In the 1920s the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood first began to be known as Morningside Heights, the name of a real estate development. Growth was facilitated by the new Victory Way highway, today’s Lake City Way NE, which made it much easier to reach what is now the Wedgwood area in northeast Seattle.
The promoters of Morningside Heights laid out streets and house lots on the west side of 35th Ave NE between NE 90th to 95th Streets. The developers printed a promotional brochure, and they advertised Morningside Heights in the newspapers. They had one or more representatives on-site, including the Walter Wood family at 9428 25th Ave NE whose house was the first one drivers would see, when they turned from Victory Way eastward onto NE 95th Street.
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Along with sale of house lots, Morningside offered free sets of house plans, though using them was not required. But the promotional scheme worked, and even today the Morningside plat in the northwest quadrant of Wedgwood has the most bungalow-style and Craftsman-style houses in the neighborhood, due to its early development. Morningside Heights attracted tradesmen such as carpenters who could find work in house-building in the growing northeast Seattle area.
Frank & Martha Hawks came to live in Morningside Heights in about 1916. They were a typical couple who came to live and work in Morningside because Frank was a carpenter and housebuilding contractor. He found plenty of work and Martha assisted in arranging with clients for what they would build.
In this blog article I will tell how Martha became a woman in real estate in the growing years of the Wedgwood neighborhood.
From Michigan to Washington State in 1901
In the early 1900s the Seattle Daily Times newspaper had as a regular feature, a page of items which were sent in from other communities in western Washington. On January 5, 1901 came the story of a birthday party that had been held for Mr. J.C. Ames, a barber in Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County, about 75 miles north of Seattle. The festive event had also served to welcome newcomers to town, Mr. & Mrs. Frank Hawks. The Hawks were recent arrivals from Shelby, Michigan, where he and Mr. Ames had once worked together.
The Hawks family came because Mr. Ames had written to them back in Michigan and urged them to visit the Pacific Northwest with its growth opportunities. Frank & Martha Hawks were in their mid-thirties at the time of their arrival in Washington State in 1901, and they stayed in Sedro-Woolley for a few years.
From Sedro-Woolley to Seattle in 1916
By 1916 Frank & Martha Hawks were listed in the City Directory as residents of the growing Morningside Heights community in northeast Seattle. Frank worked as a building contractor, and he likely found plenty of work in Morningside. Young families were gravitating to communities like Morningside where they could hire a contractor to build them a home.
In the 1920s Martha was very involved in the neighborhood, including activities at the Morningside Sunday School Union. She was there when the fledgling congregation moved from a temporary building on NE 92nd Street to their own building at 9505 35th Ave NE. Martha participated by playing a small pump organ (also called a reed organ) to accompany the singing at church services.
Tragedy and turning point in 1926
In 1926 Frank & Martha Hawks built their “dream house” at 3055 NE 89th Street.
Frank suddenly died in April 1926 at age 61, and Martha, at age 58, considered what she would do to support herself. Frank & Martha had lived in Morningside for more than ten years and had helped build houses in the neighborhood. Being well-connected in the neighborhood network helped Martha start a new phase of life with her own career after Frank’s death.
In the 1920s Martha had actively been working along with Frank to work with clients to arrange for construction of new homes. Now, as a widow, Martha launched a career as a full-fledged real estate agent.
Martha built an office at 8802 35th Ave NE and began advertising in the City Directory and in the real estate column in the newspapers, “Mrs. Hawks, North Seattle Real Estate Specialist.”
Mrs. Hawks, career woman
When Martha Hawks was growing up in the small town of Shelby, Michigan, in the 1870s, her father, Alpheus Neff, had been a respected businessman who started out as a blacksmith and then became co-owner of a hardware store. In 1880, when Martha was eleven years old, her father died at only 32 years of age. Mrs. Neff was left with three children to support, Martha and her two younger brothers. Finding a source of income was a difficult task for a widow in the 1880s, and Mrs. Neff began taking in washing which was one of the few options available to her.
It is likely that her mother’s struggles made a life-long impression upon Martha. In her own life, Martha determined that as a widow herself, she would compete in the marketplace with men, whether or not society would accept a woman as a real estate agent. In 1941 Mrs. Hawks added the line, “twenty years in business,” to her real estate ads. This showed the pride she had in her career and that she was a person of integrity, trusted by her customers and successful in real estate.
Incredibly Mrs. Hawks kept on working at Hawks Realty right up to her death at age 90 in 1958. She lived long enough to see the post-World-War-Two emergence of “Wedgwood” as the new identity of the neighborhood.
This new Wedgwood identity caused the Morningside Church where Mrs. Hawks attended, to change their name to Wedgwood Presbyterian when they moved from the corner of NE 95th Street on 35th Ave NE, to the corner of NE 80th Street. This location was in the heart of the new Wedgwood business district which grew up around Balch’s Wedgwood houses.
We remember Mrs. Hawks as a career woman in real estate in the early formation of the neighborhood which would become Wedgwood.
“Birthday party for Mr. J.C. Ames,” Seattle Daily Times, January 5, 1901, page 4. Accessed via on-line Seattle Public Library resources.
Census and City Directory listings.
“King County paving contract for NE 95th Street awarded to Fiorito Brothers,” Seattle Daily Times, March 17, 1931, page 15. Along with paving Sand Point Way NE, in the 1930s work began to connect cross-streets such as NE 95th which goes through all the way from Lake City Way NE to Sand Point Way NE. See this article about Sand Point Way NE for more about the development of that road and the cross-streets such as NE 95th Street, in the 1930s.
Neighborhood anecdotes: people who knew Mrs. Hawks told me she was a member of the Morningside Church and that she played a small pump organ at the church services.
Property records: Puget Sound Regional Archives, repository of the property records of King County.
“What about the “E” in Wedgwood?” The story of how developer Albert Balch named his first plat of Wedgwood houses. He did not deliberately intend to name the neighborhood, but the name spread as other businesses began to use it.