This street is named for John Leary (1837–1905), a Canadian who came to Seattle in 1869. He became a lawyer in 1871, and was involved in various mining and shipping concerns, streetcar lines, utilities, railroads, and banks. He helped found the First National Bank of Seattle in 1882; in 1929, it merged with the Dexter Horton Bank and the Seattle National Bank to form Seattle-First National Bank, later known as Seafirst and bought by Bank of America in 1983. He also founded, in 1878, the Seattle Post, which merged with the Daily Intelligencer in 1881 to form the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Leary was a Seattle city councilman in 1873, 1875, and 1876, and was the city’s mayor in 1884 and 1885. He helped form the West Coast Improvement Company with Thomas Burke, William Rankin Ballard, and Boyd J. Tallman; they filed the plat of Gilman Park in 1889, which became the city of Ballard in 1890 and was annexed to Seattle in 1907.
Leary Avenue NW begins at NW Market Street just east of 22nd Avenue NW and goes ⅖ of a mile southeast to 17th Avenue NW. The arterial continues as NW Leary Way for another ⅖ of a mile, to NW 48th Street just west of 9th Avenue NW, where it changes names once again, to Leary Way NW, which goes ⅘ of a mile southeast to 2nd Avenue NW before turning into NW 36th Street.