I haven’t posted in two weeks because I recently had the good fortune to visit, and the sad duty to return from, Maui, “the Valley Isle,” second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. That made me think, as I posted about S Spokane Street after traveling there last December, it would be appropriate to post about Aloha Street today.
Four and a half years ago, local historian Valarie Bunn wrote a post on her Wedgwood in Seattle History blog called “Searching for the Origin of Seattle Street Names.” It begins “There is no resource list of the meanings of Seattle’s street names or how the street names were derived,” and that was certainly true at the time. (One reason I started Writes of Way the next year was to eventually provide such a list — and now I rate a mention at the end of her article!) She continues:
Some street names are apparent in their derivation when honoring an early settler, such as Denny Way for the original homestead claim property of David Denny (Arthur’s younger brother) and Mercer Street for Thomas Mercer, an early, influential settler of Seattle. But for some other street names, such as Aloha Street, we may feel bewildered as we wonder, what is “Aloha” for?
She goes on to give a tutorial in trying to determine street name origins. She first notes that the street name was extended beyond Lower Queen Anne as part of the Great Renaming of 1895, and that its first appearance was as part of the 1875 plat of D.T. Denny’s Second Addition to North Seattle (as this part of South Lake Union then was). David Thomas Denny (1832–1903) and Louisa Boren Denny (1827–1916) were members of the Denny Party, who landed at Alki Point in 1851 and are considered the founders of modern Seattle. Here, though, the trail ends, as
The Dennys’ plat map of 1875 does not tell us why David and Louisa Denny chose the street names that they did, including “Aloha.”
But, she continues,
From earliest days, the Dennys knew that lumber was being shipped out from Seattle to San Francisco and as far as Hawaii, so our best guess is that they chose the word “Aloha” as a reference to Seattle’s trade connections.
Not as definitive an answer as the one she goes on to give for Cleopatra Place NW, but a pretty good one nevertheless, and one I can’t improve upon.
Note: On September 5, my friend, local historian Rob Ketcherside, did a bit of a dive into the matter. He began thus —
— and came to this conclusion:
I had come across the Reciprocity Treaty when trying to find any connection between Seattle and Hawaii in 1875, but…
So there, for now, the matter lies.
Note added August 13, 2023: The devastating Lāhainā wildfire made me want to re-read this article, and I realized I neglected to discuss the route Aloha Street takes through Seattle. It begins at 1st Avenue W as W Aloha Street, and becomes Aloha Street a block to the east as it crosses Queen Anne Avenue N. From there, it goes ¾ of a mile east to Westlake Avenue N, where it is interrupted by Lake Union. It resumes at Fairview Avenue N and goes ⅙ of a mile east through the Fred Hutch Cancer Center campus to Eastlake Avenue E. On the other side of Interstate 5, it picks up again at Boylston Avenue E and goes an uninterrupted 1⅓ miles east to its end at the intersection of 29th Avenue E and E Ward Street at the west end of the Washington Park Playfield.
Born and raised in Seattle, Benjamin Donguk Lukoff had his interest in local history kindled at the age of six, when his father bought him settler granddaughter Sophie Frye Bass’s Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle at the gift shop of the Museum of History and Industry. He studied English, Russian, and linguistics at the University of Washington, and went on to earn his master’s in English linguistics from University College London. His book of rephotography, Seattle Then and Now, was published in 2010. An updated version came out in 2015.