Martha Hawks, Real Estate Agent in Morningside Heights

In the 1920s the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood first began to be known as Morningside Heights, the name of a real estate development.    Growth was facilitated by the new Victory Way highway, today’s Lake City Way NE, which made it much easier to reach what is now the Wedgwood area in northeast Seattle.

The promoters of Morningside Heights laid out streets and house lots on the west side of 35th Ave NE between NE 90th to 95th Streets.  The developers printed a promotional brochure, and they advertised Morningside Heights in the newspapers.  They had one or more representatives on-site, including the Walter Wood family at 9428 25th Ave NE whose house was the first one drivers would see, when they turned from Victory Way eastward onto NE 95th Street.

 

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Alexandrina McKenzie and Real Estate in Early Wedgwood

In the year 1900 Alexandrina McKenzie was a 43-year-old farm wife in Bingham Township, Huron, Michigan, with five of her six children still at home.

The Big Green House at 7321 35th Ave NE was demolished on February 17, 2015.

Ten years later, Alexandrina was a widow in Seattle, supporting herself and her children with income from real estate sales.  Alexandrina was a woman in real estate transactions in the early years of what would become the Wedgwood neighborhood of northeast Seattle.

Alexandrina lived in the 7301 block of 35th Ave NE near what would become the site of the Big Green House.  We don’t know for sure if she was the one who had the house built and lived in it, but the Big Green House story, part of neighborhood history, is still a source of fascination even though the house has been demolished.

In this blog article I will trace Alexandrina’s origins and how her activities paralleled the growth of northeast Seattle.

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Old-Time Stores and Gas Stations on Sand Point Way NE

Establishment of the Naval Air Station on the shore of Lake Washington in 1927 was the catalyst for street improvements and commercial development along Sand Point Way NE.  The City of Seattle officially named Sand Point Way and coordinated with King County in efforts to complete the road and pave it, for better access to the naval base.  With roadway improvements came more access to the area, and then little stores and gas stations sprang up along the way.

Photo of 1960, looking southward on Sand Point Way NE we see the entrance of the NAS at left and Dooley’s Restaurant at right. Photo from Seattle Municipal Archives.

Today, Sand Point Way NE is a very wide arterial from its point of origination at 45th & Union Bay Place NE, northward as far as the gate of the former Naval Air Station at NE 74th Street (present Magnuson Park).

North of the present Magnuson Park, Sand Point Way NE suddenly narrows down to only two lanes.  With the aspect of a country road, Sand Point Way winds its way along, parallel to the lake shore, until ending with a curve onto NE 125th Street.

In the 1930s gas stations and corner stores were built along the road north of the naval base, but most of these commercial enterprises only lasted a few years.

This blog article will note stores and gas stations which were on Sand Point Way NE but which are gone now.

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Sand Point Way NE: Stores and Stations at NE 97th Street

The establishment of the Naval Air Station at Sand Point in the 1920s caused Sand Point Way NE to become an arterial street.  Even though the naval base grew slowly at first, its presence caused northeast Seattle to hope for economic benefits of jobs at the base and commercial growth nearby.

The entrance of the Naval Air Station was at NE 74th Street on Sand Point Way NE

The City of Seattle officially named Sand Point Way NE in 1927 and worked with King County to pave the road.  Today, Sand Point Way NE is a wide arterial from Union Bay Place/NE 45th Street out as far as the gate of the former Naval Air Station at NE 74th Street.  North of there, the road narrows to one lane in each direction.

Sand Point Way NE marked in blue at right

In the 1920s and 1930s little corner stores and gas stations sprang up along Sand Point Way NE out as far as NE 125th Street.  Due to the narrowness of the roadway north of the naval base and low population density in northeast Seattle, the little stores retained a rural aspect.

In this blog article we will look at the stores and the gas station which were at the NE 97th Street intersection on Sand Point Way NE.  Nothing remains of these now, except for an auto repair shop on one corner.

The little corner groceries only lasted about twenty years or so until other kinds of food outlets, such as 7-Eleven convenience stores or large, multi-department groceries won out in the competition for customers.

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Names in the Neighborhood: Before There Was A Hawthorne Hills

Part of the fun of blogging is being able to network with other writers.  Here I am sharing a wonderful article written by Zach about the northeast Seattle neighborhood of Hawthorne Hills.

In the years before a real estate company named and developed Hawthorne Hills, the area was the land claim of a man who was determined to live there even without the legal right to do so.

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Homewaters

When Seattle author David B. Williams started his most recent project he never could have imagined that the research, writing and publication of his latest book would take nearly five years.  Now Mr. Williams is able to share his wonderful discoveries of the human and natural history of Puget Sound in his book, Homewaters.

Here is what Mr. Williams has written about Homewaters:

“It weaves the stories of people and place across more than 10,000 years of history. This includes warfare, transportation (canoe culture and mosquito fleet), and resource extraction. In addition to addressing salmon and orca, I also explore lesser known, but ecosystem-critical species such as rockfish, herring, kelp, Olympia oyster, and geoducks. Ultimately, my goal is to create a more nuanced and complex picture of this beautiful place and to illustrate that we are at a critical moment where we can work together to make it more habitable for all.”  (Quote from the author’s website geologywriter.com)

Homewaters can be borrowed from the public library and copies of the book can be purchased from the website of David B. Williams or from any University of Washington Press books outlet.

In these pandemic days we can’t yet attend in-person books talks but the author is giving a number of free presentations via Zoom.  By going to his website or to that of the UW Press Events Page, you can see the author’s list of upcoming book talks about Homewaters.  The Zoom meetings are free (though sometimes phrased as “purchase a ticket” when you register.)  By registering for a Zoom meeting, a link to the meeting will be sent to you.

From the University of Washington Press Blog Page, here is David B. Williams’ story of how he wrote the book Homewaters:

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Along the Road: From Pontiac to Sand Point Way NE

Sand Point map of 1894

There was not yet a road called Sand Point Way NE when the first commercial activities began at about NE 70th Street on Lake Washington.  In the 1880s Edward F. Lee had a boat-building shop there, and Osborn M. Merritt had a shingle mill.  Merritt was from Pontiac, Michigan, and the name he chose for his business, Pontiac Shingle Mill, “caught on” as names sometimes do, as a name for the area.

The next business to open was named Pontiac Brick Company, a brickmaking plant owned by the investors group of Thomas Burke, Morgan J. Carkeek and Corliss P. Stone.

With fortuitous timing, the brick plant at Pontiac was set up and ready to operate just before Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889.  The Fire burned a wide swath of downtown Seattle business blocks which had almost all wood-frame buildings.  In the rebuilding after the Fire it was ordered that new structures must be built of brick and stone.  The Pontiac Brick Company roared into production to make bricks for new buildings in Seattle.

Judge Thomas Burke was an attorney, real estate investor and civic activist in Seattle.

The Pontiac Brick Company was sited for access to clay for making bricks and it was also alongside the tracks of the new Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad (SLS&E) which had just been put through in 1887.

Thomas Burke and his railroad co-developer Daniel Gilman planned the railroad line for this very purpose, to access sites of natural resources and commercial production.  The SLS&E route has been preserved as today’s Burke-Gilman Trail.

Pontiac at Lake Washington had a lot of activity for a few years, most especially during the years of the brick plant.  Mr. Lee of the boat building shop served as postmaster for the mail which came by train.  There was a Pontiac School for the community’s children from 1908-1911.  The school closed as there was not much activity in the area any more after that.

This blog post will tell how Sand Point Way NE developed as an arterial road because of the Naval Air Station at about NE 74th Street on Lake Washington.

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Names in the Neighborhood: Chelsea and Lake City

Seattle north of the ship canal has many neighborhoods which derived their names from plats of land development.  Sometimes the naming was deliberate, such as Laurelhurst, in which the developers reconfigured the streets and promoted the sale of houses in the community they named and built.

Balch’s original stone gateposts at NE 81st Street marked the entrance to Wedgwood on 35th Ave NE.

Albert Balch, the developer of View Ridge and Wedgwood, did not deliberately set out to name these neighborhoods.  These areas did not have a definite identity before Balch built plats of houses.  As the population grew in the 1940s and 1950s, place names gradually evolved.

Wedgwood was a neighborhood of young married couples in those years.  They had lived through World War Two in the 1940s and they were experienced in community-organizing such as for civil defense.  They applied their organizing skills to their new neighborhood for fire protection, development issues, activities for families and mutual aid in weather events.  Gradually the neighborhood began identifying with the Wedgwood name.

Wedgwood is the plat name for a group of harmoniously-designed houses built by Albert Balch in the 1940s, on the west side of 35th Ave NE between NE 80th to 85th Streets. The spread of Wedgwood as a name can be attributed to the first business to use it, the Wedgwood Tavern in 1946.  As soon as the tavern adopted the Wedgwood plat name, other nearby businesses took up the name as well.

Chelsea, a vanished place name in northeast Seattle

Like LaVilla which doesn’t exist as a place name in northeast Seattle anymore, Chelsea is marked on the City of Seattle map but no one uses that name now, for what was once a real estate promotion.

We know from our exploration of plat names near today’s Nathan Hale High School, that in the early 1900s landowner Mae Yates gave the name Chelsea to NE 110th Street.  The Yates house still marks the corner of 30th & 110th, with Nathan Hale High School now on the south side of the street.

In the 1920s a widow, Carrie Palmer, continued to use the name Chelsea for plats of house lots.  Carrie Palmer’s real estate developments were on the east side of today’s Jane Addams Middle School, and she leased out a Chelsea Store at the corner of 34th Ave NE & NE 110th Street.

This blog article will show that in the 1920s “Chelsea” was used to advertise housing in northeast Seattle on or near NE 110th Street, though use of the name has disappeared in present times.

The Yates house, built in 1914, is still at 3004 NE 110th Street.

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Names in the Neighborhood: from Chelsea to Meadowbrook

In 1961 residents of northeast Seattle petitioned the City to give them some geographic identity by preserving the name “Meadowbrook.”  The Meadowbrook Golf Course at NE 110th Street had closed because the property had been purchased by the Seattle School District.  A new high school was to be built on the golf course site and members of the community thought that the school should be named Meadowbrook.

Randy Raider, Nathan Hale High School in Seattle

At first it seemed that there was a good possibility of a Meadowbrook High School.  Then the school district asserted rules about the naming of schools, that they should be named for presidents or for other figures in American history.  Thus the name Nathan Hale, a hero of the American Revolution, was chosen for the high school which opened in September 1963.

The new high school was sited at NE 110th Street closest to the corner of 30th Ave NE.  Other portions of the property were used for parking lots and athletic fields.  Later developments of the site included a community center building and a swimming pool accessed from 35th Ave NE. Continue reading

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Names in the Neighborhood: Chelsea Becomes a School Street

Hugh Benton and Victor Palmer were young attorneys who arrived to make their fortunes in Seattle in the early 1900s.  In those days attorneys would often expedite property transactions because the category of real estate agent as a profession had not yet been developed.  Benton & Palmer were successful both in their law practice and in their own investments in the booming Seattle real estate market.

Edwin & Ruth Shidler lived in this home on the same block with Ruth’s parents, the Bentons.

Hugh & Mary Benton settled at 5560 29th Ave NE in the Ravenna neighborhood, where their family grew to seven children.  Hugh’s brother Benjamin lived at 5566.

Adult children of both Benton families occupied nearby houses, such as Hugh & Mary’s daughter Ruth who married Edwin Shidler in 1923 and lived at 5540 29th Ave NE.  Mr. Shidler became well-known in the 1930s as the principal of Maple Leaf School on NE 100th Street.

Over many years time the Benton & Palmer families would become developers of housing near NE 110th Street in today’s Meadowbrook, once called the Chelsea neighborhood.

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