This street, which appears to have been established as part of the 1906 Replat of McGilvra’s Addition and Second Addition to the City of Seattle (an abbreviation of its much longer name), was named for John J. McGilvra (1827–1903). Born in Livingston County, New York, McGilvra moved to Illinois at the age of 17, and became a lawyer nine years later. In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, who McGilvra reportedly knew as a fellow Illinois lawyer, appointed him United States Attorney for the Territory of Washington. In 1864, he moved to Seattle. That same year, he and his wife, Elizabeth, bought 420 acres of land in what is now Madison Park and became the area’s first settlers. McGilvra had Madison Street extended to the lakefront — it is still the only street to extend from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington without interruption — and later helped establish the Madison Street Cable Railway Company and Madison Park at its eastern terminus. In 1865 he relinquished the post of U.S. attorney. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature in 1866 and 1867, and Seattle city attorney in 1876 and 1877. He retired in 1890.
Today, McGilvra Boulevard E begins in the south at 39th Avenue E and Lake Washington Boulevard E and goes 1⅖ miles north to E McGilvra Street. Unlike most other boulevards in the city, it is not an Olmsted boulevard — McGilvra was reportedly opposed to the movement that resulted in the hiring of the Olmsted Brothers in 1903 (the year of his death) to design a system of parks and boulevards for Seattle, though there is no evidence the two are directly related.