Charles Hartge met his future wife, Lena, while they both were teaching school in Pennsylvania. Charles was an ambitious person whose goal was to become an attorney, so he worked until he could go to law school in Buffalo, NY.
The Hartges may have been attracted to the Seattle area as many other people were, by news of the upcoming world’s fair event to be held on the campus of the University of Washington in 1909.
The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 was a big success for the fair itself, and it also launched the University District as a newly developed neighborhood which had not had electricity and paved streets before the fair.
In 1908 the Hartges settled in a house in the 5200 block of University Way NE, a convenient location where Charles could catch a streetcar to work at his downtown Seattle law office. The location was convenient for Lena, as well, as she intended to complete her education and her occupational goals. She graduated from the University of Washington at age 40 and began to teach high school science. Then she went on to earn a Masters degree in Botany and she taught at the university level.
In addition to pursuing her calling as a science researcher and teacher, Lena Hartge anticipated that she would have to be prepared to support herself. Her husband’s health was failing and he died in 1927 at age 51. Lena lived to be 92.
During their early years in Seattle the Hartges made a land investment in northeast Seattle, the future Wedgwood neighborhood, though they didn’t intend to live there themselves. They saw that northeast Seattle was becoming more populated, with growth increasing due to the proximity of the University of Washington, and bridges across the ship canal which made it easier to get downtown. In 1919 the Hartges filed a plat, meaning that they had hired a surveyor to lay out house lots and lines for streets in the section of land they had bought, which they named the Medohart Addition to Seattle. The Hartges then offered house lots for sale.
Only this one advertisement ran in the newspaper in 1919 and after that the Hartges left Medohart sales in the hands of real estate promoters.
The Medohart Addition was in a little valley bounded on its north side by NE 75th Street. Medohart extended over two blocks between 38th to 40th Avenues NE. None of the streets were officially put through nearby except 35th Ave NE. The area was undeveloped, so house lots cost less and were sought-after by young couples who were getting started in life. Early residents in Medohart considered the advantages of getting into the area before more growth came, which would make life more convenient in northeast Seattle but would also cause property values to rise.
This blog article will tell about three of the Medohart houses on 39th Ave NE and who lived in these houses in the early years.
Golf and growth along NE 75th Street
In 1925 Sam Hayes began the development of a golf course accessed off of NE 75th Street. Nearby residents could see that they would benefit from proximity to it.
The first Sand Point Golf Course Clubhouse was built at the corner of 45th Ave NE (now a private home). Golf course workers graded and graveled NE 75th Street from the intersection of 35th Ave NE eastward, which was a help to Medohart residents living near NE 75th.
The year 1926 was a growing one in northeast Seattle marked by road development, infrastructure such as bridges and schools, and the availability of electricity to homes in the area. In her account of early years Mrs. Jacklin of 7528 35th Ave NE told how eagerly residents had greeted the coming of electric lines. Most people in the future-Wedgwood area were still content to make do with well water, as there was not yet any City water supply available.
In 1926 the completion of the imposing new brick building for Bryant School, 3311 NE 60th Street, may have caused young families with children to consider northeast Seattle with what appeared to be a better school instead of the two-room, wood-frame schools which had been built as stopgap measures.
A Swedish immigrant in Medohart
In 1926 a Swedish immigrant carpenter, John Axel Westling, looked at Medohart and saw its potential. He bought several lots in the plat and began to build houses where each house would have its own well water.
Westling had lost his wife and needed someone to help him take care of his two gradeschool-age sons, so he hired a live-in housekeeper, Carrie Graham. They all got along well and soon John & Carrie were married. John & Carrie lived the rest of their lives in their house at 7331 39th Ave NE. They saw Medohart evolve from a rural area where every house had a wood stove and every household kept chickens, into the 1950s years of modern infrastructure.
John Westling’s eldest son Chester followed in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter, and we may imagine that the father taught the son starting on smaller structures such as sheds and chicken houses. Then the young man might have helped John Westling build some of the houses on their street as part of learning to do carpentry.
Some of the houses owned by the Westlings were rented out until a buyer could be found. One of these houses was built two lots to the south of the Westlings. In 1940 a mother & daughter rented the house, and a few years later the house was bought by the Holdorf family.
The Holdorf house in Medohart
The Holdorfs were living in the house at 7321 39th Ave NE by 1945 when the second of their three children was born. By that time another new school had opened, View Ridge at 7047 50th Ave NE. View Ridge School opened in 1944 with all-portables until the brick building was completed in 1948.
The Holdorf family was typical of those in the Medohart neighborhood in the 1950s, with mothers at home taking care of their children and the family able to live on a single income. Charles Holdorf worked for a wholesale food distribution company where he rose to become co-owner. Today, more than 75 years after the Holdorfs first came to live at 7321 39th Ave NE, the house is still owned by Holdorf family descendants.
Moving a house into the neighborhood
It’s always surprising to find, as revealed in property records, that a house has been moved, especially when the house fits in so well in its new place. A house built in 1921 at the northeast corner of 35th Ave NE and NE 65th Street, was moved in 1952 to 7327 39th Ave NE in the Medohart plat. The house was set down in between that of the Westlings and the Holdorfs, which caused the Holdorf house to have to be re-numbered from 7329 to 7321.
The house newly set up at 7327 39th Ave NE belonged to Vail Whitelock and his young family, who were able to purchase the house and have it moved to Medohart. By the 1950s northeast Seattle was booming with both residential and commercial growth. The Whitelock house had been at a major intersection, 65th & 35th, which became “zoned commercial.” The corners of that intersection were developed with gas stations and apartment buildings. The house was moved away from the intersection of 65th for this reason.
Medohart grows into the 1950s
In the 1950s northeast Seattle in what is now the Wedgwood neighborhood was finally coming within the Seattle City Limits and was getting more City services such as water and sewer lines. The City’s Side Sewer Card for 39th Ave NE showed that when the Whitelock house was moved to Medohart in 1952, the house was able to hook up to the newly installed sewer lines on 39th Ave NE.
Early development and later development in Medohart
John Westling, who had moved his family to 7331 39th Ave NE in 1926, could be considered the “founder” of the block because he owned a number of lots and built several houses. In those early years it was common for each homeowner to have several lots and the neighborhood had a very rural aspect with its well water and its outbuildings such as chicken houses and freestanding garages.
Medohart residents had the best of both worlds, rural and urban: their houses were not far from the arterial 35th Ave NE and most residents owned cars, as there was no other way to get around. Husbands drove to work, like Vail Whitelock who worked at Boeing. In Medohart many of the women were full-time homemakers, and children walked to school.
As the Seattle City Limits slowly advanced northward, Medohart and other areas of today’s Wedgwood gradually came within the city limits and acquired City services such as hookup to the sewer system. The availability of water & sewer lines was the reason for “infill” such as when the Vail Whitelock house was moved to what had been a vacant lot between the Westling and Holdorf houses.
Property values were increasing in the 1950s with its post-World-War-Two housing boom, so empty spaces were being given up and houses were being built for young families. People stopped keeping chickens on their property although the old structures were still around in backyards.
John Westling had died in 1948 and it was his widow Carrie who sold the lot next door to her house to Vail Whitelock in 1952. Carrie began divesting other properties in Medohart as new builders came in to meet the housing demand of the 1950s. The Medohart blocks filled in on lots where no houses had been before. Where, in the 1930s, children had played among the chicken houses and had walked all the way to Bryant School on NE 60th Street, in the 1950s Medohart children had only to go as far as View Ridge School and on Saturdays they watched cartoons on TV.
Today some of the older homes in Medohart have had modernization which conceals that the houses, like that of the Holdorfs and Whitelocks, are about one hundred years old. Some houses, like that of the Westlings, are gone, to be replaced by the next generation of housing styles in Wedgwood.
Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair: A Timeline History, by HistoryLink, 2009. Seattle Public Library 979.7041
Historic newspaper search: at the Seattle Public Library website, use the tab for on-line resources, genealogy.
Puget Sound Regional Archives: repository of the property tax records of King County. House photos used in this article are from the 1938 survey of all taxable structures in King County. These photos are on Property Record Cards kept at the Archives.
Seattle Side Sewer Cards, an online resource.
You Know You Are From Wedgwood IF: A big THANK YOU to the participants in this Facebook group who have given me so many tips and ideas for my blog writing.