In northeast Seattle most of the neighborhood names are those of real estate developments such as Wedgwood, which originally was only a plat name.
The builder of the Wedgwood group of houses, Albert Balch, did not deliberately set out to name the neighborhood. The name caught on gradually and gained popularity when businesses began using it.
Prior to Balch’s Wedgwood houses which he started building in 1941, there had been a Morningside real estate promotion which gave its name to the neighborhood in the 1920s. From the 1940s, the Wedgwood name became the strongest identifier of the neighborhood so that in 1954, the Seattle School District chose it for the new Wedgwood School.
Other real estate developments in northeast Seattle including LaVilla, Inverness, Laurelhurst, Hawthorne Hills, View Ridge (also by Albert Balch) and Lake City, all gave their names to their neighborhoods.
One neighborhood name, Meadowbrook, was derived from the golf course at the present site of Nathan Hale High School. This was a gradual process where the name seemed to “stick” while other, previously-used names faded.
Before Meadowbrook, a real estate development at NE 110th Street, Chelsea, had been advertised in the 1920s as an area of new homes for young couples. The name Chelsea faded in use as the Meadowbrook Golf Course became the most prominent identifying feature at NE 110th Street.
The name Meadowbrook had enough staying power to continue to be used even after the golf course closed and a new high school was built on the former golf course site. In 1961 area residents petitioned to have the new high school named “Meadowbrook.” But the school district applied rules of how schools were named, and chose “Nathan Hale.”
This blog article will tell about the designation of the name “Bryant” for the neighborhood near Bryant School at 3311 NE 60th Street, and the businesses that developed nearby, along 35th Ave NE in early years.
Bryant School: from wood-frame to brick building
In the 1920s northeast Seattle really began to develop and increase in population, and schools struggled to keep pace as the number of children rapidly grew.
When Laurelhurst’s early school building of two rooms was full, nearby areas were compelled to build more schools which were also wood-frame structures. A two-room Yesler School was on 36th Ave NE at the corner of NE 47th Street. It soon was overcrowded, and another, larger building was built a few blocks away, which became Bryant School.
Bryant School opened in 1918 in a six-room wood-frame building on the corner of NE 57th Street & 33rd Ave NE. By 1923 the site had eight portables, showing how fast the local population was growing with school-age children. In 1925 plans were made to expand northward and the school district was able to buy property all the way to NE 60th Street.
At the corner of 60th & 33rd Ave NE there had been the Ravenna Methodist Church but they, too, were outgrowing their facility. They agreed to sell their site and the church moved across the street to the other side of 33rd Ave NE where it remains today. Then a new brick school was built at the southeast corner of 33rd & 60th.
The present Bryant School building was completed in 1926, designed by the school district architect, Floyd Naramore. Bryant is one of the two-story brick-veneered Georgian style buildings designed by Naramore. Bryant’s classical style, brick with terra cotta trim over doors and windows, was repeated in other schools such as Roosevelt High School (1922) and a new Laurelhurst School building (1928).
Floyd Naramore served as school district architect from 1919 to 1932. Then he went into private practice and formed the architectural partnership which still exists today, known as NBBJ.
The Bryant name: from school to neighborhood
The name of Bryant School was unique in northeast Seattle in that it gave its name to the neighborhood, instead of the school taking its name from the neighborhood as Laurelhurst, View Ridge and Wedgwood schools did.
The full name of the school is William Cullen Bryant School, named for a poet and journalist who lived 1794 to 1878 in the eastern USA. That this name has stayed in use for the neighborhood is unique in northeast Seattle in that “Bryant” has no connection with local developers or any natural features such as the ridge for which View Ridge is named, or Cedar Park for its trees.
Commercial development along 35th Ave NE in the Bryant area
With the growth of the Bryant neighborhood in the 1920s, stores began to be built along 35th Ave NE. The road was as yet unpaved and had not been arterialized with stop signs at cross-streets, but 35th Ave NE was already recognized as the main thoroughfare running north-south.
One of the first stores to be built in Bryant (in 1919) was at the southwest corner of NE 50th Street & 35th Ave NE. The store building was in a plat called Exposition Heights, with a map of the street layout filed in 1907 by the Crawford & Conover real estate company. The word “exposition” referred to the world’s fair event scheduled to be held in 1909 on the nearby campus of the University of Washington.
The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 caused a frenzy of real estate development in northeast Seattle with a number of companies, like Crawford & Conover, trying to sell lots in what was thought to be well-located neighborhoods not far from the UW campus.
Since streetcar lines and other improvements such as electricity were being built in the University District to serve the Exposition, it was thought that nearby neighborhoods would receive these services soon, as well. That didn’t happen — northeast Seattle never got a streetcar line and electricity wasn’t available in Wedgwood until the 1920s. Northeast Seattle developed slowly as a semi-rural area where people could live less expensively, though they needed a car to get around.
Immigrant heritage in northeast Seattle
In the early 1900s northeast Seattle was typically populated by immigrants who had made their way across the USA until they landed in Seattle. The first owners of the store building at NE 50th Street & 35th Ave NE were Solomon & Leah Gordon from Divinsky, Lithuania. The Gordons, both born in 1886, had married and immigrated to the USA in 1906. At their first home in Dallas, Texas, the Gordons worked in a candy factory.
After the Gordons came to Seattle and began operating the little store in 1919, Leah was the store clerk while Solomon got a job as a streetcar conductor. The Gordons lived at the store building for about twenty years until moving to Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill.
The next store operators as of 1940 were Einar and Irene Andrews, first-generation Scandinavian-Americans who had come from Michigan. They only lived at the store for about four years while Einar worked as a carpenter and Irene was listed as the operator of the retail grocery. In those years grocery stores did not yet have refrigeration. They offered very little fresh food, and mostly sold staples such as flour & sugar. Many became known to children in the neighborhood as “candy stores.”
The next owners of the store building were Otto and Hilda Evensen who had immigrated from Norway and had first lived in Chicago. The store was given the name Evensen’s Food Shop and is remembered as such into the early 1960s.
Today the Evensen’s store building is listed as a duplex because it has two units, the store portion plus the original residence in the back, and is residential only.
Influence of Dutch immigrants in the neighborhood
In 1906 a group of about twenty interrelated persons immigrated from Holland (a western province of the Netherlands) to Seattle. The Hoetmer, Lobberegt, Spoor and Timmerman families settled along 35th Ave NE and began to develop business opportunities such as tailor shops and small groceries.
With the building of the imposing brick Bryant School in 1926, families were attracted to the area to have a place for their children to attend school. Then businesses were attracted to the Bryant area with its growing customer base.
In 1920 members of the Lobberegt family built a grocery store and residence on the southeast corner of NE 60th Street and 35th Ave NE. Over the years from 1920 to 1940, the store had several different proprietors. From 1940 to 1960 the store was called Farley’s Groceries.
Clyde Merritt Farley was born in Chelan, Washington, and served two years overseas in the First World War, 1917 to 1919. After returning from war service Clyde married his sweetheart, Gladys, in Chelan. The couple moved to Seattle where Clyde had a career with Puget Sound Power & Light Company. From about 1940 to 1960 the Farleys also operated their little grocery at the corner of NE 60th Street in Bryant. As was somewhat typical of these stores, the wife was the main person who ran the store while her husband worked at another job. Also typical is that neighborhood children remember buying penny candy at the store.
In later years the old Farley’s building had several different businesses, including an antique store and a dessert company. Now it is a residence and does not have a business currently operating out of it.
The intersection of NE 70th Street
The intersection of NE 70th Street & 35th Avenue NE shows the evolution of businesses in the Bryant neighborhood over time. The Lobberegt family were the first to build here and the choice to build a gas station in 1925 showed their growing awareness of the increase of car use in northeast Seattle. The gas station was at the northwest corner of 70th & 35th, present site of the Grateful Bread Bakery & Cafe.
The gas station photo as of 1938 shows the strains of life during the economic depression years of the 1930s. Operator Bert Lobberegt had added a small store space at one end of the station called “Bert’s Cash Feed” where supplies such as chicken feed could be obtained. The name of the outlet also indicates that cash payment would be required. During the 1930s many groceries and other stores found that items which customers bought on credit might never be paid for.
During the 1930s with its economic stresses, many northeast Seattle residents were trying to live as cheaply as possible. They had their own vegetable gardens and many people kept chickens for egg and meat source, so a feed store was a good business choice for items wanted by people in the neighborhood.
By the 1960s the Lobberegt gas station was in decline. It was torn down in 1969 for the building of a 7-Eleven convenience market, which was the latest commercial trend at that time. The 7-Eleven store lasted about ten years, then the building was used as the office of the Advance Real Estate company.
In 1996 the Grateful Bread Bakery & Café moved into the remodeled 7-Eleven building at the northwest corner of NE 70th Street & 35th Avenue NE. Today Grateful Bread is a favorite coffee, soup, bread and lunch spot in the neighborhood.
A traditional market at NE 70th Street
After the Bert Lobberegt gas station which had been built in 1925 at the northwest corner, the next building to be built at the NE 70th Street intersection was a small market on the southeast corner. Petersen’s Super Cash Market occupied one-half of the building with Al’s Market Meats in the other half. Built in 1930, this market likely was successful as a convenience in the neighborhood. The next nearest butcher shop was the Morningside Market at 9118 35th Ave NE which was also divided into grocery + meat.
The rise of supermarkets
After the end of World War Two in 1945, an era of new commercial development began, including the supermarket trend to have bigger stores with a wide variety of products. With the rise of supermarkets in the late 1940s, consumers quickly switched to the convenience of buying pre-packaged meats with one-stop-shopping in the newer, bigger stores, such as the new Safeway at the intersection of NE 75th Street. The Petersen building was torn down in 1962 and replaced by the current medical clinic offices.
The rise of gas stations along 35th Ave NE
After the end of World War Two in 1945 there was a population boom in northeast Seattle and a corresponding increase in house-building and in car use. Northeast Seattle still had a lot of vacant lots for building houses, and developers like Albert Balch were building houses accessible to purchase with government loans for war veterans. Unlike Wallingford or other neighborhoods served by streetcar lines, northeast Seattle had no public transportation. For this reason, house construction by Balch and other developers reflected car ownership, with nearly all houses having garages.
Northeast Seattle’s population increase in the 1950s led to the opening of a very large number of gas stations along 35th Ave NE through the Bryant and Wedgwood neighborhoods. In 1958 there were at least twelve or more stations along 35th Ave NE on corners of intersections from NE 65th to 95th Streets.
At NE 65th Street one of the longest-lasting service stations was Gray’s, built in 1928. It continued to operate until about 1976 and was then replaced by a convenience market, Hoagy’s. Presently the building is called Wedgewood Food Market.
More gas stations at the NE 70th Street intersection
At the intersection of NE 70th two more gas stations were built in 1949-1951. Unlike the station which was torn down to build the present Grateful Bread building, these two gas station buildings remain and have been converted to other uses.
At the southwest corner of NE 70th Street was Si’s Flying A gas station (Harold E. Simonson). Now the building is Top Pot Doughnuts.
At the northeast corner of NE 70th Street was Bill & Bob’s Texaco. In the 1960s this building went through transformations from a gas station to a Krazy Kow milk outlet, to the present Northeast Cleaners.
The gas station situation today
The decrease in the number of gas stations in Bryant & Wedgwood since the 1960s reflected the Mideast Oil Embargo and the Boeing Bust which impacted Seattle from 1968 to 1975. Changes in cars, as well, contributed to a decline in gas stations. Today there are only two gas stations along this same stretch of 35th Ave NE, one at 7300 and one at 9500 35th Ave NE.
Census and City Directory listings.
Gas stations — see this category on my blog for more stories of gas stations around northeast Seattle.
Puget Sound Regional Archives, repository of the property records of King County. Original photos with build dates, names of owners, etc. are from the 1938 survey of all taxable structures in King County. See HistoryLink Essay #3692 by Paula Becker, for the story of how the survey was done.
Seattle School Histories: Bryant School.
Landmark Nomination Report, Seattle Public Schools. Bryant School was “landmarked” in 1998 as a site of historic and architectural significance. The landmarked areas which were designated are the exterior of the building including the roofline, and the site.
Other landmarked buildings in northeast Seattle include the Northeast Branch Library, the former Theodora building and Nathan Eckstein Middle School. Another category of landmarked items are street clocks. A clock near the intersection of Union Bay Place was taken away for restoration in the year 2020. See: Street Clocks in Seattle.
Seattle City Clerk’s Geographic Indexing Atlas — north portion of Seattle. While “boundaries” are arbitrary, the city map gives outlines of neighborhoods.
Many thanks to David Zimmerman and Joe Mabel for help with photos.