Street Clocks in Seattle

Benton’s Jewelers street clock was located at 3216 NE 45th Street just east of the Union Bay Place intersection.

In May 2020 a street clock called Benton’s Jewelers was removed from its location, packed and sent for restoration.

The clock at 3216 NE 45th Street was located east of the University Village shopping center and east of the five-way Union Bay Place NE intersection.  The clock had originally been on the sidewalk in front of Benton’s Jewelers on University Way NE, and moved with the company to the Union Bay Place location in 1986.  This was the only remaining street clock originally associated with a jewelry store in northeast Seattle.

In May 2020 the Benton’s Jewelers street clock was removed by a professional clock restoration service.  The clock-servicing company will give the Benton’s Jewelers clock a needed rehabilitation and will bring the clock back into to working order again.

Benton’s Jewelers street clock. The buildings in the background are gone now.

The Benton’s Jewelers clock was removed for safety reasons because the clock is now in a construction zone.  The new owners of the clock received approval from the Seattle Landmarks Board to store the clock and bring it back to its location when construction of a new building on the site is completed.

The journey of the Benton’s Jewelers street clock represents the changes in the Seattle business environment over the past one hundred years.  In the 1920s street clocks were a signal of jewelry stores which also did watch repair, most prominently in downtown Seattle.

Business pressures as well as changes in the built environment caused Seattle street clocks to move from one location to another along with the owners, then fall into disuse when businesses closed.  Benton’s Jewelers closed in 2008, just short of the hundredth anniversary of the company.  The Benton family retained ownership of the clock until purchase of it by the company which is redeveloping the entire block just east of Union Bay Place NE.

In May 2020 the Benton’s Jewelers street clock was removed for restoration. Photo courtesy of the Laurelhurst Blog.

The Benton’s Jewelers street clock is in a block of now-demolished small buildings, including a beloved Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at the point of the triangular-shaped block at the intersection of Union Bay Place NE.  The new owner of the block will build a type of business new to the neighborhood, a large senior-care residence.

Since Seattle street clocks are protected under a historic landmarking ordinance, the owner applied to the Seattle Landmarks Board for approval to remove, restore, and re-set the Benton’s Jewelers clock in place when the new building is finished in the year 2022.

Part of the historic landmarking ordinance for Seattle’s street clocks is the requirement that clocks be placed in public view.  At the new senior residence at Union Bay Place NE, there are plans to set the street clock in the outdoor courtyard entryway of the building.

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Autumn Season 2020 in Wedgwood

Autumn 2020 in Wedgwood in northeast Seattle is bright with colorful trees. The arterial 35th Ave NE is lined with flame ash trees from the center of the neighborhood at NE 85th Street, northward to where 35th Ave NE merges with Lake City Way NE at NE 137th Street.

Looking southward along 35th Ave NE, we see Fiddler’s Inn at the corner of NE 94th Street and the flame ash trees which line the arterial. At right is Wedgwood’s Fire Station 40. Photo by Valarie.
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The Rosaia Family in Wedgwood

Immigrants are the lifeblood of America, bringing energy, enthusiasm and enterprise to their adopted land.  On this blog I have highlighted some stories of immigrants who settled in Wedgwood in northeast Seattle and who became active participants in the neighborhood.  This blog post will tell about the Italian-American family who founded Rosaia Brothers Florists in Seattle.

Ray Giusti & his wife Laura Rosaia were first-generation Italian-Americans and in the 1920s they were the first Rosaia family members to move to Wedgwood.  They joined the neighborhood’s log cabin Catholic chapel.  By the 1950s Ray & Laura had seen their parish grow into the present Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.  By the 1950s Laura’s siblings had also become residents of Wedgwood.

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Van Doren in Washington Territory

When we think of the pioneer white settlers of Washington Territory, we are referring to those who came before statehood in 1889.  We assume that these adventurers were young single men out to make their fortune or young families seeking land claims and the opportunity to grow with the Territory.

Van Doren’s Landing at a bend in the Green River at Kent, Washington.

There are some notable exceptions to the typical “young pioneers” storyline.  Some men and women age 50+ were bold and energetic enough to start new lives on the frontier of the Pacific Northwest.  One of these exceptional older adventurers was Cornelius Marshall Van Doren who was 56 years old when he arrived in the Territory in 1871, along with his wife Delia, age 54.

The Van Dorens traveled with two adult children, son G.M. and his wife Amanda, and the Van Doren’s daughter Louisa and Louisa’s husband George W. Ward, age 33.  The three couples left what appeared to be prosperous and settled lives in Illinois, and they traded this in for the adventure of new lands and unknown challenges.

This blog article will outline the activities of C.M. Van Doren when he became an active community member in Kent, Washington, about sixteen miles southeast of Seattle.  At the end of this article we will briefly note his land claims which included part of what is now the Lake City neighborhood in northeast Seattle.  We don’t know why Van Doren bought this northeast Seattle property in 1871; perhaps he simply held it as an investment like a savings account, which he hoped would grow in value.

The origins of Lake City in Seattle go back to this 1871 land claim of Van Doren’s, but it would be many more years before a community grew up in remote northeast Seattle.

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The Minnie Kraus Plat in Northeast Seattle

Minnie Kraus was a young woman who made a real estate investment in northeast Seattle in 1918, filing a plat which she named after herself.  A “plat” is a section of land, any size, for which a map of streets and house lots is laid out.

Minnie Kraus portrait in the Broadway High School yearbook of 1911.

Minnie was 24 years old in that year of 1918 and she was in the first generation of young women in Washington State who could vote in elections, as of 1910.  “Universal womens suffrage” finally came throughout the USA on August 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified.  This changed the Constitution to guarantee all women across the USA the right to vote.  Most American women voted for the first time in the presidential election of 1920.

During her lifetime Minnie experienced extremes in society’s expectations and demands of women.  During war years it was thought to be OK for women to take up jobs in the absence of men who had gone into the military.  During times of economic depression such as the 1930s, some women were laid off because Washington State employment policy favored male heads of households; it was thought that married women should keep house and let men be wage earners.

As of 1918 when she filed a plat of land for income from real estate, Minnie was part of a movement to show that women were not weak or fragile, arguments which had been used by people opposed to granting voting rights for women.  Minnie fit the profile of the “new American woman” who was well-educated and independent.  Minnie worked at a job outside the home and she even drove a car.

Minnie’s two sisters never married and they became teachers, a traditional job for women, but Minnie followed a nontraditional path of continuing to work at an office job and real estate sales even after she got married.  Perhaps Minnie named her land investment after herself to show that she stood behind her sales, that the opportunity to buy house lots in her plat was a good investment.

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The Stairways of Wedgwood

The City of Seattle’s geological formation looks as though a glacial hand pressed into the land like cookie dough.  There are valleys across Seattle and north-south-running ridges as though the dough oozed up between the fingers of the hand.  For this reason Seattle is a city of hills and sharp drop-offs where in some places streets could not be put through because of the steep grade.

To get through where there are no streets, Seattle has hillside stairways for pedestrians.  Seattle has more than 660 outdoor stairways which are built and maintained by the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation.

Blaine Street Steps with Streissguth Gardens at the top. Photo by Cary Simmons.

Some of Seattle’s most well-known stairways are on its steepest hills, Capitol Hill and Queen Anne.

The Howe Street Stairs on Capitol Hill start at the intersection of 10th Ave East & East Howe Street, and contain 388 steps down to Lakeview Blvd East.  This stairway was built in 1911 and it is believed to have been done so that people could reach a streetcar line on the arterial street.

The Blaine Street Stairs, which are parallel with Howe Street, contain 293 steps.  The Blaine Street Stairs pass through Streissguth Gardens on the hillside.  Hilltop vantage points from both sets of steps, Howe Street and Blaine Street, reward the climber with spectacular views.

Like Capitol Hill, Queen Anne Hill was one of Seattle’s earliest residential neighborhoods.  It acquired its name in the 1880s-1890s because of its many Victorian/Queen Anne style houses.  This hill has had many beautification projects such as creation of boulevards and outlooks for the view southward to downtown Seattle and westward out over Elliott Bay.

Queen Anne’s Wilcox Wall, built 1913-1915, is actually a retaining wall with stairs built into it.  It extends between 7th and 8th Avenues West and includes the Marshall Park Viewpoint.  The Queen Anne Historical Society has a map of all of the pedestrian stairways on the hill (see source list below.)

Wilcox Wall on Queen Anne Hill was built in 1913-1915.


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Along the Road: the Evolution of 35th Ave NE

From early years Wedgwood in northeast Seattle was a car-centric neighborhood because of the lack of other transportation options.  Streetcar lines never reached Wedgwood, and there was no city bus service because the neighborhood was outside of the Seattle City Limits.  Some people in northeast Seattle had cars from as early as 1910 so that they could drive to work.

In current times some people are commuting by bicycle on streets which were originally built only for car traffic.

The population of the (future) Wedgwood really began to grow after construction of Seattle’s ship canal and bridges to cross it, especially the University Bridge.

The University and Montlake bridges made it possible to live in northeast Seattle and drive downtown to work, which caused northeast Seattle to have an increasing number of residents with cars in the 1920s.

Thirty-fifth Ave NE started out as a dirt path, was paved and arterialized in 1934, and has evolved into a busy street with multiple lanes.  Until recent years 35th Ave NE was completely car-oriented although it did have sidewalks for pedestrians.  As of 2019 bike lanes were created on 35th Ave NE and cars and bicyclists were asked to share the roadway.

Today, neighborhood activists are still advocating for a vibrant commercial district along the arterial heart of Wedgwood.

Copyright notice:  The text and photos on this article are protected under a Creative Commons Copyright.  Do not copy without permission.

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Annexed Cities

Wedgwood banner cartoon by Bob Cram, Wedgwood Community Council Newsletter of March 1996.

One of the most common questions I receive on my blog is about the Seattle City Limits and on what date different areas came into the city.

Some neighborhoods of Seattle such as Ballard and Ravenna started out as separate cities but they found, over time, that they were not able to keep up with the need to have utilities such as water and electricity, and the need of improvements such as roads.

I have written a blog article about how the Wedgwood neighborhood came into the city limits.  Annexation of the northeastern areas including Wedgwood, occurred gradually over the 1940s to 1950s with separate sections voting themselves in at different times.  It was a controversial process with some people resisting because they thought that coming into the Seattle City Limits would not benefit them.

The northern portion of Wedgwood (north of NE 85th Street) and areas up to 145th Street, including Lake City, were among the last to be included with the final annexation taking effect in 1954.

The Seattle Municipal Archives has a map of annexations and a list of the dates of annexations.   I am posting the SMA’s essay and info here:

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Life and Legacy in Wedgwood in the 1930s: the Hentschell Family

The University Bridge as it looked in February 1932. Photo 5441, Seattle Municipal Archives.

The Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle was never reached by a streetcar system, and the area remained outside of the City Limits until the 1940s-1950s.

Up until after the end of World War Two in 1945, the (future) Wedgwood area was semi-rural with scattered houses and no commercial district.

Northeast Seattle was hard to reach until after the ship canal was completed in 1917.  After bridges were built across the ship canal, roads extended out northward from there.  It might seem surprising that so many people in northeast Seattle owned cars in the early days of the 1920s-1930s, but they did, and they drove to work.

The University Bridge (built 1919) and the Montlake Bridge (1925) led to population growth in northeast Seattle because people were now able to live farther out in the less expensive northern areas of the city and drive across the bridges to work in downtown Seattle.

Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

The Hentschell family were among those who moved out to the (future) Wedgwood neighborhood in northeast Seattle in the 1930s, leaving behind the conveniences of the city in order to find an affordable place to live.

The Hentschells became active contributors to the life of the neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s.  The neighborhood had not yet acquired an identity as “Wedgwood” but among other neighborhood activities, a Catholic parish was in formation.

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Binek’s Electric Bakery, a Beloved Business in Wedgwood in the 1950s

High school graduation portrait of John Binek of Minnesota

During the World War Two years of the 1940s the population of Seattle swelled with military and with civilian workers. People left other states in the USA to come to Seattle and get jobs in wartime industries such as Boeing Aircraft. People used to joke that some states such as Minnesota and the Dakotas had emptied out because it seemed that the entire population had relocated to Seattle.

So it was that the Binek family of Minnesota made a migration to Seattle in the 1940s.  Eldest son John Binek, a restaurant owner, joined the Army and was stationed out of a Seattle-area military base.  John’s widowed father thought it would be advantageous to start a new life in Seattle, and he brought some of his other young adult children to Seattle, as well.

John Binek’s father settled on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill and opened a bakery at 3207 West McGraw Street in a newly-built block of storefronts.  Binek’s Bakery prospered in this commercial district.

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