In the 1920s the (future) Wedgwood area began to be populated by immigrants. In northeast Seattle out along 35th Ave NE, those who searched for homes found an undeveloped area with inexpensive housing and a semi-rural lifestyle. At the (future) Wedgwood intersections of NE 75th & 85th Streets, there were no close-by industries or business districts, and no transportation system.
Commuting by car from northeast Seattle had been made easier by bridges over the ship canal, such as the University Bridge (1919). As early as the 1920s, many northeast Seattle residents drove to work, even though 35th Ave NE was unpaved.
Gus Johnson, a Swedish immigrant who lived at 3603 NE 75th Street, drove to work at his barber shop in downtown Seattle.
William Rose, a German immigrant who built a house at 6810 40th Ave NE, was a chef who drove to work at Don’s Oyster House, Second & Yesler Streets by the Smith Tower.
This blog article will tell about Dutch, German and Italian immigrant families in the Medohart plat at NE 75th Street & 39th Ave NE.
A Swedish carpenter in Medohart
In 1926 Swedish immigrant carpenter John Westling built his home at 7331 39th Ave NE, in a plat called Medohart. Lot lines for houses had been laid out over just two blocks from 38th to 40th Avenues NE, on the south side of NE 75th Street.
The soil in Medohart had been advertised as “loam as rich as the Nile,’ appealing to those who wanted to plant gardens and keep chickens. The plat of two blocks was in a little valley where there was an underground stream, so that each house could draw from it for well water.
John Westling could be considered the patriarch of the plat because he was one of the earliest residents, and because he bought more lots and began to build and sell houses in Medohart.
Dutch immigrants in Medohart
A Dutch immigrant, John Postma, became a long-time Medohart resident at 7338 39th Ave NE, in a John Westling-built house in 1926. John Postma was joined by his brother Thomas at 7339 40th Ave NE, so that the houses of the Postma brothers were back-to-back.
John Postma spent his entire career at Seattle Box Company, driving to work at its industrial plant at Fourth & Spokane Streets. He maintained a close relationship with his neighbor John Westling, listing Westling as his personal contact info on his 1942 draft card of World War Two.
Thomas Postma, John’s brother, had a series of different jobs but he primarily listed himself as a poultry farmer at his home on 40th Ave NE. At that time, he had plenty of space with several lots so that he had a house, garden and chicken ranch.
Both John & Thomas Postma had German immigrant wives. A few years later a third Postma brother, Martin, married Anna, the sister of German immigrant William Rose of 6810 40th Ave NE. Martin & Anna Postma lived in the Medohart plat for only a short time before moving to rural King County.
An Italian garden in Medohart
Most of Medohart’s early residents were young couples but there were a few who came to the plat in the later years of their lives. In 1931 Italian immigrants Vincenzo Luigi Vincelli and his wife Maria, ages 55 & 45, built a house at 7327 40th Ave NE in Medohart.
From the time they had first arrived in Seattle in the early 1900s, the Vincellis had lived in Seattle’s Rainier Valley in the midst of a large Italian-immigrant community. The census of 1910 listed seven “roomers,” all Italian men, living at the Vincelli house and working for Luigi who was a sewer contractor; this meant the hard work of digging trenches and laying pipe. Maria had the work of running what was essentially a boarding house with all these men to feed.
In Medohart in 1931, the Vincellis bought six lots on 40th Ave NE to the south of the home of Thomas Postma. The Vincellis built greenhouses but no chicken sheds – there was no need as they lived next door to the Postma family who raised chickens.
The Vincellis were not retired when they moved into their new house, but they seemed to be transitioning to a less-demanding lifestyle and listed their occupation as “gardeners” on the census of 1940.
A German immigrant retires to Medohart
By the 1950s northeast Seattle began to boom with post-World-War Two housebuilding. Developers like Albert Balch had discovered that there were vast tracts of land in northeast Seattle which had not yet come into the City Limits and where there was space to build more houses to satisfy the demand. Young couples sought these small starter homes, but in Medohart one new resident in 1952 was a retired man, Adam Maier.
Adam Maier and his wife Johanna immigrated from Germany in 1925 and Adam got a job at a sports equipment manufacturer in Seattle. He worked as a “ballmaker” for his entire career and in later years he worked directly for the Seattle School District, making footballs and basketballs.
After Johanna died, in 1933 Adam Maier was married to Charlotte Voss at the First German Congregational Church of Seattle, 1107 East Howell Street, just east of today’s Cal Anderson Park.
Charlotte Voss, who married Adam Maier in 1933, was also a widow. She’d been the second wife of William Voss and was much younger than he was. From his previous marriage William Voss had two sons who were in their 30s. After William Voss married Charlotte, they had one child together, Gerda. William & Charlotte had lived in the Big Green House built by Voss, and that house remained in family ownership for many years after William Voss’s death in 1930.
Even after Charlotte Voss married Adam Maier, the couple maintained close relations with Voss family members. On Adam Maier’s draft card of 1942 above, he listed Paul, one of William Voss’s sons, as a personal contact.
At the time that Adam Maier retired in 1951, he agreed to move from their Central District home out to northeast Seattle, and the Maiers got a newly built house at 7330 39th Ave NE. Charlotte’s daughter Gerda had married, and she lived close by.
The Maier’s new house was an example of the building boom of the 1950s as “infill,” placed between two much older houses. The home of John Postma, 7338 39th Ave NE, was on the north side of the Maiers’ house. In the 1950s families like the Postmas were giving up their extra lots of gardens and chicken houses as the land had become so valuable. On the 40th Ave NE side of the block, rows of 1950s houses were built on either side of the Vincellis, who had previously owned six lots.
Today the Medohart plat is a microcosm of the history of development in the Wedgwood neighborhood. At first, as of the 1920s, the neighborhood was rural; then in the 1940s things began to change due to increasing population in northeast Seattle. A commercial district developed at the intersection of NE 75th Street, anchored by a major grocery store, Safeway, built in 1951.
In the 1950s more streets were put through and Wedgwood acquired its identity due to the housing boom as well as the opening of more schools.
Developer Albert Balch built blocks of houses in a plat called Wedgwood and the name gradually “caught on.” It seemed official when the newest elementary school took the name Wedgwood School in 1954. By that year, all of Wedgwood had come within the City Limits of Seattle.
Now Medohart is in what could be called its third period of history, when older homes and even 1950s houses are being torn down and replaced.
Census and City Directory listings; genealogical records; newspaper obituaries.
Property records and photos: Puget Sound Regional Archives.
Many thanks to the members of the Facebook group “You Know You Are From Wedgwood IF” who have given me so many tips and ideas for my blog articles.