Blanchard Street

For Blanchard Street, I can do no better than to quote Sophie Frye Bass, who in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle writes:

The name of Blanchard Street had long been a puzzle to me, but when I looked over some records of 1872 and found where John M. Blanchard had been one of the witnesses when my grandfather, Arthur Denny, platted a tract of land, then I knew.

Blanchard Street was part of A.A. Denny’s 6th Addition to the City of Seattle, filed in 1873, and indeed John M. Blanchard is one of the witnesses, along with Duncan T. Wheeler. Blanchard appears to have been city treasurer in 1879, as well as an insurance agent. Wheeler is referred to in 1871 as being a merchant, and in 1874 he and Blanchard apparently attended a masquerade ball dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan(!), predating the establishment of an actual Klan chapter by half a century. (Their wives went as a “Canadian Squaw” and the “Queen of Chess,” respectively.)

Today, Blanchard Street begins at Elliott Avenue and goes just over half a mile to the northwest, where it ends at Westlake Avenue.

Westlake Avenue

Forming a trio with Eastlake Avenue and Northlake Way, Westlake Avenue is so named for running along the western shore of Lake Union. Beginning today at Stewart Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue, just north of McGraw Square, it runs 2½ miles north to 4th Avenue N between Nickerson Street and Florentia Street — the south end of the Fremont Bridge.

Westlake neighborhood and Mount Rainier from the Aurora Bridge, June 23, 2006
Westlake neighborhood and Mount Rainier from the Aurora Bridge, June 23, 2006. Photograph by Flickr user Steve Voght, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Westlake Avenue once started a couple of blocks to the south, at 4th Avenue and Pike Street, and based on the quarter section map, it appears that its former route through Westlake Park between Pike Street and Pine Street is still public right-of-way as opposed to park land. (The portion between Pine Street and Olive Way was vacated in 1986 to make way for the Westlake Center mall, which opened in 1988, and the portion between Olive Way and Stewart Street was closed in 2010 to allow for the expansion of McGraw Square.)

Monorail and streetcar, corner of Westlake Avenue and Olive Way, in 2008
Monorail and streetcar, corner of Westlake Avenue and Olive Way, in 2008. Photograph by Flickr user Oran Viriyincy, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Westlake was extended south to 4th and Pike from Denny Way in 1902 (one former mayor has called for that extension to be closed to cars); the original Westlake Avenue (now, properly, Westlake Avenue N) was created in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming ordinance, Section 5 of which reads

That the names of Rollin Street, Lake Union Boulevard and Lake Avenue from Depot Street [changed by the same ordinance to Denny Way] to Florentia Street, be and the same are hereby changed to Westlake Avenue.

Rollin Street, the southernmost portion, was named for Rolland Herschel Denny (1851–1939), the youngest member of the Denny Party at just six weeks old. In its honor, an apartment complex that opened at the corner of Westlake and Denny in 2008 is named Rollin Street Flats.

Rollin Street Flats, northeast corner of Westlake Avenue N and Denny Way, South Lake Union
Rollin Street Flats, northeast corner of Westlake Avenue N and Denny Way, South Lake Union, October 22, 2017. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Northlake, Eastlake, Westlake… why no Southlake?

Having covered Northlake, Eastlake, and Westlake so far, one might ask: why is there no Southlake?

There does appear to have been a Southlake Avenue for a time — 1909 to 1924 or so, based on the last mention of it I could find in Seattle newspapers, an article in the August 8, 1924, edition of The Seattle Times on a car crash that had taken place a number of weeks earlier. Now the northern section of Fairview Avenue N, it extended from the intersection of Valley Street northwest to E Galer Street and Eastlake Avenue E, “thus eliminating the present grade on Eastlake for University traffic” in the words of a real estate advertisement in the August 23, 1914, edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But why the Southlake name disappeared seems clear: once it was decided to extend the Fairview name along the shore lands, there was no other appropriate road to carry it. The northern and eastern shores of Lake Union are just shy of 2 miles long each, but since the lake is shaped like a 𝒱 (and, surprisingly, like a uterus if Portage Bay is included) there is hardly any southern shore to speak of — only about ¼ mile.

As for the neighborhood name, I’m not sure why South Lake Union came to be used instead of Southlake. Perhaps it’s as simple as the lack of a similarly named street to “anchor” the neighborhood.

Eastlake Avenue E

Like NE Northlake Way, Eastlake Avenue E is so named because it runs along the shore of Lake Union — in this case, obviously, the eastern one. It, too, was earlier named Lake Avenue (in part), but this was changed as part of the Great Renaming of 1895. Ordinance 4044, Section 6 reads

That the names of Albert Street, Waterton Street, Lake Avenue and Green Street from Depot Street [changed by the same ordinance to Denny Way] to the shore of Lake Union at the northerly point of the Denny–Fuhrman addition, be and the same are hereby changed to Eastlake Avenue.

Today, Eastlake, at 2⁹⁄₁₀ miles in length, extends slightly farther north and south than the roadway mentioned in the ordinance. It starts in the south at the intersection of Court Place and Howell Street as Eastlake Avenue, then becomes Eastlake Avenue E a block north as it crosses Denny Way. From here to just south of E Galer Street it divides the Avenue: E; Street: E section of town from the Avenue: N; Street section. Just north of Portage Bay Place E it crosses Lake Union as the University Bridge, then continues on as the one-way–northbound Eastlake Avenue NE to 11th Avenue NE just north of NE 41st Street. (Southbound, it is fed by Roosevelt Way NE at NE Campus Parkway.)

Eastlake, like Fairview and Boren Avenues, is one of the few north–south streets in Seattle to have three different directional designations.

Looking northeast at the University Bridge from the Ship Canal Bridge in Seattle, July 2018
Looking northeast at the University Bridge from the Ship Canal Bridge, July 2018. Photograph by SounderBruce, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Borealis Avenue

In 1948, when Aurora Avenue N (then U.S. Route 99) was being readied to connect to the under-construction Alaskan Way Viaduct, it was extended a block south of Denny Way to 6th Avenue and Battery Street, creating a short stretch of Aurora Avenue with no directional designation. This remained the case until 2019, when the replacement tunnel for the viaduct opened. At that time, Aurora south of Harrison Street reverted to its earlier name of 7th Avenue N, and since 7th Avenue south of Denny Way already existed, a new name was needed for the block-long Aurora Avenue.

According to The Urbanist, “Borealis,” referring to the aurora borealis, was a community favorite — but it was named after a nearby apartment building, not after the northern lights directly. As for why the names were changed in the first place, The Seattle Times reported that it was felt there were “negative connotations associated with [the name] Aurora Avenue” they wanted to avoid while reintegrating this stretch of the road into the neighborhood.

Lenora Street

This street is named for Margaret Lenora Denny (1847–1915), daughter of Arthur Armstrong Denny and Mary Ann Boren Denny. She, like Virginia Bell (namesake of Virginia Street) was just four years old when her family, as part of the Denny Party, settled at Alki Point in 1851. She was killed in a car crash that also took the life of Thomas W. Prosch (Prosch Avenue W); his wife, Virginia; and artist Harriet Foster Beecher.

Margaret Lenora Denny, circa 1900
Margaret Lenora Denny, circa 1900

Established as part of A.A. Denny’s 6th Addition to the City of Seattle in 1873, it begins at Alaskan Way as an (temporarily closed as of this writing) elevator and pedestrian bridge over the BNSF Railway tracks. The street proper begins just west of where Elliott Avenue ends at Western Avenue. From there it is just shy of ¾ of a mile to its end at Denny Way and Boren Avenue.

Virginia Street

This street is named for Mary Virginia Bell Hall (1847–1931), daughter of William Nathaniel Bell and Sarah Ann Peter Bell. Belltown and Bell Street were named for her father, Olive Way for her sister, and Stewart Street for her brother-in-law. She was just four years old when her family, as part of the Denny Party, settled at Alki Point in 1851.

Virginia Bell Hall, circa 1875
Virginia Bell, circa 1875

Established as part of the Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle, Washington Territory, Laid Off by the Heirs of Sarah A. Bell, Deceased in 1872, it begins at Western Avenue by Steinbrueck Park, at the northwest end of Pike Place Market, and goes ¾ of a mile northeast to Minor Avenue and Denny Way.

 

Olive Way

This street is named for Olive Julia Bell Stewart (1846–1921), daughter of William Nathaniel Bell and Sarah Ann Peter Bell. Belltown and Bell Street were named for her father, Virginia Street for her sister, and Stewart Street for her husband, Joseph. She was one of the younger members of the Denny Party, being five years old when they initially settled at Alki Point in 1851.

Olive Julia Bell Stewart, circa 1860
Olive Bell, circa 1860

Originally called Olive Street in the Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle, Washington Territory, Laid Off by the Heirs of Sarah A. Bell, Deceased in 1872, it begins at Stewart Street just east of 3rd Avenue and goes one mile northeast, then east, to Broadway E and E John Street.

On September 3, 1920, The Seattle Times reported that:

Extension of Olive Street, by the establishment of a diagonal thoroughfare to be known as Olive Way, running from the intersection of Olive Street in a northeasterly direction to Boylston Avenue North and East Denny Way, is provided in an ordinance completed yesterday afternoon by the city engineer’s office…. The purpose of the whole improvement is to afford an east and west arterial highway, leading from the business district into the residence section of the city, supplementary to Pike Street and Pine Street.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s June 24, 1923, issue, it “formally opened to traffic yesterday… a public improvement for which a fight extending over a period of fifteen years was waged,” so this 1920 ordinance was certainly not the first time an improved connection between Downtown and Capitol Hill was proposed. I’m not entirely sure what happened in 1908 the writer might have been referring to, but perhaps it was the Bogue Plan and he was off by a few years?

Route of Olive Way drawn on 1912 Baist Atlas plate of Capitol Hill
Portion of plate 7, Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Seattle (1912), planned route of E Olive Way drawn in pencil. The portion of E Olive St between Melrose and Bellevue Avenues is now E Olive Place.

It appears from the 1921 ordinance establishing the extension that the Olive Way name was originally only applied to the street east of Bellevue Avenue; it wasn’t until 1926 that it was extended west to the street’s origin.

One curiosity about E Olive Way addresses: the block numbers are out of sync with other east–west streets in the area. For example, the block east of Melrose Avenue is the 300 block, east of Bellevue Avenue the 400 block, east of Summit 500, east of Belmont 600, east of Boylston 700, etc. — for other streets. For E Olive Way, east of Melrose is 1300, east of Bellevue 1400 and 1500, east of Summit and Belmont 1600, east of Boylston 1700, etc. — essentially continuing on from Downtown, not starting over at what is now the route of Interstate 5, as the other streets do. 

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
1931 view looking north toward Lake Union along Fairview Avenue N, 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”