Wallingford: A small town nestled in the big city

Crispy home-fried potatoes drew Paul Spitalny to Wallingford.

He moved to Seattle a dozen years ago and found a dearth of restaurants that served the type of country-style, crispy potatoes fried with onions that he enjoyed at East Coast restaurants. Then he found the landmark restaurant Julia's — and its home fries — in Wallingford.

Spitalny recently bought a house in Wallingford that he is fixing up.

Wallingford — roughly bordered by Stone Way North to the west, I-5 to the east, Lake Union to the south and Woodland Park and Green Lake to the north — draws people for many reasons beyond its culinary delights.

Wallingford's main commercial area, North 45th Street, runs east-west through the center of the neighborhood.

Residents who live to the north have a short walk to Green Lake.

Those to the south have hilltop views of the Seattle skyline and Lake Union and are close to Gas Works Park.

The businesses along North 45th Street represent a mixture of fun and practicality.

Shoppers can take care of daily errands at landmark businesses such as Swanson Shoe Repair and Tweedy & Pop Ace Hardware. They browse an eclectic mix of gift shops, including Open Books: A Poem Emporium and Hawaii General Store & Gallery. Myriad ethnic restaurants, Afghan and Malaysian among them, line the street.

The marquee at the Landmark Guild 45th movie theater brings a little humor to the main street.

"There are a number of one-of-a-kind places on the block," said Joey Manson, retail manager at Seattle Stained Glass, who describes Wallingford as a "pretty relaxed and earthy" part of Seattle.

Tweedy & Pop is one of those one-of-a-kind places. Inside, customers come in search of light bulbs and telephone cords, paint brushes and garden rakes.

At the store one recent morning, Deb Sampson, a 25-year resident of Wallingford, said she loved that she could walk around the neighborhood so easily.

"It's a very urban environment, and it has what an urban environment has to offer," Sampson said. "But why we really like Wallingford is that it feels like a neighborhood."

Denise Goulet loved the homes in the neighborhood, mainly modest-sized bungalows built in the early 1900s.

A lower-level basement apartment provides rental income.

In 1994, she built a top-level addition that provides views of Lake Union and the Space Needle.

"In the summer, I go out on the deck, and I love to sip a cup of coffee and look at the water," Goulet said.

One of the only things out of reach for many is the housing prices in Wallingford. The small bungalows that were an affordable-housing alternative when they were originally built in the early 1900s now sell for more than $500,000.

Sandy Fujioka, who rents in Wallingford, visited an open house one recent Sunday. She grew up in Seattle and recently moved back from Hawaii.

"I was looking for something that was central but felt like a neighborhood," Fujioka said. "If I were to buy, this would be the ideal neighborhood for me."


Population: about 18,000

Schools: Wallingford is served by the Seattle Public School District, the largest in the state.

Housing: There are 8,835 residential units in Wallingford. Of those, 4,046 (45.8 percent) are owner-occupied. The rest — 4,789, or 54.2 percent — are renter-occupied.

Nearby medical centers:

• Bastyr Center for Natural Health, 1307 N. 45th St., Seattle

• University of Washington Medical Center 1959 N.E. Pacific St., Seattle

• Swedish Medical Center/Ballard 5300 Tallman Ave. N.W., Seattle

Shopping: Wallingford's business district extends along North 45th Street from Stone Way North east to Sunnyside Avenue North and features many restaurants, about a hundred small shops, two banks, a pharmacy, a few taverns and bars, two movie theaters and Wallingford Center.

Public parks, playgarounds:

• Gas Works Park — 2101 N. Northlake Way

• Wallingford Playground — 4219 Wallingford Ave. N.

• Meridian Playground — 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N.

• Woodland Park — also the Woodland Park Rose Garden and the Woodland Park Zoo, Aurora Avenue North and North 59th Street

Seattle Times staff researcher Miyoko Wolf