Archives.
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.
Awesome write up on the history of the the area, and how places and names can be so transitory.
I lived near Northgate for many years and still have a hard time understanding what happened to America’s first Mall!