Wedgwood soon acquired a reputation for his cream-colored earthenware, known as queen's ware, and at the same time produced decorative objects, candlesticks, and vases of a black composition known as basalt or Egyptian stoneware. He also produced a mottled and veined ware in imitation of granite and a translucent, smooth, unglazed semiporcelain. This gave way to his best-known product, jasper ware, best known in a delicate blue with white, cameolike Greek figures embossed upon it (see Portland vase), which has been in continuous production since 1774. He invented and perfected this ware and in it gave expression to the interest of his day in the revival of classical art. He employed the best talent available for his finer pieces, many of which were designed by John Flaxman. Wedgwood's terra-cottas of various hues were made with one color in relief upon another. He produced exquisite wares for many royal and noble patrons, including a dinner service for Catherine the Great. His work is found in many museums and private collections; the Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge, Mass., has an outstanding collection. He also published several pamphlets, and his Address to the Young Inhabitants of the Pottery appeared in 1783. For his invention of a pyrometer for measuring temperatures, Wedgwood was made a fellow of the Royal Society (1783). The extensive potteries he established, which he built into a large, worldwide commercial empire, were perpetuated by his descendants.
See W. Mankowitz, Wedgwood (1953); A. Kelly, The Story of Wedgwood (1962); E. Meteyard, The Life of Josiah Wedgwood (1865, repr. 1970); B. Dolan, Wedgwood: The First Tycoon (2004).
The misspelling Wedgewood is not uncommon—it is used by at least five businesses 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.
The land that formed the original core of Wedgwood, west 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 NE was becoming a thoroughfare with homes and businesses (the first store opened in 1922), the electric (1923), water (1926), 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 in 1929; the congregation grew through the Depression years, although it was served at that time only by 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 the parish of 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 cabin.
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. At the time, the area was north of Seattle city limits (Seattle ended at NE 65th Street). Balch and Seitzer 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 s $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, once known as the Ravenna Swamp. In the 1940s houses stood on part of what is now the playfield; at that time, Picardo Farm was the site contemplated for a park. However, after sewer lines were built along 25th Avenue NE in the late 1940s, houses began sinking in the peat; the city bought them out and turned the land into the "80th Street Playfield". In 1952, the bog caught fire: portions subsided as much as 5 feet (1.6 m), and the park was temporarily closed. Over the next few years, an estimated 75,000 cubic yards (57,000 cubic meters) of peat was replaced by fill dirt, and the park reopened. In 1955, the park was renamed after a former Park Board director, Waldo J. Dahl. In September 1992, the Wedgwood Community Council officially "adopted" the 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.
Mr. & Mrs. Nick Jacklin opened the first store in what is now Wedgwood in 1922, before either electricity or city water reached the neighborhood. The building still survives as the garage of a house in the 7500 block of 35th Avenue NE. That same block was later (1949–1974) home of McGillivray's Variety and Gift Store, whose remarkable range of wares ranged from penny candy, children's clothing and hundreds of different children's birthday cards to "fine collector dolls… in a better selection than… even… the downtown Frederick & Nelson's" and "sequins in every color manufactured".
Half a mile (0.7km) north, McVicar's Hardware Store (1946–1986)—in the space in the 8500 block of 35th Avenue NE that is now dance studio All That Dance—opened shortly after World War II. The shortage of consumer goods right after the war meant that some of their early stock was manufactured on-site from war surplus. Adapting their business to whatever people in the neighborhood wanted to buy, as Wedgwood residents began putting in lawns and gardens, McVicar's sold them the requisite supplies; they sold specialty foods and rented out skis; they were also, for a decade, the only hardware store in the state licensed to sell beer and wine. They ran do-it-yourself clinics on everything from tools to gourmet cooking; in 1954, they were mentioned in a Time magazine article on the do-it-yourself trend.
Today, 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. Near that intersection, a gas station, veterinary office and east-coast style hunan Chinese restaurant and bar reside. 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 dance 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 Doughnuts.
The Musicians Emeritus Symphony Orchestra (MESO), Wedgwood's non-profit community orchestra, was founded in 1971 by Seattle mayor Wes Uhlman. MESO was originally intended specifically for older musicians, and as of 2008, the oldest is 91 years old, but now the orchestra includes players of all ages. Currently MESO rehearses and performs in the Wedgwood neighborhood. Four times a concert season, MESO performs at the University Prep Academy.
Also in Wedgwood are the Messiah Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) on 35th Avenue at 70th Street, Wedgwood Presbyterian Church at NE 80th Street (which also hosts a Korean Presbyterian congregation), Roman Catholic Our Lady of the Lake with the parish school at NE 89th, and Wedgwood Community Church on 30th Avenue at 82nd Street. At the corner of 35th Avenue NE and NE 68th is the University Unitarian Church, a Modernist structure designed by Paul Hayden Kirk.
Wedgwood also hosts a congregation of Mars Hill Church, a multi-campus church with several locations across western Washington. The church meets in a renovated Baptist church originally built in 1952 at 35th Ave NE and NE 95th. Official services began in October 2007.
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 the City Clerk's unofficial borders are accepted, then the landmark Wedgwood Rock, a large -tall boulder at the corner of 28th Avenue NE and NE 72nd Street, lies in the adjoining Ravenna 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 on-line P-I, defines Wedgwood a little differently. While they say the boundaries are NE 95th Street to the north, NE 75th Street to the south, 25th Ave NE to the west and approximately 45th Avenue NE to the west, "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 (NE 94th), 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" further asserts that Wedgwood has always been a middle-class neighborhood, trending toward upper middle, with home sales suggesting that it is currently becoming more of a young family area, as the initial 1940s owners reach the end of their lives and Baby Boomers become retirees. Emblematic of this change, the former McVicar's space, after serving as a full-service bicycle shop 1986–2001, is now All That Dance, one of 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.
The P-I's current "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.
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.