Where is “Meadowbrook” in Seattle?
The Meadowbrook neighborhood in northeast Seattle derived its name from a golf course which was at the present site of Nathan Hale High School. This lowlands acreage with a creek running through it had once been part of the Fischer Farm. Meadowbrook Golf Course opened in 1932 on the valley of forty acres from NE 105th to 110th Streets, 30th to 35th Ave NE.
In 1960 the golf course was taken by “eminent domain” to become school property. Many in the neighborhood would have liked the new high school to be named Meadowbrook, but it was not to be; the school district’s naming system specified presidents like Roosevelt and historic figures like Nathan Hale.
The Meadowbrook name was kept in some local usage even after the golf course closed. Current Meadowbrook references are an apartment building on NE 110th Street, the swimming pool & community center at 10517 35th Ave NE, and the Meadowbrook Pond across from it on the east side of 35th Ave NE. In 1990 a community council was formed for the neighborhood, and today the Meadowbrook Community Council coordinates volunteer work and is a liaison with city info.
Today Meadowbrook is defined as one of the neighborhoods in the greater Lake City area of northeast Seattle. In a circle around the central Lake City business district are the neighborhoods of Victory Heights, Olympic Hills, Cedar Park and Meadowbrook.
The first settlers
The earliest white settlers of what became Meadowbrook were German immigrants who settled in the 1880s including the Fischer Farm. Others who wanted a rural lifestyle were attracted to the area in the early 1900s because of available land and future growth, when development projects were still being done with horse-drawn equipment. In the 1920s the Fischer’s son-in-law, Norwegian immigrant Ole Blindheim, borrowed their horse and a scoop shovel to create a road, Fischer Place NE, to connect his LaVilla Dairy building to the new highway (today’s Lake City Way NE).
Neighborhood growth in the 1920s
In the 1920s another immigrant to Meadowbrook was John MacLean who had been born in Canada. John’s father was a carpenter and building contractor, and John learned the trade from him. In the early 1900s the family moved to Seattle’s north Capitol Hill/Roanoke area, where John and his brother attended Seward Elementary School. As a young adult John traveled back to British Columbia, where he married. In 1923 John and his wife Myrtle came back to Seattle to live. They settled permanently on NE 107th Street just west of today’s Nathan Hale High School.
At first, the MacLean house had no house number; it was simply listed as being on “Bothell Highway.” The Fischer Farm was still in operation at that time with the MacLean’s house divided from the farm property by the highway. This was the first highway route, Erickson Road, which soon came to be called the Old Bothell Highway, completed in 1913 before the newer Bothell Highway (today’s Lake City Way NE) was created in 1923. The older route extended along what is now 30th Ave NE on the west side of today’s Nathan Hale High School.
The 1920s in Meadowbrook was a busy time of road-building and house-building, where John MacLean would have found plenty of work all around him. More streets were being put through, and a new, relocated elementary school building for the growing local population. Horse-drawn road-grading and excavation shovels were still being used, as John MacLean did with his team.
In the 1920s where the highway turned at the corner of 30th Ave NE and NE 110th Street, a development of houses called Chelsea was being built on the hillside to the north. Although we don’t know for sure, we may imagine that John MacLean might have been the contractor who prepared the Chelsea development’s house sites by excavating for foundations, grading streets and driveways. One of the landowners of the Chelsea house plats was Mae Yates, who lived at the corner of 30th Ave NE and NE 110th Street where the highway turned.
John MacLean’s work projects might even have included the new Maple Leaf School which opened in 1926 at the corner of NE 100th Street and 32nd Ave NE. The area was still outside the Seattle City Limits and had formed its own school district. The school site, donated by the Fischers, was on a corner of the Fischer Farm property’s southern boundary at NE 100th Street. All the workers at the school construction were local men, including contractors Bill Lovell and his son Ellsworth.
From farm to golf course in 1932
In 1932 the valley area of the Fischer Farm, from NE 105th to 110th Streets, became the Meadowbrook Golf Course. The golf course operators tried to mitigate the sogginess of the soil by channeling the creek through the property on one side, where it still runs today along the south side of the Nathan Hale School building.
Even after channeling the main stream, the whole golf course was soggy with contributing creeklets and run-off. A major site of sogginess was along the base of the hill on the southern edge of the golf course nearest to NE 105th Street. During those early-1930s years the MacLean’s daughter Jessie photographed her father working to create a channel for water at the base of the hill.
In the photo we are standing with our backs to the hillside of NE 105th Street, looking northward towards NE 110th Street. John MacLean guides his team of mules, Dick & Dobbin, as they dredge a channel for run-off water.
Meadowbrook in the Thornton Creek Watershed
Today this same channel along the base of the hill, southern edge of the Nathan Hale field, exists as a contributing stream which joins the main stream of the south branch of Thornton Creek.
At the site of the Meadowbrook Community Center, 10517 35th Ave NE, the stream crosses under the road to flow into Meadowbrook Pond, a water detention and filtration area. Although built-up all around now with houses, the natural stream system of Meadowbrook, part of the Thornton Creek Watershed, still flows as it did in John MacLean’s day.