Fremont Drug Company in Seattle, Part One: Beginnings

Looking southward from Second & Cherry Streets in July 1889, we see tents set up for businesses in the burned-over downtown district. Photo courtesy of MOHAI.

In the 1880s the City of Seattle had been growing slowly and was only the second-largest city in Washington Territory, after Walla Walla.  At the end of that decade, Seattle experienced a growth spurt from an unexpected source:  a major fire in its downtown business district.  Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, caused the rebirth of the city.  The post-fire rebuilding boom made Seattle the most populous city in Washington, a position which it has never lost since then.

The Great Fire did not reached the residential hillsides surrounding downtown Seattle.  After the Fire the residential areas began to grow as new people streamed into Seattle to get work in the reconstruction-of-downtown building boom.  Fremont was one of the neighborhoods which grew with the population growth of Seattle.

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The Naming of Seattle

Along with the story of the naming of Seattle’s downtown streets, here on this blog I have also explored ways to find out the meaning of street names outside of the downtown area.

The origins of the naming of the City of Seattle are still being debated today.  Was Seattle first called “Duwamps?”  I (Valarie) am re-posting here, an excellent article by Seattle historian Rob Ketcherside, which explores the origins of Seattle’s naming.

US topographical map t1406 of Duwamish Bay

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Doctors and Drugstores in Early Fremont, Seattle

In 1894 Ross and Fremont were shown as place names with railroad stops. The ship canal had not yet been built but there was a creek called The Outlet from Lake Union, flowing westward.

The story of Seattle’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889, was widely publicized in national newspapers, including the response of Seattle leaders who pulled together immediately to commence rebuilding the downtown business zone.

Across the USA people recognized the opportunity to get in on the reconstruction boom, and soon people of many different skills, from carpenters to real estate investors, began arriving in Seattle.  New doctors arrived in the city, too, and businessmen with services to offer such as drugstores, meat markets and groceries.

The suburb of Fremont had been founded just a year before Seattle’s Great Fire and was out of range of the fire.  Fremont’s industries, including a lumber mill, iron foundry and construction materials company, boomed with business in the post-fire City of Seattle rebuilding program.  Fremont also acquired new doctors and drugstores in 1889-1890 to serve the resident population.

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The Canney Family and the Lake Union Presbyterian Church

The Fremont neighborhood of Seattle is located at the northwest corner of Lake Union, which Seattle’s early-arriving white settlers recognized as an ideal location for industries such as sawmills.

In 1888 Fremont’s developers began sales of lots from this real estate sign at about the present site of the Fremont Bridge. Photo courtesy of UW Special Collections, Asahel Curtis Item 482.

Even though the future-Fremont site was the 1854 homestead claim of William A. Strickler, settlement of this advantageous land area was delayed by legal problems until 1888.

Finally when the new Seattle suburb was named Fremont and was opened up for settlement in 1888, there was a land rush of buyers wanting to obtain lots.  In order to help get the new community going, the real estate agents offered residential lots at the price of $1 to the first one hundred buyers.

Along with residences and businesses, a minister was one of the first to buy property in the new Fremont development.  Rev. Albert Canney was a church-planter employed by the office of the Presbyterian churches of Seattle.  Rev. Canney purchased a site for a future church building in Fremont on North 36th Street at the northeast corner of 1st Ave North.

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Freedom in Fremont: An Early Gas Station in Seattle

In the early 1900s nationalist fervor built up in Europe until the tensions exploded into the First World War from 1914 to 1918.  When Germany declared war on Russia, it set off power struggles within that country which ended Russia’s Romanov dynasty and led to even more political and social upheaval.  Vladimir Lenin claimed to be leading a “workers revolution,” but he seized power and became dictator of the world’s first communist country, the Soviet Union.

Lenin speaking at a rally in 1919

In Seattle after the First World War there was some economic instability and social unrest such as the Seattle General Strike in February 1919.  In this centennial year of the Seattle General Strike, the event is being re-examined as to its causes, course, and conclusion.  Some believe that the Strike was triggered in part by news of the “workers revolution” in Russia.  Unfortunately for Russia, the so-called “power to the people” movement devolved into nothing more than another oppressive regime, led by Lenin.

Despite some turmoil in Seattle in 1919, free enterprise prevailed.  One of the key factors in overcoming oppression is the freedom to make one’s own choices of work and other opportunities.  In Seattle in the 1920s immigrants could take hold of the American Dream by owning their own businesses.  One such example of immigrant success was the Fremont Tire Shop at 3526 Fremont Place North, in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.  The business was established by two Norwegian men.

The content of this article is protected under a Creative Commons Copyright.  Do not copy text or photos.

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Wedgwood and the Inaugural Day Storm of 1993

It was January 20, 1993, the day of the inauguration of incoming president Bill Clinton, and I was watching the ceremony and events of the day on TV. 

Wedgewood Estates apartments looking eastward along NE 77th Street. At left is the scarlet oak tree at the corner of 38th Ave NE.  Photo by Valarie, October 2018.

I lived in an apartment on the NE 77th Street side of the Wedgewood Estates complex.  As the day went on, I could see outside that the branches of trees were waving wildly as the wind blew stronger and stronger.  Suddenly with a bang, the wind caught the open window of my upstairs neighbors’ apartment.  The window frame swung outward and back again against the building, shattering the glass. I went outside to look, and then I heard more cracking sounds coming from the corner of NE 77th Street and 37th Ave NE.

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Centennial of the Seattle General Strike of 1919

The Labor Archives of Washington will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Seattle General Strike with a series of events in coming weeks and in an exhibit on the University of Washington campus.

There will be book readings, documentary films, a bus tour and live performances and presentations at several locations from January 16th through February 9th, 2019.

This information was written by Peter Kelley of the University of Washington news blog, which I am re-posting here.

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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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