Fairview Avenue N

Fairview Avenue is one of a handful in the city that changes directional designations twice along a continuous stretch. The street begins in the south at Virginia Street as Fairview Avenue, but becomes Fairview Avenue N a block and a half to the north as it crosses Denny Way, and a mile north and east of that becomes Fairview Avenue E at E Galer Street and Eastlake Avenue E. It continues to E Roanoke Street, two miles from its origin, where it is interrupted by the Mallard Cove houseboat community. Picking up a block to the north, it then runs half a mile from E Hamlin Street to Fuhrman Avenue E and Eastlake Avenue E, just south of the University Bridge.

Originally Lake Street in Rezin and Margaret Pontius’s 1875 plat of the Fairview Homestead Association for the Benefit of Mechanics and Laborers, it received its current name during the Great Renaming of 1895. (Before 1875, it had been known as Prohibition Street.)

The Fairview Homestead Association, according to Paul Dorpat, was intended to “help working families stop paying rents and start investing in their own homes. Innovative installment payments made the lots affordable and many of the homes were built by those who lived in them.”

I assume Fairview took its name from the view of Lake Union and what is now Wallingford that is still barely visible today from what is now the Cascade neighborhood.

1931 view looking north toward Lake Union along Fairview Avenue N, Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 5265
Looking north toward Lake Union and Wallingford from Fairview Avenue N and John Street, 1931. The Seattle Times Building is at the left. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 5265

Eagle Street

This 600-foot-long street, which runs from Western to 2nd Avenues a block south of Bay Street, was given that name by William Nathaniel Bell in 1881. In his plat, the large lot between Bay (then Grant) and Lake (now Broad) Streets west of Western Avenue (then West Street) was shown as occupied by the Eagle Manufacturing Co. On this 1884 Sanborn map, though, “Seattle Barrel M’f’y” appears instead. This historic survey says that the Seattle Barrel Manufacturing Company opened in 1880, but was located between Bell and Wall Streets, farther south.

At any rate, it would seem that Eagle Street was named after this Eagle Manufacturing Co., of which I could find no further trace; and that neither Eagle nor Seattle Barrel was there 30 years later, when the 1912 Baist atlas was produced, showing the land to be occupied by Union Oil Company of California (later known as Unocal).

Unocal — which, according to Historylink, had begun using the lot in 1910 — would continue to use it as a fuel depot and marketing terminal until 1975. Cleanup of the contaminated ground began in the 1980s, and the Seattle Art Museum purchased the site in 1999 with help from the Trust for Public Land. In 2007, the Olympic Sculpture Park opened, completing the area’s transformation from open space to industrial area to open space once again.

(Local historian Paul Dorpat points out that the cove that once existed here could be [though never was] called “Eagle Cove” — both for Eagle Street and for the fact that Alexander Calder’s Eagle sculpture now makes its home in the lower half of the park.)

Alexander Calder‘s sculpture ”Eagle”

Bay Street

This street, which runs for a little over a tenth of a mile from Elliott to 1st Avenues, was originally named Grant Street by William Nathaniel Bell in 1881. 14 years later, it was one of the many streets caught up in the Great Renaming of 1895. Per ordinance 4044, it was “ordained… that the name of Grant Street from Elliott Bay to Depot Street, be and the same are hereby changed to Bay Street.” I can’t imagine it took its name from anywhere other than Elliott Bay.

“Elliott Way” just a placeholder name

A new street connecting Elliott Avenue to Alaskan Way as part of the viaduct replacement project is currently under construction. When I first heard in 2016 that they were planning to call it Elliott Way, I thought it was a wasted opportunity. I wrote on my personal Facebook page “This is an opportunity to commemorate someone, or something, new, rather than Jared, George, Samuel, or Jesse Elliott (apparently no one is sure just which Elliott the bay is named after)!”

However, as it turns out, “Elliott Way” is just a placeholder name, just as “E Frontage Road S” was for what is now Colorado Avenue S at the south end of the new 99 tunnel.

On Boxing Day 2020 I finally wrote to the Seattle City Council and the Waterfront Seattle Program letting them know how I felt:

“The bay, and its namesake (most likely midshipman Samuel Elliott of the Wilkes expedition that explored Puget Sound in 1841) already has Elliott Avenue named in its honor. Elliott was, of course, a white man. I don’t know what percentage of Seattle streets are named for white men (although I would be fascinated to find out, and may undertake that as a project for my blog on Seattle street names), but I’m sure it’s very high.

“I urge you instead to take this opportunity to name this street something else. The Duwamish people, for example, have Duwamish Avenue S named for them (actually more likely for the river, as Elliott Avenue was named for the bay, not directly for the sailor), but it is an insignificant street 2/10 of a mile long hidden under the Spokane Street Viaduct and the Alaskan Freeway. Perhaps Duwamish Avenue would be a better choice, if the tribe approved? Or perhaps the street could honor a non-white person associated with the history of Seattle’s waterfront? Frank Jenkins, perhaps?”

I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from anyone, but to my surprise Marshall Foster, director of the Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, wrote me himself on January 5, saying:

We completely agree that the naming of this new street is an exciting opportunity. “Elliott Way” has simply been a placeholder until we are closer to its opening. The Coast Salish tribes are an incredibly important part of Seattle’s history and culture today. We have actually been thinking along similar lines about how this naming could help to elevate their presence here, and have been in discussions with our partners in the tribal community about ideas very similar to yours. We expect to have a proposal for public discussion later this year.

I have to say, I’m pretty happy about this.