Then & Now: Looking East at the corner of 8th Ave NW and Market Street

The black & white photo, courtesy the Seattle Municipal Archives, shows the intersection of 8th Ave NW and Market Street in August 1955.

The “Then” photo was taken to record the completion of the Market Street widening project. The project expanded Market Street and connected it to North 46th Street. On the right side of the photo you can see Moss Grocery and the homes that once lined the south-side of the intersection.

In the “Now” photo, Shell Service Station sits on the parcel once home to Moss Grocery and Ballard Mandarin Restaurant is on the left side. This same restaurant was once home to Inn Binn Restaurant, a wonderful family owned eatery that served amazing pot-stickers.

Market and 8th - Aug 1955 Then and Now - Market and 8th

Then & Now – Market Street Widening

Updated: 09/29/2017

In 1903, the Seattle Parks Commissioners hired the famed Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm to design a comprehensive system of parks and boulevards for the city. West 55th Street was once part of the city wide boulevard system created by the Olmstead Brothers. Creation of the boulevard was intended as the western approach to the Woodland Park Zoo.

The western approach to the zoo was never fully realized, and as the NW corner of Seattle continued to grow there was a very real need for a direct route into downtown. Remember, the trolley tracks had been pulled up for the war effort, and public transportation meant locals were taking the bus.  Seattleites were buying cars at a record rate; easy to finance and gas was cheap.  People wanted roads.    

An east-west highway between Ballard and the University District was studied as early as the 1920s (see map below), but in the mid-1940s discussion was heating up again and the City was preparing to proceed with construction. Neighbors along the route sent petitions of protest against the project. One asserted that the highway “is not whatever needed, since we have our streets and avenues all in sufficient for anybody who wants to travel through that District. If any improvement should respectably seem necessary, such could be established at a trifle of the cost in comparison with this proposed plan with all its burdensome expenses and destruction.”

Another petition claimed that the initial plans for the highway decades earlier “was opposed by the people of the District. The Merchants Improvement Club then was brought to shame for such an unreasonable plan, and promised never to bother us again.” The petition went on to list existing streets that provided a good route up the hill from Ballard to Phinney Avenue, insisting that this project “is really not needed.”

City Engineer C.L. Wartelle responded to the protests with the following:

The protestants appear to be mainly owners of properties which will be affected by the new route and their immediate neighbors. The protest is based upon the assertion that the connection is not needed, existing streets being sufficient, and that hundreds of families will be required to find new homes.

We believe the necessity of this route is obvious to all those who have studied the problem. Some twenty years ago the matter was before the City Council, and the only reason it did not proceed at that time was because no way could be found to finance it. The petitioners state the hundreds of families will lose their homes. There are 36 houses and 3 garages that will have to be taken. Most of the houses can be moved to new sites. It is regrettable that these 36 home owners will be inconvenienced, but there does not seem to be any other recourse.

We would therefore recommend that the condemnation proceed, and the petitioners be so informed.

Construction went forward in 1949 despite the neighbors’ complaints, although current residents might argue with not-so-speedy Market Street being designated a “highway.”

The completion of the Market Street widening project in 1955 allowed for direct access from Ballard into Fremont, Wallingford and beyond. Market Street became a critical commercial thoroughfare and to this day, goods and service continue to travel on this stretch of roadway.

Map of proposed surface and tunnel routes for proposed Ballard-University highway, dated 1929, courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives.

SMA 1591 - Ballard University HWY - Tunnel

Before & After Aerial of Ballard-University Extension:

The & Now - Market Street widening II

The left photo was taken in 1936 and the right photo in 2012. Both are courtesy King County Department of Assessment. When comparing the photos you can see the Market Street spur that now runs diagonal through the neighborhood. Many of the homes that were impacted by this roadways construction were moved to nearby vacant lots, including lots in the West Woodland neighborhood. In a future post I will highlight some of those homes. (Update: See photos here).

To read more about the Olmsted Brothers Park and Boulevard System plan please visit: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/history/

 

Photos of progress – Market Street Spur Construction

The Seattle Engineering Department has an official name for the Market Street spur – the Ballard and University Extension. This east leg of Market Street was completed in 1949 and connected the West Woodland neighborhood to Fremont, Wallingford and beyond. The rest of the Market Street widening project wouldn’t be completed until 1955, but for neighbors using the newly created spur, it made the trip into downtown Seattle fast and efficient.

The photos below are courtesy the Seattle Municipal Archives and show the very west end of the spur from the start of construction until completion in December 1949.

Approximate modern day view HERE.

March 25 1949 with date

Market Street 1 - July 1949

Market street 2 - oct 1949

Market street 3 - Dec 1949

1947 Aerial of the West Woodland Neighborhood

This aerial photo of the West Woodland Neighborhood is dated April 25, 1947 and comes to us courtesy Ron Edge. Thank you so much for this amazing contribution Ron, it is a wonderful gift for the community.

What I love about this photo is the old brick West Woodland Elementary is still standing at the corner of 4th Ave NW & NW 58th Street. The Market Street spur, connecting NW 55th Street to NW 46th Street in Fremont had not yet been constructed and NW 55th Street was still a small two lane neighborhood road.

Aerial from above Ballard to Fremont - West Woodland April 25, 1947 (1)

I have saved the photo to Google Drive so that you can download a high resolution copy and examine closer to truly appreciate this amazing photo! Let me know what you find as you are searching the photo. Link to Photo HERE.  Please note, file size is 16 MB.

Thank you again Ron!

Then & Now – Aerial of West Woodland Elementary

Did you know that a portion of 5th Ave NW is under the West Woodland Elementary School playfield?  It’s true!  After the original brick school was demolished in April 1990 to make way for the new building, the roadway and foundations from homes on the west side of the street were simply buried.

During the Summer of 2013 a ground source heat pump was installed under the playfield and a member of the construction crew shared with me that they needed to drill 80 holes, 300 feet deep for the project, but there had been a few delays. Several of their massive drills had failed as a result of coming into contact with old home foundations, re-bar and other construction debris that was used as fill when this area was covered.

Looks like this stretch of 5th Ave NW doesn’t want to be forgotten.  

WWES - Then - SPS aerial photo

Then & Now - WWES aerial - with markings

The black & white photo was taken in July 1960 and is courtesy Seattle Public Schools. Special thank you to Janet Ness, Archives & Record Management, for sharing this wonderful photo with all of us. In order to create the “now” comparison photo, I used Google Earth.

Do you remember this stretch of 5th Ave NW? Or did you live in one of the homes on the west-side of the street? Share your memories below or to westwoodlandneighbors@gmail.com.

A trip to Hooverville

A little over a year ago, I had a series of phone conversations with Vern Vellat, West Woodland Elementary class of 1941.  During those calls, Vern shared stories about growing up in the West Woodland Neighborhood during the Great Depression.  One of those stories is detailed below.  

WWE class of 1941

West Woodland Elementary School, Class of 1941.  Vern can be found in the last row, second student from the right.  

The stock market crash in October 1929 helped trigger a devastating depression that dominated the Northwest for nearly a decade. The economic downturn gradually affected more and more people.  By the time President Hoover left office in 1933, 13 million people in the United States were unemployed.  Some unemployed became transients, searching for jobs and food.  In Seattle, unemployment was 11% in April 1930, rising to 26% by January 1935. 

shack 1939 seattle municiple archives

Photo of 6th Ave shacks, dated 1939, courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, item #39279

Vern’s family lived at 508 NW 62nd Street in a modest two bedroom home.  During the Depression his sister, her husband, and her children moved in, as well as a neighbor friend who’s father had to leave Seattle in order to find work.  At any given time 12+ people might be calling this address home.  Money was tight, but Vern’s Dad slowly enhanced the home in order to relieve the population pressure.  Vern’s family was not unique in this regard, many families in the neighborhood would “double up” in order to guarantee a roof over their children’s heads during this period.

Verns Family

Photo of Vern Vellat’s Family, date unknown, outside his home at 508 NW 62nd Street.  

On a Sunday in 1933, Vern’s eyes were opened to the extent of unemployment in Seattle. His Dad drove him to ‘Hooverville’, located on the waterfront near the former location of Seattle’s Skinner & Eddy Shipyards (SODO Neighborhood).  Hooverville was littered with shanties, shacks, and shipping crates.  Any reusable building product was conscripted to help make homes for the unemployed.  Trip intent?   Hire a former fellow machinist for two days at $3.00 per diem.  This was considered a bonus rate only given to friends and family.

hooverville king county archives

Photo of Hooverville, dated 1932, courtesy King County Archives, Photo ID: 90.2.1794

Vern shared with me that there were six classmates’ families that had started their own businesses during the Depression.  Hiring was slow and business was slower. Finding a job to pay rent, buy food, and care for your family was paramount.  Several of Vern’s older friends graduated from Ballard High School and immediately signed up for Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  The CCC provided jobs working in National Parks, road construction, and much more.  

Also, three West Woodland Neighborhood Dad’s went to work for Work Progress Administration (WPA).   The WPA work-relief program employed more than 8.5 million people, with an average salary of $41.57 a month, building bridges, roads, public buildings, public parks and airports.  The Seattle WPA was housed in the old Irving School building, located at 14th Ave NW & NW 52nd Street, near Gilman Playground.  The original school building is long gone, this location is now home to the Seattle Gymnastics Academy.  More information about this school can be found HERE.  

East side school - 14th and 52nd street

Photo of Irving School, dated 1938, Courtesy MOHAI, Image No. 24411.  

Businesses on NW 65th came together to help the neighborhood as well. They organized themselves into a group known as the ‘West Woodland Commercial Club’ and would hold monthly meetings at 416 NW 65th Street (now part of the 418 Public House). The club hosted Saturday matinees at the Woodland Theater, two movies would be shown, and during intermission the businesses would give away prizes of food, clothing and coupons for other services. Vern said that each Saturday there would be a long line of people waiting to get into the theater for this event.

Woodland Theater - 1937

Photo of the Woodland Theater, dated 1937, courtesy of the Puget Sound Archives

Stay tuned for future stories from Vern Vellat.  More information about Seattle’s Hooverville can be found HERE.

Happy Annexation Day West Woodland Neighbors!

Welcome to Seattle – West Woodland Neighborhood annexed on May 3, 1891

With the approval of City Ordinance 1695, the frontier district known as “West of Woodland Park” became part of the new and growing City of Seattle. It was 1891 and Washington had just become a state two years prior.  Ballard was still the ‘City of Ballard’ and would be for another 16 years, when they too would join the City of Seattle in 1907.

A Brief History of Seattle Annexations

Seattle was incorporated in 1869, eighteen years after the first white settlers arrived. From these beginnings, Seattle’s population grew to over 80,000 by 1900, tripled in the following decade, and expanded to about 550,000 people by 1960, a number that has remained relatively stable to the present.

Seattle also expanded geographically, from its original territory around Downtown and the Central Area, through a wave of annexations in the early 1900’s that included the suburban towns of Ballard, West Seattle, Columbia, South Park, and Georgetown. Finally with several annexations in the 1940’s and 1950’s that brought in Arbor Heights and areas north of 85th and 65th Streets up to the current city limits at 145th Street.  The full list of annexations is available HERE.

The Original West Woodland Neighbor

While Guy C. Phinney was busy building on Phinney Ridge, Rasmus Peter Jensen was making a name for himself right here in the West Woodland District.

Jensen immigrated to Seattle in 1889, the year Washington became a state, and homesteaded in the West of Woodland Park District.  He built a farm house located near today’s SW corner of NW 60th and 7th Ave NW and opened a general store, Woodland Grocery, Flour & Feed, at the SE corner of NW 60th & 4th Ave NW.  Jensen was also a carpenter by trade and owned a construction business.  He built several homes in the area, including 404 NW 60th Street, which was built about 1891 making it one of the oldest homes in the neighborhood.  Jensen lived in this home until his death on January 9, 1943 at the age of 80.

Jensen married his sweetheart Marie in 1892. In their wedding photo, Jensen wears a formal coat and trousers and Marie wears a dark dress with a shaped bodice and puffed sleeves. At the time, many women still followed the custom of choosing a wedding dress that they could also wear at other times.

Location, Location, Location

The original West of Woodland Park District included the frontier territory north of the old Ross neighborhood (West Fremont/ North Queen Anne), the west-side of Phinney Ridge and, to the west, was bordered by the City of Ballard at today’s 8th Ave NW, formerly Division Avenue.

Until 1907, Division Avenue (8th Ave NW) was the boundary between Ballard and Seattle. As a result, today’s West Woodland neighborhood is part old Seattle and part old Ballard.

McKee’s Correct Road Map of Seattle (1894), courtesy The Seattle Public Library, shows the few roads that were available in the West of Woodland Park District at that time. The city limits (dashed line) include NW 85th Street to the north and Division Avenue (today’s 8th Ave NW) to the west. Access the map HERE.Ballard West Woodland McKees Correct Road map 1894

Interesting sidebar about Greenwood Cemetery, seen at the top of the map. From Diana Wurn (special to the Seattle Times, October 28, 2007), “The commercial center of the (Greenwood) neighborhood is at Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street. But more than a century ago, it was a cemetery, known as Woodland Cemetery… The bodies were moved to Crown Hill Cemetery in 1907.”

A Seattle Times story covered the cemetery closure and relocation of the deceased:  ST – Woodland Cemetery – April 11 1907

West Woodland Today:

Today’s neighborhood map looks a bit different.  Reviewing old voting logs, Seattle Times articles, and city maps shows that our neighborhood boundaries have been fluid over the last 100+ years, and included parts of today’s Whittier Heights, Greenwood, and Phinney Ridge.  Check out the current neighborhood map HERE.

Happy Annexation Day Neighbors!  

Aerial from above Ballard to Fremont - West Woodland April 25, 1947 (1)

This aerial photo above of the West Woodland Neighborhood is dated April 25, 1947 and comes to us courtesy Ron Edge.  16MB file available here.  

Post updated 04/11/2018

Where do you live?

Seattlites love their neighborhoods and for good reason. Seattle is a collection of neighborhoods that have been annexed into the greater city limits over the last 100+ years.  The city expanded geographically, from its original territory around Downtown and the Central Area, through a wave of annexations in the early 1900s, and then several annexations in the 1940’s and 1950’s that brought areas north of 85th and 65th Streets up to the current city limits at 145th Street.  The full list of annexations is available here.

When explaining to people where I live, I first start by saying, “The west side of Phinney” or “The east side of Ballard”.  The neighborhood of West Woodland has been claimed by other neighborhoods since Rasmus Peter Jensen first staked his claim in the late 1800’s. The former Ross Neighborhood in what is now Fremont has a similar experience, often referred to as “FreeLard” a combination of Fremont and Ballard.   ROSS Map

The Ross Neighborhood – far left – is documented on this 1909 City of Seattle map.  

I started my hunt to determine the proper neighborhood name by reaching out to the local historical societies, including Ballard’s. The City of Ballard’s eastern boundary, prior to annexation in 1907, was Division Ave – today 8th Ave NW.

Baist’s Real Estate Map of 1905 shows Division (8th) as the boundary between the City of Ballard and the City of Seattle. Streets west of Division had their own unique names when compared to streets east of Division. The streets east of Division were already numbered and named to correspond with the City of Seattle’s process.

The City of Seattle also has an interactive annexation map available online, showing West Woodland was a part of the North Seattle Annexation of 1891, 16 years before Ballard’s annexation. The North Seattle Annexation included the Greater Green Lake area, Fremont, and Phinney Ridge.

Next time someone asks me, “Where do you live?”, I will tell them, “West Woodland!” and then share the story of one of Seattle’s historic neighborhoods.

City of Seattle Annexation Map

Map of Seattle, created in 1938, showing early annexations.  “Sanitary Survey Land Use Project ” (Record Series 2613-03), courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives.