The Wallingford neighborhood is located on a hill overlooking the north shores of Lake Union and is roughly bounded by Interstate 5 to east, Lake Union to the south, Stone Way North and Aurora Avenue North to the west, and N and NE 55th and 56th streets to the north. Wallingford was largely shaped by transportation connections due in part to its location between key early communities on the north side of Seattle—Ballard to the west and the University of Washington to the east—as well as its close proximity to north-south routes connecting downtown Seattle with cities, and later its other suburbs to the north.
The area that would become Wallingford was largely wooded until the late nineteenth century, when initial development began primarily along the northern shores of Lake Union. The lake's waterfront was cleared of timber by 1887, with many of the hills further north were cleared by 1890. Non-industrial development (i.e., residences and commercial buildings) extended north from the lake, but still within close proximity to the shoreline. Soon several small communities, such as Edgewater and Latona, emerged near the northern shores of the lake, particularly after the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad connected the lake to communities to the west and downtown via a trestle bridge in 1887. A large area north of the city, including what would become Wallingford, was incorporated within the City of Seattle in 1891. This annexation initiated a significant amount of platting activity between Lake Union and Green Lake although development did not immediately follow. By 1890 the area that would become Wallingford was considered affordable in comparison to prices in the Queen Anne and Capitol Hill neighborhoods. A 1900 advertisement of real estate for sale indicated an entire block of 20 lots in the historic district's Lake Union 2nd Addition were priced at $1,200 while just two lots in Queen Anne were listed for $1,100. Three lots near 20th Avenue and E Madison Street on Capitol Hill were listed as "cheap" for $750. Developers jumped at the low prices and blocks quickly sold for their future investment potential.
Streetcar line development in and through the area, following early plats, stimulated additional platting and the actual residential and commercial development within the plats. Real estate prices also increased with streetcar access. Development in the early 1900s only increased as the University of Washington campus to the east of Wallingford was selected as the location for a world's fair in 1909, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The streetcar line that ran along NE 40th Street, south of the district, provided direct access to the fair and increased the number of residents and visitors passing through Wallingford on their way to the fair. Industrial development along the northern shores of Lake Union also pushed residential development further north as the Seattle Gas Light Company established its Lake Union facility in 1906 and a canal was dredged connecting Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Puget Sound beginning in 1911. During the 1910s, as the full channel was opened for ship traffic in 1917 reshaping development along the neighborhood's south edge, residential development in the historic district reached peak levels. The opening of the canal transformed Lake Union into a boatbuilding and marine industry center. Some of those who lived in Wallingford and the historic district worked in these lake-based industries, according to the census data.
Adapted from: Katie Pratt, co-founder; Spencer Howard, co-founder, Northwest Vernacular, Inc., Wallingford-Meridian Historic District, nomination document, 2022, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
55th Street North • 55th Street Northeast • 56th Street North • 56th Street North • Aurora Avenue North • Stone Way North