The Wedgwood Rock isn’t exactly a neighborhood gem; the 700-ton rock is too literal for that, too impossibly placed to hide in metaphor. It’s a neighborhood boulder.
Just off 28th Avenue NE in the Wedgwood neighborhood, near NE 72nd Street, you’ll find a massive, 19-feet-high, 80-feet-around boulder known as the Wedgwood Rock. The rock has a storied history, and it is beloved by the locals who keep the area around it clear and sightly.
The rock started its life as a piece of glacial errata deposited here 14,000 years ago by the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet during the Vashon Glaciation. Based on mineral composition analysis, scientists believe it was originally part of Mount Erie, 55 miles north. The rock remained after the ice sheet receded, and thick forests grew up around it. The boulder became a landmark for Native Americans who traveled through the area.
The first known written record of Wedgwood Rock comes from 1881, when it was known as “Lone Rock” (the Wedgwood neighborhood didn’t exist yet!). Lone Rock belonged to a 160-acre farm owned by William Weedin, who hosted picnics at the landmark. An anonymous 1881 letter to the Seattle Daily Intelligencer described the boulder as “a single rock 80 feet (24 m) in circumference and 19 feet (5.8 m) in height, rather oval-shaped, covered with a solid network of moss and interspersed with liquorice, with its graceful fern-shaped foliage hanging in festoons around it.”
The Wedgwood Rock went by a new moniker in the early 20th century: Big Rock. It also found new employment.
The boulder helped members of the Seattle Mountaineers Club practice rock climbing techniques, and it gave Boy Scouts a place to learn the fundamentals of climbing and scrambling. Furthermore, Edmond S. Meany, president of the Mountaineers and a professor at the University of Washington, often brought his students to the rock so they could witness a real-life example of glacial movement and land forms.
The land around the rock remained undeveloped until it was sold in the 1940s to a developer who promised to turn the area into a park. But, much to the frustration of the local residents, the developer broke his promise. Instead of a park, he built a neighborhood.
The newly christened Wedgwood Rock didn’t lose popularity, however. Despite the new houses and roads surrounding it, the rock remained a popular destination for picnickers, UW students, climbers, and 1960s hippies. Public reaction to that last group ultimately ended the rock’s history of climbing lessons. In an attempt to curb the hippies’ perceived drug use, Seattle City Council passed a law in 1970 that made it a crime to climb the rock—punishable by a fine up to $100.
Today, the rock remains an icon of the Wedgwood neighborhood, loved by residents and visitors alike.