The Northeast Branch Library in Seattle

The Northeast Branch Library has a historical scrapbook telling the story of the library.

In the early 1900s the land area around the Northeast Branch Library at 6801 35th Ave NE was owned by Marvin & Isabella Jones, who wanted to share their wealth by giving portions of their land for use of charities and community organizations.

Although Mr. & Mrs. Jones were no longer living by the time that the library opened in 1954, if they had been living they would have been glad to see the establishment of such a wonderful neighborhood resource as a library.

This blog post will tell about the creation of the Northeast Branch Library and what the area was like before the library, in the early 1900s during the land ownership of Marvin & Isabella Jones.

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Remembering Shearwater: Cynthia’s Story

The Wedgwood neighborhood is only a mile-and-a-half from the (former) Naval Air Station at 7400 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle.  There was still so much available land in Wedgwood in the 1940s, so during World War Two a lot of military families came to live in Wedgwood.

Shearwater barracks buildings were on several sites near NE 77th Street and from 40th to 43rd Avenues NE in Wedgwood.  Photo used by permission; do not copy.

In 1945 the Seattle Housing Authority sought a site to build housing for civilian or military workers of the naval base, and they acquired what is now the Decatur School block, and some surrounding blocks around NE 77th Street and 43rd Ave NE.  A complex of barracks buildings with a total of 315 living units was built.  In 1948 the Shearwater Housing in Wedgwood was turned over to the Navy for exclusive use of residence for personnel assigned to the naval base at Sand Point.

This historic event, the military housing era in Wedgwood, is remembered by a Wedgwood resident, Cynthia, who came to Seattle with her parents in 1956 when her father was assigned as a Chief Petty Officer at the Naval Air Station-Seattle.  Here Cynthia tells her story.

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A Plat of Modernist Architecture in Wedgwood

When World War Two ended in 1945 some American cities experienced an economic slump as wartime production ceased.  Seattle continued to prosper in the post-war period because of its industries, including production of airplanes.  After World War Two, Boeing Aircraft in Seattle continued to receive military contracts and Boeing also saw steady growth in commercial airline orders.

After 1945 Albert Balch expanded his house-building efforts over onto the east side of 35th Ave NE in Wedgwood.

The natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, its military connections and its economic opportunities attracted many newcomers after World War Two, including veterans who were ready to start new lives as civilians.  In the post-war period thousands of military veterans married, settled in Seattle and looked for housing suitable to young families.  Wedgwood’s builder, Albert Balch, was ready with new houses for them.

At the beginning of the 1950s Albert Balch, the builder whose original Wedgwood plat gave its name to the neighborhood, was still building some small, traditional-looking houses at accessible price points of about $10,000.  At the same time, Balch was moving forward, test-marketing houses in new architectural forms which might appeal to young families who wanted something more modern.  On 38th Ave NE between NE 82nd to 85th Streets we can see the two types of architectural styles, traditional and modern, which were built on the same block.

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December 2018 in Wedgwood: The Holidays

In December 2018 the Wedgwood neighborhood of northeast Seattle is bright with lights, holiday decorations, charitable giving and local shopping options.  Wedgwood’s walkable business district features great gift ideas and opportunities to share holiday cheer through charitable donations.

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A Plat of Traditional Architecture in Wedgwood

This house at 2740 NE 88th Street was built in 1939, one of the first houses in the new Fir Crest plat. The house is two-bedrooms, one bathroom.

After Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered an increase in military preparedness in the USA.  This directly affected the Seattle area due to its nearby military bases and production of war-related materials like airplanes.  For these reasons, industries began to hire more workers and Seattle started to pull out of the long economic depression of the 1930s.   Real estate developers also began to see a demand for more housing as the population of Seattle began to increase.

A “plat” means any area of land for which there is a map of streets with lots marked for houses or other buildings.  One plat of houses in northeast Seattle which began to be built in 1939 was called Fir Crest, built by M.W. Mylroie.  The name “Wedgwood” had not yet been invented for this area of northeast Seattle because developer Albert Balch had not yet begun his group of houses which eventually gave their name to the neighborhood.

2702 NE 89th Street shows how the houses in the Fir Crest plat are set deeply in wooded lots.

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William Strickler in Early Seattle

When I (Valarie) was growing up and attending Wedgwood School in northeast Seattle, city and state history was part of the curriculum of fourth grade.  That was when I first heard the amazing stories of “the pioneers,” Seattle’s first white settlers including the members of the extended Denny family.

The Dennys made an incredible journey of courage as they left their homes in 1851 and launched out into the unknown.  They traveled across the USA in a wagon train to come to a place which had no name: what is now the city of Seattle.

One of my interests is in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  In exploring Fremont’s vibrant history, I learned the name of the original homestead claimant, William A. Strickler.  He filed a land claim in 1854 for the area which is now the main business district of Fremont and the Fremont Bridge over the ship canal, which used to be only a small stream.  I learned that Strickler disappeared in 1861 and no one ever found out what happened to him.

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Neighborhood Beginnings of Fremont in Seattle: William Strickler’s Homestead Claim

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle is located at the northwest corner of Lake Union. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

The history of the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle is unique in that the future-Fremont land was tied up in legal problems so that no one lived there until 1888.  Then, with investors and promoters advertising the first one hundred lots to be sold for $1 each, in the summer of 1888 there was a land rush of businesses and residents to take advantage of the opportunity to settle in Fremont.

Fremont’s naming was unique in that it was named like a suburb, because it was still outside of the City of Seattle boundaries as of 1888.  It wasn’t long, however, until Fremont’s vigorous community leaders applied to join the City of Seattle, which they did in 1891.

Before Fremont received its jump-start as a vital new neighborhood in 1888, Fremont’s land-claim history went back to the settlers who were Seattle’s eager land-seekers in the 1850s.

This blog started out in 2012 to be about the history of the Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle.  Over the years as I (Valarie) have participated in other neighborhood history projects, I began posting those writings here.  Go to “Fremont” in the Categories tab on the right margin of this page to find all that I have written about the Fremont neighborhood in Seattle.

The content of this article is protected under a Creative Commons Copyright.  Do not copy text or photos without permission.

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