Madison Street

Madison Street — another of Seattle’s “first streets” — was named for James Madison, president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. It is the only street in town that stretches, uninterrupted, from the salt water of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound to the fresh water of Lake Washington.

Madison Street begins on the Elliott Bay waterfront at Alaskan Way and ends 3¾ miles northeast of there at a small fishing pier, just east of 43rd Avenue E and north of Madison Park Beach. Apart from a slight bend to the northeast at 22nd Avenue, it is as straight as an arrow from beginning to end.

E Foster Island Road

This street, which runs about ¼ mile from Lake Washington Boulevard E to the beginning of the Foster Point Trail, all within the Washington Park Arboretum, was without a name until 1968, when it was named for the island in Union Bay to which it led. (It remained unsigned until a few decades later, however. There was no sign at the intersection until at least the 1990s, as I know since my parents’ house was at the south end of the Arboretum and I drove or biked by there weekly, if not more often, while I was growing up.)

Foster Island is known by the Duwamish tribe, who once used it as a burial ground, as Stitici, or ‘little island’. It was named by the settlers for Joel Wellington Foster, who came to Washington in the 1870s from St. Joseph, Missouri. He is said to have donated the island to the city in one HistoryLink article, but another says the city bought it in 1917.

E Jansen Court

When I saw that E Jansen Court fell within Jansen’s Addition to the City of Seattle, filed in 1889 by Mary Jansen, I thought “Ah, another case of a landowner naming a street after themselves,” though I did note it was rare to see a single woman’s, and no one else’s, name on such a plat. But once I got a good look at the plat map I realized that, as is often the case, things weren’t quite that simple.

There’s no Jansen Court on this map — instead, John Street keeps its name as it crosses Mulford Street (now 20th Avenue E). So what happened?

In 1954, E John Street — the arterial east of 21st Avenue E — and E Thomas Street — the arterial west of 20th — were connected directly to each other by lopping off a small part of Miller Playfield (creating Miller Triangle in the process). As part of this, a one-way extension of John was built east of 20th, connecting with the arterial just before 21st. But this meant what is now Jansen Court needed a new name (remember, it originally remained John Street after crossing 20th). The powers that be decided to simply name it after Mary Jansen (or her subdivision). So even though she hadn’t named it after herself, 65 years after she filed her plat Jansen finally had her name on a street sign.

Portage Bay Place E

This street, which runs ³⁄₁₀ of a mile from Fuhrman Avenue E to E Allison Street, was established as an alley in 1890 as part of the Denny–Fuhrman Addition to the City of Seattle, but only received a name in 1936. It was named for Portage Bay, the eastern arm of Lake Union, which it parallels. Portage Bay was in turn named for the portage from Union Bay (part of Lake Washington) to Lake Union over the Montlake Isthmus, which is today the Montlake Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Canterbury Lane E

This stub of a street in Madison Park serves mostly as a driveway to the Canterbury Shores Condominiums, although it is public right-of-way. It appears to have been dedicated to the public in 1965, and its name was changed from 40th Avenue E the next year.

My assumption is the street was named for the condominiums, and that the condominiums were named for the Canterbury subdivision to the south, which was laid out in 1951. According to Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, John L. Scott’s Canterbury Land Company purchased the land in 1938.

E Interlaken Boulevard

The establishment of E Interlaken Boulevard — the first of Seattle’s Olmsted parks and boulevards we’re covering — was first proposed, according to Seattle parks historian Don Sherwood, in 1903 as Volunteer Hill Parkway. Two years later, the current name was adopted. There is speculation, but no documentation, that it was named for the Swiss resort town of that name. Ask a Seattleite how to pronounce “Interlaken” and you may hear either lake or lock, the latter being more common according to an informal Twitter poll I ran (but the former being the one I grew up with).

Interlaken Boulevard runs for about 1⅔ miles west to east from Delmar Drive E, by Seattle Preparatory School on Capitol Hill, to Lake Washington Boulevard E, in the Washington Park Arboretum. The middle section, between 19th and 21st Avenues E, is closed to motor vehicles and functions as a pedestrian and bicycle trail. The name also appears on Interlaken Drive E and Interlaken Place E — and should not be confused with Interlake Avenue N, a street in North Seattle.

Advertisement for Interlaken in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 1906
Advertisement for Interlaken in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 1906

E North Street

Seattle has a number of streets whose names incorporate directions, such as Northlake Way, Eastern Avenue, Westlake Avenue, and Southern Street. But the one I drove by most growing up — and the only one to simply bear the name of a direction in its uncompounded, nominal form — is E North Street, which runs between E Montlake Place E and 24th Avenue E in Montlake, just south of the 520 interchange.

Two questions should spring to mind with a street name like this: North of what? and What happened to South Street?

Portion of Plan of Union City, 1869

The answer to the first question is north of where H.L. Pike had planned to dig a canal between Union Bay and Portage Bay.

And the answer to the second is that it seems to have been subsumed in Roanoke Street when the Glenwilde Addition was platted in 1925. But North Street’s name was never changed.

E Barbara Bailey Way

As of this writing, Seattle’s newest street name is E Barbara Bailey Way — formerly the block of E Denny Way between Broadway and 10th Avenue E.

Barbara Bailey, who died on September 1, 2018, was best known for Bailey/Coy Books, which she founded on Broadway in 1982. As Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote,

Barbara’s commitment to action made her an early pioneer for LGBTQ+ rights. Her bookstores – B. Bailey Books and Bailey/Coy Books – were nationally beloved independent book stores that regularly brought communities together and hosted renowned authors. They were also safe and welcoming spaces for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly for those just coming out and during the height of anti-LGBTQ+ actions.

Barbara Bailey Way is one of five “festival streets” in the city of Seattle.