This street was created as part of the 1906 plat of Cowen’s University Park, filed by the Sylvester-Cowen Investment Company, of which Charles Cowen (1869–1926) was president. Originally Ravenna Place, it received its current name in 1918, according to an article in the January 29 issue of The Seattle Times. (This article also reported that the names of the individual streets that made up Queen Anne Boulevard would be restored and that Oriental Avenue [counterpart of the still-existing Occidental Avenue S] would become Third Avenue S). Whether it honors Cowen or the park named after him, which he donated to the city in 1906, is unclear.

Article in September 22, 1917, issue of The Seattle Times on Charles Cowen and his bounty on German leaders during World War I
Article in September 22, 1917, issue of The Seattle Times on Charles Cowen and his bounty on German leaders during World War I

Cowen was born in England, moved with his family to South Africa, and came to the United States in 1890, arriving in Seattle in 1900. Dotty DeCoster writes for HistoryLink.org:

Cowen was, by many accounts, a lively and active participant in developing the University District. According to architectural historian Shirley L. Courtois, he was British and had grown up in South Africa, where his family members were diamond miners and merchants. In 1890 he was sent to New York to purchase equipment for the mines. He never returned to South Africa. He apparently broke with his family, changed his name from Cohen to Cowen, and settled first in New York State, then in Florida, and finally in Seattle. Cowen reportedly retained a distinctively English style throughout his life.

The facts that his surname was originally Cohen and that his family was involved in diamond mining in South Africa led me to think he must have been Jewish, but I could find no definitive mention of his ethnicity online. However, in the March 19, 1926, issue of The Seattle Times, I found an article on the probate of his will, which mentioned that $2,000 of his $50,000 estate would go to the Hebrew Benevolent Society (today known as Jewish Family Service). That makes Cowen and Henry Fuhrman (1844–1907) (Fuhrman Avenue E) the only Jews I am aware of who have Seattle streets named after them.

Cowen Place NE begins at NE Ravenna Boulevard and University Way NE and goes just over 325 feet northeast to 15th Avenue NE, at the south end of the Cowen Park Bridge.

Detail of Charles Cowen memorial at entrance to Cowen Park
Detail of Charles Cowen memorial at entrance to Cowen Park, June 1, 2009. “In memory of Charles Cowen who in 1906 gave to the city of Seattle the twelve acres comprising this park. ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.
Signs at corner of NE Ravenna Boulevard, University Way NE, and Cowen Place NE, August 24, 2009
Signs at corner of NE Ravenna Boulevard, University Way NE, and Cowen Place NE, August 24, 2009. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

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