Fremont Avenue N

This street is named for Fremont, Nebraska, hometown of two of the developers of the Fremont neighborhood: Edward Blewett (1848–1929) and Luther Henry Griffith (1861–1925). The city itself was named after John Charles Frémont (1813–1890).

Fremont Bridge in open position, April 2006
Fremont Bridge in open position, April 2006. Opened in 1917, it has a clearance of only 30 feet over the Fremont Cut, which has caused it to become the most frequently opened drawbridge in the country. Photograph by Flickr user Mahalie Stackpole, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Fremont Avenue N begins at the north end of the Fremont Bridge (making it a continuation, in a sense, of both Dexter Avenue N and Westlake Avenue N) and goes 1⅙ miles north to N 50th Street and Woodland Park Zoo. It resumes north of the zoo at N 59th Street and goes 3½ miles to N 130th Street and Bitter Lake Playfield, a short portion of the block between N 61st Street and N 62nd Street being stairway. North of the lake, there are two short stretches: one going a couple blocks south from N 143rd Street, adjoining the Bitter Lake Reservoir, and another going a block south from the city limits at N 145th Street.

As with many North Seattle avenues, the Fremont name continues on into Shoreline. Its northernmost appearance is at the King–Snohomish county line at N 205th Street.

Phinney Avenue N

This street is named for Guy Carleton Phinney (1851–1893), who was instrumental in the development of Fremont and Phinney Ridge. Woodland Park was once his private estate; in 1899, his widow, Nellie C. Wright Phinney (1867–1909) sold it to the city for $100,000. The animals of the Leschi Park menagerie were brought to Woodland Park in 1903 and combined with Phinney’s existing one to create what is now Woodland Park Zoo. Phinney Ridge is also named after him, as are the Carleton Park and Carleton Beach Tracts subdivisions in Magnolia, which were promoted by his sonArthur Alexander Phinney (1885–1941).

It has proved difficult to find a good photo of Phinney — this, the only one I could find online, is a group shot taken from a distance, so it’s hard to make him out — but I was able to find the below advertisement. His offer to refund the purchase price of “any lot, block, or acre” sold by him since 1881, with interest, is an impressive one — I wonder if anyone took him up on it? Ladd’s Addition later became part of Carleton Park; with the help of David Rumsey’s Georeferencer, I was able to determine that Governor Ferry’s blocks were located east of what is now W Viewmont Way W, between Parkmont Place W and W Raye Street.

Guy Carleton Phinney advertisement in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 4, 1888
An advertisement by Phinney in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 4, 1888

Phinney Avenue N begins at N 34th Street in Fremont and goes just over 2 miles north to N 70th Street on Phinney Ridge. Resuming at N 85th Street in Greenwood, it goes ¾ of a mile north to N 100th Street. There is another 1¼-mile stretch from N 105th Street to N 130th Street in Bitter Lake, and then a final two blocks between N 141st Street and the city limits at N 145th Street. As with many North Seattle avenues, the Phinney name continues on into Shoreline; its northernmost appearance is just south of N 200th Street.

Aurora Avenue N

What is now Aurora Avenue N began in 1888 as Aurora Street in Denny & Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory, previously discussed in our post on Dravus Street. Edward Blewett and his wife, Carrie, of Fremont, Nebraska, were the landowners, and Edward Corliss Kilbourne (1856–1959) filed the plat as attorney-in-fact for the Blewetts. Dr. Kilbourne (a dentist), was from Aurora, Illinois, and it seems to be generally accepted (The Fremocentrist, Wedgwood in Seattle History, Fremont Neighborhood Council, Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle) that he named the street after his hometown.

(I have seen elsewhere [HistoryLinkWashington’s Pacific Highway], that Aurora was given its name sometime in the early 20th century by George F. Cotterill, mayor of Seattle from 1912–1914, because it was “the highway to the north, toward the aurora borealis,” but they have the century wrong, and Aurora Street was no highway in 1888. In addition, those two pages call him “city engineer, later mayor,” but he was never city engineer — although he was assistant city engineer from 1892–1900. The Licton Springs Community Council mentions both theories.)

At any rate, Ordinance 6947, filed on June 6, 1901, refers to the street as Aurora Street, and Ordinance 7942, filed on November 5 of that year, refers to it as Aurora Avenue. I can find no specific record of the name change, but Ordinance 6864, filed on May 8, has to do with “altering, defining and establishing the names of streets in the City of Seattle in the portion thereof lying north of Lake Union, Salmon Bay and the route of the Lake Washington Canal,” and is likely responsible. (No text is available online for the ordinance, and the drafters of Ordinance 6947 must have neglected to take the change into account.)

Aurora Avenue N might have remained just another North Seattle street were it not for the decision to route the Pacific Highway, U.S. Route 99, across the Lake Washington Ship Canal there instead of Stone Way N, Albion Place N, Whitman Avenue N, or Linden Avenue N. As it happened, Aurora was chosen as the location for the crossing (known today as the Aurora Bridge), and the name was officially extended through Queen Anne to Downtown Seattle in 1930 in preparation for the bridge’s opening in 1932.

Lake Union, Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Fremont Bridge, and the George Washington Memorial Bridge (Aurora Bridge), Seattle, Washington, circa 1932, from https://flickr.com/photos/uw_digital_images/4860576629/
Postcard of Lake Union, Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Fremont Bridge, and the George Washington Memorial Bridge (Aurora Bridge), circa 1932. View looks southeast, with Fremont in foreground. Public domain image from University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Aurora Bridge, 2011, from https://flickr.com/photos/mlinksva/5996553637/, public domain
Aurora Bridge, 2011. View looks east, with Gas Works Park and Wallingford neighborhood at center, Lake Union and Capitol Hill at right. Public domain photo by Flickr user Mike Linksvayer.

Today, Aurora Avenue N begins at 7th Avenue N and Harrison Street by the north portal of the State Route 99 Tunnel and goes 7⅘ miles north to the city limits; the name continues 3 further miles to the King–Snohomish county line, and the highway another 12 miles beyond that to Broadway in Everett. A block-long segment from 6th Avenue and Battery Street to Denny Way has been renamed Borealis Avenue, and Aurora between Denny Way and Harrison Street is once again 7th Avenue N. A two-block-long segment underneath the north approach to the Aurora Bridge has also been changed to Troll Avenue N.

Bitter Place N

This street runs a tenth of a mile along the Bitter Lake waterfront from N 134th Street to the grounds of Broadview-Thomson K-8 School and Bitter Lake Playground. It was established in 1923 as part of Bitter Lake Villa Tracts.

Bitter Lake itself was so named because, as HistoryLink puts it, “A small, lake-bound sawmill operation at the southwest corner of Bitter Lake contracted with the Puget Mill and Brown Bay Logging Company to process their lumber cut from nearby forests. The tannic acid from logs dumped into the lake was so bitter that horses refused to drink from it, thus giving the 20-acre pond its name.” Its native name is čʼalqʼʷadiʔ, meaning ‘blackcaps on the sides’.