Wedgwood is the neighborhood in northeast Seattle where I (Valarie) grew up. My research and writing began when I was a PTA mom in the local-history project of Wedgwood Elementary School in 1991-1992. From that beginning which mostly involved interviewing elderly neighborhood residents, over the years I learned to use more research resources such as property records.
The purposes of the Wedgwood in Seattle History blog are to tell stories of the development of northeast Seattle neighborhoods and their setting in the time periods of Seattle history, and to highlight the research resources which everyone can access – many sources are now on-line. See “Links” on the right-side-margin of this blog page for the list of resources I regularly use.
One of my purposes in writing about neighborhood history is to go back as far as I can in available records. For that reason I have researched property records, the census, newspapers and many different archives, to tell stories of how people came to live in northeast Seattle. I learned that there were early homestead land claims. Later, plat names came to tell the story of attempts to develop land in Wedgwood. I was surprised to learn that would-be developers bought land in northeast Seattle in early years, especially around 1890. One example is Joseph Doheny who named part of the neighborhood “Pontiac.” This and other stories of early land investors are told under the Plat Names category on this blog.
Expanding this blog to include other neighborhood histories
Many bloggers find that over time they want to diverge from their original purpose or add sidelines. This blog started out in January 2012 to be just about Wedgwood but then I found other stories of Seattle history which I wanted to include. I have added stories about other northeast Seattle neighborhoods, most especially Meadowbrook which is contiguous with Wedgwood on the north.
I delved deeply into the history of Meadowbrook when I was commissioned to create a display book for the opening of the Meadowbrook Community Center in January 1997. I interviewed elderly neighborhood residents who were descended from Meadowbrook’s first residents in the 1890s. Today, most of the stories in that print resource, the display book at the community center, are now posted here on this blog.
Meadowbrook history goes back to the 1890s when its residents established a school in northeast Seattle. The Thornton Creek watershed which flows through Meadowbrook was named for John Thornton — who never lived there. In 2014-2015 I posted articles on this blog about the work which was done at the site of Meadowbrook Pond and along 35th Ave NE at NE 107th Street. There, Thornton Creek’s two branches converge at The Confluence. To learn more, choose the Meadowbrook topic on the Categories tab.
And I love Fremont, too!
Another one of my interests and involvements is in the Fremont Historical Society. Fremont is a Seattle neighborhood located at the northwest corner of Lake Union, about four miles straight north of downtown Seattle.
Fremont’s history and development is in great contrast to that of Wedgwood. The contrasts between the two neighborhoods have helped me in pondering why Wedgwood is the way it is. I have added my Fremont history writings to this blog and they can be found on the Categories tab. These include articles about the building of the ship canal in 1910-1917 and how it affected the business district of Fremont.
Defining Wedgwood: businesses and boundaries
The business districts of northeast Seattle are mostly aligned along the north-south geographical ridge of the arterial 35th Ave NE. East of the arterial, the land slopes sharply away, down to Sand Point Way NE which follows the shoreline of Lake Washington.
The boundaries of Wedgwood are from NE 75th to 95th Streets, 25th to 45th Avenues NE and west to Lake City Way between NE 85th to 95th Streets. “Boundaries” is a bit arbitrary, but in the 1950s the first Wedgwood Community Club set these streets as defining the neighborhood. Ironically Wedgwood Rock at 7200 28th Ave NE is technically outside of the boundaries of the Wedgwood neighborhood because it is south of NE 75th Street.
Beginning in the 1980s Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods reinforced a sense of ownership and investment in defined areas for newly re-engaged community councils. I knew the founders of the Wedgwood Community Council, Frank & Dorothy Brancato, and I have written about how they re-started activism in Wedgwood.
Wedgwood’s neighborhood features and commercial district
Wedgwood is a residential neighborhood with a vibrant commercial district along its central arterial, 35th Ave NE. Wedgwood has banks, businesses, coffee shops, churches, park/playfields, restaurants, stores, public & private schools, a fire station and the main post office for the 98115 zip code. Here’s a link to the City of Seattle neighborhood map (misspelled Wedgewood!!!!)
Wedgwood’s most unique space, The Gathering Place at Hunter Tree Farm, was created in 2011, a public-private partnership for a usable outdoor meeting area. The site of The Gathering Place at 7744 35th Ave NE, next to the post office, is owned by Hunter Farms and is used for their annual Christmas tree sales.
The Gathering Place initiative was coordinated by volunteers from several neighborhood groups with permission of the Hunter family, a great example of cooperation for the benefit of the Wedgwood neighborhood. The plan for use of the Gathering Place included emphasis on sustainability and a practice site for emergency preparedness.
Future development issues in Wedgwood
As time goes on we are seeing teardowns and redevelopment both in the residential housing in Wedgwood and in its commercial district. In 2011-2014 a consortium of Wedgwood activists applied for grant funding to create a zoning plan which would help control the type of rebuilding in Wedgwood’s commercial district. What is wanted is retail storefronts with apartments or condos above to enliven the business district.
Despite presentation of this Future of 35th Plan to City Council in early 2015, they have never acted upon the plan and its zoning requests. As a result, monstrous, out-of-scale townhouses are going up along 35th Avenue NE instead of the stores and restaurants wanted by Wedgwood residents. I continue to monitor this issue and write about it.