Rainier Avenue S

This street follows the route of the Rainier Avenue Electric Railway Company’s Seattle-to-Renton line, which began to be built in 1891. Both the rail line and street were named for Mount Rainier (təqʷubəʔ), itself named by Captain George Vancouver for his friend, Royal Navy Rear Admiral Peter Rainier (1741–1808). As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted on September 3, 1890, “the avenue points straight toward Mount Rainier, which mountain will be in plain view all the way.”

Rainier Avenue S begins at the intersection of S Jackson Street, Boren Avenue S, and 14th Avenue S, and goes nearly 8 miles southeast to the city limits. From there, it continues around 3¾ miles south to the intersection of Interstate 405 and State Route 167 in Renton.

Looking south on Rainier Avenue S from S Jackson Street, with Mount Rainier in background, and two Metro route 7 buses, July 2011. From https://flickr.com/photos/95482862@N00/5914713222
Looking south on Rainier Avenue S from S Jackson Street. “The mountain is out” on this July 2011 day. Metro route 7 trolleybuses follow the route of the old interurban from here to 57th Avenue S. Photograph by Flickr user Oran Viriyincy, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Aerial view of Rainier Valley looking north, 2001
Aerial view of Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and Downtown, May 22, 2001. Rainier Avenue S is the tree-lined street running up the middle of the photograph. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 114373.

Renton Avenue S

This street is named after the city of Renton, Washington, located southeast of Seattle at the southern end of Lake Washington. The city was itself named after Captain William Renton (1818–1891). Born in Nova Scotia, he came to the Puget Sound area in the mid-1850s and founded the Port Blakely mill on Bainbridge Island in 1864. Erasmus Smithers founded the Renton Coal Company with Captain Renton’s financial backing in 1873 and filed the first town plat in 1875.

William Renton, 1818-1891
William Renton, 1818 – 1891

A Renton Avenue existed in Seattle before this one, but not for very long — it was established in 1894 from streets on Capitol Hill “now called in various portions thereof Black Street, Joy Street, Renton Avenue and Eighteenth Avenue.” (Part of this area had been platted by Captain Renton, and was known at the time as Renton Hill.) It was changed the next year to 16th Avenue as part of the Great Renaming.

The current Renton Avenue was established in 1907 from what had been an old county road, Simpson Avenue, Hillman Boulevard, and a number of unnamed streets. According to the North Rainier Valley Historic Context Statement, this is quite an old route:

King County Road No. 1 ran east down from Beacon Hill at about the location of today’s Cheasty Boulevard, and then followed the approximate line of today’s Renton Avenue South to Renton. It also had been an earlier Indian trail route. Renton Avenue South is the remnant of this original county road to Renton. While portions of this road still exist, some are now incorporated into Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

Today, Renton Avenue S begins at Martin Luther King Jr. Way S just south of S Walden Street and goes ¾ of a mile southeast to 33rd Avenue S just north of S Alaska Street. It resumes at 35th Avenue S just south of S Hudson Street and goes another ½ mile to S Juneau Street west of 39th Avenue S. It then starts up again at Martin Luther King Jr. Way S and S Webster Street and goes nearly 3 miles to the city limits south of S 116th Place. (Renton Avenue continues beyond there another 2 miles to — of course — Renton, where at 90th Avenue S and Taylor Avenue NW it becomes the Renton Avenue Extension and goes a further ⅛ of a mile to Rainier Avenue S and Airport Way.)

Metro bus at S Norfolk Street and Renton Avenue S, May 2010
Metro bus at Kubota Garden, S Norfolk Street and Renton Avenue S, May 2010. Photograph by Flickr user Oran Viriyincy, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

S Graham Street

This street was named for Walter Graham (1828–1919), who came to Seattle in 1853. Three years later, he married Eliza Mercer, second daughter of Thomas Mercer (Mercer Street, Mercer Island), though she unfortunately died six years later. With his third wife, Elizabeth Crammond (or Crommon), he had a daughter, Nellie, who later married David Thomas Denny II, son of early settler David Thomas Denny (Denny Way). Graham’s brother, David, came to Seattle four years after his brother, and was one of the city’s first schoolteachers. He ended up marrying Eliza Mercer’s sister, Susannah.

Graham sold some of his southeast Seattle land in 1865 to Everett Smith, who filed the plat of Brighton Beach in 1890 on which what was then Graham Avenue appeared. He once owned what is today Seward Park on Bailey Peninsula, which was previously known as Graham’s Peninsula.

He was present at the Battle of Seattle in 1856, and is pictured below with fellow survivors Ira Woodin and Carson D. Boren (Boren Avenue).

Ira Woodin, Carson Boren, and Walter Graham, November 3, 1905
Ira Woodin, Carson Boren, and Walter Graham at Alki Point, November 3, 1905

S Graham Street begins in the east at Wilson Avenue S and goes 2⅒ miles west to Swift Avenue S and 20th Avenue S, just east of Interstate 5. After a short segment between Corgiat Drive S and 16th Avenue S just west of the freeway, it next appears in West Seattle. Betwen 16th Avenue SW and 22nd Avenue SW, it alternates between roadway, stairway, and pathway, and there is a similar situation between 25th Avenue SW at Delridge Way SW and High Point Drive SW at Bataan Park. SW Graham Street begins again at High Point Drive SW and SW Raymond Street and goes 1¼ miles to its end at 50th Avenue SW,

S Fontanelle Street

This fragmented street starts at Rainier Avenue S and travels two blocks west to 46th Avenue S. It makes its next appearance in Beacon Hill as a block-long street hanging off Military Road S, just east of Interstate 5. There are a few more blocks in South Park, from 5th to 2nd Avenues S, then half a block in West Seattle just west of California Avenue SW and a few final blocks from just east of Vashon Place SW to 47th Avenue SW at Lincoln Park. It is named for Fontanelle, Iowa, where Joseph and Catherine (Henderson) Dunlap (of S Henderson Street) lived before coming to Seattle in 1869.