This street was named in 1968 for Northgate Station, which opened in 1950 as the Northgate Center shopping mall. According to HistoryLink.org, it was “the country’s first regional shopping center to be defined as a ‘mall’ (although there were at least three predecessor shopping centers).” Newspaper archives show that it became known early on as Northgate Mall, and that became its official name in 1974. As of this writing, the property is in the midst of a massive redevelopment project that began in 2019.
Prior to 1968, Northgate Way was known as (from west to east) N 105th Street, Mineral Springs Way N, N 110th Street, NE 110th Street, and Chelsea Place NE. Today, it begins at N 105th Street and Aurora Avenue N and goes 2⅕ miles east to NE 113th Street and Lake City Way NE.
Digging into the newspaper archives, The Seattle Times of February 22, 1948, published a big spread on the plans for the shopping center. The story quoted one of the developers, a local investor named Ben Ehrlichman (the uncle of future Watergate figure John Ehrlichman). “The name Northgate was chosen, Ehrlichman [told The Seattle Times], because the development ‘will be the most important northerly business district serving Seattle and vicinity and the gateway to metropolitan Seattle.’” Though a 30th anniversary story in the same paper in 1980 credited Ehrlichman for coming up with the name — based on the 1948 story — we may never know for certain whose idea it was.
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.