History of Northeast Seattle

Photo credit: Wedgwoodcc.org

The Wedgwood Rock. Photo credit: Wedgwoodcc.org

Northeast Seattle has a long history of inhabitation by Native Americans. The people of what is known today as the Duwamish tribe used to hunt and travel in the region – most specifically the Wedgwood neighborhood.

Northgate used to be an 85-acre marsh and bog where the Duwamish harvested cranberries. They used to maintain the open areas by selective burning every couple of years, preserving the habitat for gaming and foraging.

Charles E. Thorpe was the early settler of Northeast Seattle. He owned a 40-acre tract of land there, where he built a log cabin from the wood of the forest on his land. After more residents and businesses began populating the area in the 1920s, Thorpe sold his property to Seattle University, a Jesuit institution that had planned to move to Northeast Seattle from First Hill. But after the Great Depression and other difficulties, the Jesuits decided in the end not to relocate, and sold the land in 1940 to a man named Albert Balch.

Balch and his partner Maury Seitzer began major development in Northeast Seattle and Wedgwood in particular during World War II. They built 500 homes on 40 acres, which later became the Wedgewood neighborhood of Seattle. They even had their own Volunteer Fire Department with a Ford Model A truck and a pump – many of the firefighters were women because the men were fighting overseas.

A landmark of the area is the Wedgwood Rock, which is 19 feet tall and 75 feet in circumference. It was nearly removed for housing development of the area in the early 1940s, but was eventually protected and remains a feature of the neighborhood to this day.

The Maple Leaf neighborhood was probably named for the Maple Saw Mill that used to run on the Seattle side of northern Lake Washington, or for the maple trees that used to grow in the area. The Northgate Mall was opened in 1950 and was the first regional shopping center that was called a mall. It is technically located within the Maple Leaf neighborhood.

In 1886, the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway was built along what we now know of as the Burke-Gilman Trail. A streetcar line used to follow 14th Avenue NE and the southern edge of Ravenna Park. The Ravenna neighborhood in Northeast Seattle was planned from its early days to be part of the Olmsted Brothers’ plans for parks and streets in Seattle. Ravenna is known for it’s cycling and pedestrian trails, Ravenna Boulevard, and Candy Cane Lane – a one-block section off of the boulevard where residents have decorated their homes and yards for Christmas since 1951.

Many of the various neighborhoods in the Northeast Seattle area became annexed to the city between 1945 and the early 1950s, although Ravenna was annexed much earlier in 1907.

Northeast Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood is home to the oldest and largest P-Patch in Seattle, which was founded on the Picardo farm in the mid-1960s. The Picardos (the “P” in P-Patch) were the farmers of the land from 1922 until 1965.

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