Wedgwood is a middle class residential neighborhood of northeast Seattle, Washington, with a modest commercial strip. Wedgwood is located about two miles (3 km) north, and slightly east, of the University of Washington; it is about six miles (10 km) northeast of Downtown. The neighborhood is further typical of Seattle neighborhoods in having more than one name and having different, overlapping, but well-documented definitions of the neighborhood.
The misspelling "Wedgewood" is not uncommon — it is used by five businesses (as against 11 that spell it correctly) and even appears in the unofficial City Clerk's Neighborhood Map Atlas — but the origin and spelling of the name are clear: the neighborhood was named after the English bone china-maker Wedgwood, the favorite of the wife of Albert ("Al") Balch (1903–1976), the developer who named the neighborhood. Balch was also the founder of adjoining View Ridge.
Like all Seattle neighborhoods, Wedgwood has no official or universally agreed-upon borders. The unofficial City Clerk's Neighborhood Map Atlas shows its boundaries as
- bounded on the north by NE 95th Street
- bounded on the east by 45th Avenue NE
- bounded on the south by NE 75th Street
- bounded on the west by a route coming north from NE 75th Street along 25th Avenue NE, then jogging due west along NE 85th Street and snaking up Lake City Way NE to NE 95th Street.
However, NE 75th Street presents no discernable break in the business strip along 35th Avenue NE, which continues south to NE 65th Street; many of the businesses, churches, etc. in these ten blocks identify themselves as being in Wedgwood; some even have "Wedgwood" in their names. If these unofficial borders are accepted, then the landmark Wedgwood Rock, a large 19-foot-tall boulder at the corner of 28th Avenue NE and NE 72nd Street, lies in the adjoining Bryant neighborhood.
Several other well-documented interpretations exist. Among them, "Seattle Neighborhoods" of HistoryLink.org Encyclopedia of Washington State History does not define boundaries for Wedgwood, other than as adjacent to surrounding neighborhoods. Their map suggests Wedgwood is between 25th and 45th avenues, and 75th Street may divide from View Ridge neighborhood.
The "Neighbors" project (1996–2000) of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, currently updated as the "Webtowns" section of the online P-I, defines Wedgwood a little differently. While they say the boundaries are, north to south, NE 95th and 75th streets, west to east 25th and approximately 45th Avenues NE, "Neighbors" defines Wedgwood primarily in terms of a series of businesses and other public spaces on 35th Avenue NE, extending as far south as NE 68th Street: from south to north, the Northeast Library (NE 68th), Rod and Judy Neldam's Grateful Bread bakery (NE 70th), the post office at NE 77th, the Wedgwood Broiler (NE 83rd), Matthew's Red Apple Market (NE 85th, since overtaken by supermarket chain QFC), and finally the Fiddler's Inn Pub (92nd NE), built in 1934, a former dive that was fixed up in the early 1990s. They describe Wedgwood as having more in common with Ballard than with Capitol Hill (which is to say, not particularly hip or trendy), and say that downtown Wedgwood along 35th Avenue NE has a look and feel of a small town main street, for better and worse, as it struggles like Main Streets across the country in the age of malls and Internet shopping.
"Neighbors" Wedgwood has always been a middle class neighborhood, trending toward upper middle, by home sales suggesting a more young family area as the initial Baby Boomer generations become retirees. Until 2001, Wedgwood even had a full service bicycle shop, which made way for a dance studio. All That Dance is now among Seattle's largest dance studios with more than 1,000 students — mostly children, a testament to the changes in the area. Wedgwood has long had an active neighborhood council, one of the most active in Seattle, effectively lobbying in and for the neighborhood, as well as working with the unusually numerous schools in the area (see Community, below).
The contemporary "Webtowns" section has merged Wedgwood and View Ridge with Sand Point and two popular waterfront parks, Sand Point-Magnuson and Matthews Beach Park. "Webtowns" Wedgwood is located between Sand Point Way and a small business district on 35th Avenue NE around NE 75th Street. The neighborhood is described as less expensive, though with respect to Seattle housing prices, the comparison is relative to places with expansive views in tonier adjacent neighborhoods like View Ridge and Sand Point, or high demand like the University District. The dynamic Jewish community with three synagogues in Wedgwood is noted (see Community, below).
National standards long adopted by the Seattle Department of Transportation define minor arterials, in part, as generally along neighborhood boundaries: NE 65th, 75th, and 95th streets, and 35th Avenue. There is also a reasonable argument to be made that the northern boundary of Wedgwood is NE 100th Street as this street coincides with the northern limit of the 98115 ZIP Code.
The area has been inhabited since the end of the last glacial period (c. 8,000 B.C.E.—10,000 years ago). The Dkhw'Duw'Absh, "the People of the Inside", and the xachua'bsh or hah-choo-AHBSH, "People of a Large Lake" or "Lake People", today the Duwamish tribe, Native Americans of the Lushootseed (Skagit-Nisqually) Coast Salish hunted and travelled through what is now Wedgwood. The Wedgwood Rock, a glacial erratic boulder 19 ft tall by 75 ft circumference ( 5.8 m by 23 m) became the intersection of a number of trails through dense, old growth forest that covered what is now Seattle. The neighborhood has adopted Big Rock after it was protected from housing development in 1941.
The land that formed the original core of Wedgwood, east of 35th Avenue NE between 80th and 85th Streets, was at one time a heavily wooded ginseng farm. Charles E. Thorpe had cleared a portion of his 40-acre tract north of the Seattle city limits of the time, building a log cabin from the wood of his own trees. By the 1920s, 35th Avenue was becoming a thoroughfare with homes and businesses, the electric, water, and sewer grids had been extended to the area, and it was becoming too urban for Thorpe's tastes. The Jesuit institution Seattle University paid Thorpe $65,000 for the property, planning to build a new campus there and move north from First Hill. Thorpe left Seattle, never to return.
One month later came the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The Great Depression put the Jesuits plans for the new campus on hold. Thorpe's cabin became St. Ignatius Parish; the congregation grew through the Depression years, although it was served at that time only be visiting priests. By 1940, the Jesuits had decided not to relocate Seattle University, and sold Thorpe's 40 acres to Albert Balch at a loss, for only $22,500, barely a third of what they had paid for the land in 1929.
A Catholic presence remains in the neighborhood: the parish of St. Ignatius became Our Lady of the Lake at its present location on 35th Avenue at 89th Street NE (c. 1961).
When Balch obtained the land from the Jesuits, it was still "completely undeveloped, heavily treed, and with only one structure," Thorpe's log cabin that had become a parish church.
Major development of the neighborhood began during World War II with defense worker housing; initial development was largely by Balch and his partner Maury Seitzer. They built 500 homes on 40 acres (160,000 m², 16 hectares), constituting the center of today's Wedgwood neighborhood. The houses, each of which originally sold for $5,000 ($65,900 in 2005 dollars), currently (as of 2005, 2006) all go for upwards of $300,000 ($22,800 in 1941 dollars); many (albeit with updating and often with further improvements and extensions) go for as much as $450,000.
The large P-Patch Community Garden near the west edge of the neighborhood, and the adjoining University Prep School and Temple Beth Am (Reform synagogue) are on land that remained a working farm as late as 1965. Wedgwood has Seattle's oldest and largest P-Patch (mid-1960s); as of 2005, there are now 52 others. The "P" originally stood for "Picardo", the family that farmed the land (1922-1965). Just south of the old Picardo farm is Dahl Playfield. Like the P-Patch, it is former peat bog land, although a drainage system makes it less of a bog. At one time there were houses on part of what is now the playfield, but when they began sinking in the peat, the city bought them out and turned the land into a park.
The Wedgewood [sic] Estates apartment complex on NE 75th Street between 37th and 39th avenues NE was purchased by the Seattle Housing Authority in 2001 in an effort to preserve a supply of moderately priced housing in this part of Seattle.
There is a shopping district along 35th Avenue NE, with concentrations of stores at NE 75th Street and NE 85th Street, including a supermarket at each of these corners; a lesser concentration near NE 95th Street includes the Fiddler's Inn bar, a live music venue, one of relatively few this far from the center of the city. The Wedgwood Broiler is a quintessential '50s American style neighborhood restaurant and bar. And while 35th NE doesn't rise to the level of having "street life", it does have a good smattering of businesses, including numerous banks, a U.S. Post Office, coffee shops, restaurants, several popular bars, a ballet school, a dry cleaner, the Seattle branch of the Audubon Society, miscellaneous medical offices, and a variety of retail stores, mostly independent.
On NE 68th Street, just south of what the city unofficially defines to be Wedgwood proper is the Seattle Public Library North East Branch, the largest neighborhood branch and the second-busiest public library, second only to the Seattle Central Library. At NE 70th Street is the Grateful Bread Cafe, a bakery-coffeehouse that sometimes hosts live music and community events; and Seattle-based Top Pot Donuts.
Wedgwood, as defined by the unofficial city map, includes the public Wedgwood Elementary School (Kindergarten–5th grade), Seattle Jewish Community School, Roman Catholic Our Lady of the Lake Parish School, K-8, and University Preparatory Academy (University Prep), 6–12. Of these, perhaps the most notable are University Prep, one of Seattle's leading secular preparatory schools, and the Seattle Jewish Community School, which attempts to bridge the various streams of Judaism, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc. in a single elementary school. The public Eckstein Middle School, 6th grade–8th grade, is immediately south of the Concordia Lutheran School (a Christian K-8 school) across NE 75th Street.
Wedgwood and the adjoining View Ridge and Bryant neighborhoods constitute one of the three centers of Seattle's Jewish community, along with Seward Park and the suburb of Mercer Island; besides the Jewish Community School, Wedgwood has a Reform synagogue and a branch of the Stroum Jewish Community Center (the main part being on Mercer Island); a Conservative synagogue and two Orthodox synagogues (one of them associated with Chabad Lubavitch) are in walking distance, though outside of the city's unofficial boundary for the neighborhood. Nonetheless, Jews constitute less than 10% of the neighborhood's population.
Also in Wedgwood are the Messiah Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) on 35th Avenue at 70th Street, Wedgwood Presbyterian church at 80th Street that also hosts a Korean Presbyterian congregation, and Roman Catholic Our Lady of the Lake with the parish school at 89th.
Wedgwood Community Council