This street runs just shy of 2,000 feet from NE Pacific Street in the west, just east of the University Bridge, to NE Columbia Road in the east, on the University of Washington South Campus.
Originally Lake Avenue in the 1890 Brooklyn Addition to Seattle, as it ran along the north shore of Lake Union, it became Northlake Avenue at some point between then and 1901, based on my search of Seattle Times, Seattle Star, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer archives. It starts being referred to as Northlake Way in 1935, though it seems this wasn’t formalized until 1956.
In 1960, Jerry Bryant of Bryant’s Marina proposed that all of Northlake Way — beginning far to the west, at the Fremont Bridge — receive the new name of Boat Street, but the 1962 ordinance establishing Boat Street only changes the name of the few blocks between the University Bridge and the UW campus. The Seattle P-I reports on December 22, 1960, that the Street Naming Committee of the Board of Public works rejected the proposal “because the present name is more descriptive,” but Bryant went ahead and filed his proposal with the City Council anyway in 1961.
According to The Seattle Times on May 24, 1962, the Board of Public Works once again asked the City Council to reject the proposal, which was “backed by more than 50 marine firms or individuals… [and] the University Commercial Club,” but on June 20, the Times reported that the City Council Streets and Sewers Committee approved the change. This met with much opposition. On July 2, the Times published a letter from Vince Lieb, 668 NE Northlake Way, that read, in part, that “numerous business firms… are more than a little chagrined at the City Council’s recent move… to please a minority of merchants who hawk their wares along the way,” and wondered if this might set a precedent:
We can think of such dandies as “Chop Suey Street,” “Gas and Oil Street,” “Beer Street,” and “Fish Street.” How about “Sand and Gravel Street” for a paved thoroughfare?
That same day, according to the P-I, the City Council postponed the implementation of the name change, sending it back to committee, and on July 10, according to the Times, the committee said it would give proponents and opponents two weeks to gather signatures, as the original petition had somehow been lost. Finally, on the 24th, they came up with a compromise: The name would be changed between the University Bridge and 15th Avenue NE only. This is where Bryant’s Marina was located, as well as the Jensen Motor Boat Company, which lasted until 2019 and was the last shipyard left on NE Boat Street.
Today, Fritz Hedges Waterway Park — built on the former site of the marina — occupies most of the Boat Street waterfront.
Born and raised in Seattle, Benjamin Donguk Lukoff had his interest in local history kindled at the age of six, when his father bought him settler granddaughter Sophie Frye Bass’s Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle at the gift shop of the Museum of History and Industry. He studied English, Russian, and linguistics at the University of Washington, and went on to earn his master’s in English linguistics from University College London. His book of rephotography, Seattle Then and Now, was published in 2010. An updated version came out in 2015.