Island Drive S

There are only a handful of islands within Seattle city limits, and of them just one — Harbor Island — is large enough to have streets on it. But Island Drive S isn’t on Harbor Island — rather, it’s along the shore of Lake Washington, 5½ miles to the southeast. What gives?

As it turns out, Island Drive once was on an island — Pritchard Island. Known as tleelh-chus (‘little island’) by the Duwamish tribe, it was bought in 1900 by Alfred J. Pritchard (grandfather of Joel Pritchard, who was a congressman from Washington state in the 1970s and 1980s and its lieutenant governor in the 1980s and 1990s). In 1916, Lake Washington was lowered by 9 feet as part of the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, and Pritchard’s island became part of the mainland.

It’s still known as Pritchard Island, though. Today, Pritchard Island Beach, Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, and Be’er Sheva Park separate the island from the mainland.

Occidental Avenue S

Occidental Avenue S, which begins at Yesler Way in Pioneer Square, is one of those Seattle streets whose names extend into the suburbs. It makes its southernmost appearance at S 197th Street in Des Moines.

It received its name in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming — it had originally been S Second Street. It once had a partner, Oriental Avenue, to the east (originally S Fourth Street), which is today 3rd Avenue S. “Oriental,” of course, means “Eastern,” as “Occidental” means “Western.” (I haven’t been able to determine just when Oriental Avenue became 3rd, but it was last mentioned in The Seattle Times on October 17, 1920.)

And why this particular pairing? The Occidental Hotel, which once overlooked the beginning of Occidental Avenue, is almost certainly the reason, but it’s not spelled out in the ordinance.

W Armory Way

This Interbay street, established in 1910 as Lawton Way, runs ¼ mile northwest from 15th Avenue W to the BNSF Railway’s Balmer Yard. Its right-of-way runs about 800 feet beyond that, across the railroad tracks, to 20th Avenue W, as it was once the location of a bridge to Magnolia.

W Lawton Way was changed to W Armory Way in 1973, presumably in anticipation of the construction in 1974 of an armory for the Washington Army National Guard. Will its name be changed again once the National Guard moves — or if it becomes the location of a new Magnolia Bridge?

(Another Armory Way near Pike Place Market existed on paper for many years — from 1936 to 2019 — but was never built. Something similar is currently under construction.)

S Addition Street

This Industrial District street — a mere 80 feet long — runs from Airport Way S east to the Interstate 5 right-of-way. It may very well be the shortest street in Seattle (I’d love to hear about other candidates).

As explained in SW Seattle Street, the plat of Judkin’s Addition to the Town of Seattle was filed in 1869. From north to south, the east–west streets are named Norman, B, Judkins, Addition, Town, and Seattle. (Did they really think B Street would last, I wonder?)

Of these, Norman, Judkins, Addition, and Seattle Streets remain, though Addition is the only one still in its original location. (SW Seattle Street now only exists for a few blocks in West Seattle, and S Norman and S Judkins Streets only east of Interstate 5.)

Nickerson Street

This Queen Anne street runs 1½ miles from the meeting of 4th, Dexter, and Westlake Avenues N in the east (at the south end of the Fremont Bridge) to the 15th Avenue W interchange in the west. Some businesses in Fishermen’s Terminal have W Nickerson Street addresses, such as Chinook’s at 1900, but these few blocks of Nickerson are Port of Seattle roads that cannot be accessed directly from the public street.

Nickerson Street was named by Alfred A. Nickerson and Elmyra Nickerson, husband and wife, in their plat of Ross 2nd Addition to the City of Seattle in 1888.

Canterbury Lane E

This stub of a street in Madison Park serves mostly as a driveway to the Canterbury Shores Condominiums, although it is public right-of-way. It appears to have been dedicated to the public in 1965, and its name was changed from 40th Avenue E the next year.

My assumption is the street was named for the condominiums, and that the condominiums were named for the Canterbury subdivision to the south, which was laid out in 1951. According to Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, John L. Scott’s Canterbury Land Company purchased the land in 1938.

Webster Point Road NE

This very short street in the Laurelhurst neighborhod — just over 200 feet long — was created in 1962 as part of the Webster Point plat. Why it’s a road rather than a place, lane, or court, I’m not sure — roads in Seattle (of which there aren’t many) are usually longer, such as Windermere Road NE, Holman Road NW, and Military Road S. It has the distinction of the lowest-numbered address on a north–south street north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, as far as I am aware — 3000.

The plat and road are named for Webster Point, at the very southern tip of the Laurelhurst peninsula, which itself was named for Henry A. Webster, who once owned the land. This Webster appears to have been the Indian agent for the Makah tribe at Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula.

sluʔwiɫ

I end my piece on Lushootseed-language place names in Seattle, “Native names abide,” thus:

…Let Carkeek remain Carkeek, but know that it was once and is still kʷaatəb, as Montlake is still stəx̌ʷugʷił, the Locks, which lowered x̌ačuʔ and x̌áx̌əʔčuʔ, still xʷiwálqʷ, and University Village still sluʔwił village, and celebrate that wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ now sits where Whitman and Stevens meet.

wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House is “a longhouse-style facility on the [University of Washington] Seattle campus [that] provides a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty and staff, as well as others from various cultures and communities to come together in a welcoming environment to share knowledge.” Its location at the corner of Stevens Way and Whitman Court is significant in that almost all campus roads are named for Washington counties, and these two counties were named after Isaac Stevens and Marcus and Narcissa Whitman:

  • As noted in “Should Seattle rename its streets?” Stevens, governor of Washington Territory, “forced Native American tribes to cede their lands to the federal government.… He also pardoned himself for contempt charges relating to unjust declaration of martial law during the Yakima War, and insisted on the capture of the subsequently executed Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Tribe, even though at that point he had ceased fighting and fled the area.
  • The Whitmans’ story is more complex. The missionary couple were among 13 whites killed by a group of Cayuse Indians in what has become known as the Whitman massacre. A measles epidemic in the mission settlement and a nearby Cayuse village produced a death rate far higher among the Cayuse; Marcus Whitman, who was a also a physician and tried to treat the Cayuse as well as the whites, was accused of poisoning tribe members: “the fact that nearly all of his white patients recovered while his Indian patients died convinced some Cayuses that he was deliberately poisoning Indians in order to give their land to white setters.” Even though this is unlikely, the fact remains that they were missionaries and colonizers, and there have been calls to replace the statue of Marcus that stands in the National Statuary hall.

Now the University of Washington has renamed Whitman Court sluʔwiɫ, after a village that once stood where University Village is today.

Street sign reading sluʔwiɫ on University of Washington campus
sluʔwiɫ street sign at corner of Stevens Way, with Padelford Hall in the distance

The UW Board of Regents made this change in May 2018, but the sign only recently made its appearance. I asked the writer of the University of Washington Magazine piece on the name change, Hannelore Sudermann, if she knew whether “the renaming was official — that Whitman Court no longer exists and the street’s name is now sluʔwiɫ – or if it was honorary and the street is still officially Whitman Court,” and she pointed me to the meeting minutes, which read, in part: 

The Board of Regents chooses to honor the Coast Salish peoples of the land on which the University of Washington sits, and indigenous peoples across the State, by renaming Whitman Court sluʔwił.… In the Lushootseed language of the Coast Salish peoples, sluʔwił is the name for the village site closest to the campus, and means ‘Little Canoe Channel.’… It is the Board’s intention to recognize the native place-names of the region and thereby to enrich the historical context of the campus. The Board feels that this naming action is particularly appropriate, given the proximity of Whitman Court to wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ, meaning ‘Intellectual House,’ a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty, and staff.

Even though an earlier part of the minutes reads “Regent Rice moved, Regent Ayer seconded, and the Board of Regents approved the honorific renaming of Whitman Court sluʔwił” (italics mine), given the excerpt above and the presence of the sign without any reference to Whitman Court, my interpretation is that honorific here means “in honor of,” in contrast to honorary meaning “symbolic.”