This street is said to have been named for Jefferson Davis Howell (1846–1875), the youngest of 11 children of William Burr Howell and Margaret Louisa Kemp. He was himself named after Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederate States of America, who married his older sister, Varina Anne Banks Howell, in 1845. He joined the Confederate Navy in 1862, having earlier been a midshipman at Annapolis, and served until being captured in 1865.
Howell was captain of the SS Pacific, en route from Victoria to San Francisco, when it sank off Cape Flattery the evening of November 4, 1875. Only one passenger and one crew member survived of nearly 275 aboard, making it the worst maritime disaster on the West Coast to date. As Daryl C. McClary writes for HistoryLink.org:
Although lost at sea, Jefferson Davis Howell was not forgotten by his many friends in Puget Sound. They had a 10-foot-tall sandstone obelisk erected in his memory at the Seattle Masonic Cemetery, established in 1872 and renamed the Lake View Cemetery in 1890. On the base of the monument is chiseled the simple epitaph: “Captain J. D. Howell, perished at sea on the steamship Pacific, November 4, 1875, aged 34 years.”
The Plat of the Second Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Off by the Heirs of Sarah A. Bell (Deceased), on which Howell Street was first laid out, was filed on December 14, 1875, so the timing certainly fits the story.
Howell Street begins at 8th Avenue and Olive Way and goes ⅓ of a mile northwest to Eastlake Avenue, just west of Interstate 5. On the other side of the freeway, it resumes at Bellevue Avenue as E Howell Street and goes ⅕ of a mile east to Harvard Avenue, where it is blocked by Seattle Central College. After a very short segment between Broadway and Nagle Place, it begins again east of Cal Anderson Park at 11th Avenue and goes ½ a mile east to 19th Avenue. E Howell Street resumes at Homer Harris Park at 24th Avenue and goes ¾ of a mile east to 38th Avenue, being a stairway and pathway between the alley east of 25th Avenue and 26th Avenue. It begins again at Madrona Drive and goes ⅒ of a mile east to 39th Avenue E and Evergreen Place. Its last segment is just over 100 feet long, from Lake Washington Boulevard to Howell Place and Howell Park beach.