Charles Street originates in the 1876 plat of Plummer’s Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by George Washington Harris (late 1840s–1914).* How did Harris end up with the land, and why would he name the addition after Charles Plummer (who, it appears from the text of the plat description, bought the tract from David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in 1860)?
* I write “late 1840s” because Harris’s birth year is given variously as 1848 (death certificate, historical journal article, Tacoma Public Library), 1847 (Genealogy.com, The Seattle Times), and 1846 (Geni, FamilySearch).
As it turns out: Plummer married Ellender Smith (sister of Dr. Henry A. Smith, namesake of Smith Cove and Smith Street) in 1855. Harris’s mother, Sarah Jane Crossman, was widowed the next year. Plummer himself became a widower when his wife died giving birth to twins Edward and Frank in 1859, and he married Harris’s mother in 1860, apparently at Maynard’s own Alki Point house. Harris then became Plummer’s stepson (and a daughter, Ida, was born to the newlyweds the next year). When Plummer died in 1866, Harris apparently inherited at least this much of his stepfather’s estate. (It’s unclear just what Edward and Ida may have received; Frank is reported to have inherited $60,000.)
Today, S Charles Street begins at Airport Way S and 6th Avenue S and is stopped a block and a half to the east at 7th Avenue S by the city’s Charles Street Service Center. (Its twin to the south, S Plummer Street, also ends at the service center, never to return.) It briefly reappears at the northern lip of Beacon Hill between 12th Avenue S and Sturgus Avenue S, and then east of Interstate 90 runs for about ⅓ of a mile between Poplar Place S and 20th Place S at Judkins Park. The right-of-way, which continues through the park, becomes an improved street again at 22nd Avenue S, and ends just east of 26th Avenue S. East of here, S Charles runs three blocks from 28th Avenue S to 30th Avenue S, and then around ¼ mile made up of alternating roadway and stairways from the alley west of 32nd Avenue S to a shoreline street end on Lake Washington — one of Leschi’s String of Pearls.
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.