Benjamin Lukoff
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Division, like Front, is usually a name applied to a major street, like Division Street in Chicago, or to a street that divides one section of town from another, like Division Street in Manhattan, or to a street that does both, like Division Street in Spokane. But in Seattle, Division Avenue NW goes only two blocks, from NW 65th Street to NW 70th Street, and doesn’t appear to serve as any sort of dividing line at all. Why is this?

My friend Rob Ketcherside, a local historian, put together this helpful database of and article on old Ballard street names, which got me on the right track. But what helped me figure out this riddle — at least I think I have — was this 1903 sewer map that Rob consulted and linked to. A portion of it appears below.

Portion of map of Ballard sewers, 1903, covering present-day intersection of Division Avenue NW and NW 65th Street
Portion of map of Ballard sewers, 1903, covering present-day intersection of Division Avenue NW and NW 65th Street. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 1588.

The CITY to the right of Division Avenue N just north of E Ship Street is actually part of BALLARD CITY BOUNDARY, which ran along what is today 8th Avenue NW… except between E Ship Street (65th) and E Sloop Street (70th). The boundary continued in a straight line, but Division Avenue jogged to the west, causing the boundary to go down the center of those two blocks. It appears that 8th Avenue NW was later put straight through (I’m not sure exactly when, but this Baist atlas plate from 1912 appears to have the extension penciled in), but the jog was never renamed to something like 8th Place NW.

And that’s — I think — how you get a two-block–long Division Avenue that doesn’t divide anything!

Street sign at NW 65th Street and Division Avenue NW, October 2021
Street sign at NW 65th Street and Division Avenue NW, Seattle. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff, October 12, 2021. Copyright © 2021 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

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