Denny Way

This street is named for David Thomas Denny (1832–1903). He was one of the members of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in 1851, led by his older brother, Arthur Armstrong Denny (1822–1899). In 1853, he married his sister-in-law, Louisa Boren (1827–1916). (Louisa’s older sister, Mary Ann Boren [1822–1910], had married Arthur in 1843. She, Louisa, and their brother, Carson Dobbins Boren [1824–1912], were also part of the Denny Party).

The Dennys settled on land in what is now Lower Queen Anne, living in a series of houses in the area until they went bankrupt in the Panic of 1893 and had to leave their mansion for their summer cottage at Licton Springs, where they lived with their oldest child, Emily Inez Denny (1853–1918), until they died.

Denny Park is named for the couple, which had given the land to the city as its first cemetery in 1861; the bodies were moved to the Washelli Cemetery on Capitol Hill in the 1880s, at which time the original cemetery was converted to a park, likewise the city’s first. (Just a few years later, Washelli was also converted to a park, initially known as Lake View Park, then City Park, and finally, in 1901, Volunteer Park. The Dennys’ private burial ground near the no-longer-existent Oak Lake eventually became the Oaklake Cemetery, which, after being sold by their son Victor in 1914, was renamed Washelli after the original cemetery of that name; Evergreen Cemetery, across Aurora Avenue N from Washelli, bought the latter in 1922, and the combined cemetery took its current name, Evergreen Washelli, in 1962.)

David Denny was active in government. According to HistoryLink.org, he was:

…Probate judge, King County commissioner, Seattle City Council member, a director of the Seattle School District, and regent of the Territorial University of Washington.… Denny was an ardent advocate of woman suffrage and helped lead the movement that in the 1880s won Washington women the right to vote. He opposed the expulsion of Chinese immigrants in 1886, which antagonized local nativists.

Denny was also involved in the development of a number of Seattle neighborhoods; in addition to Queen Anne, he developed tracts in South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and Ravenna, and founded the Rainier Power and Railway Company, which ran the first streetcar from Downtown (Pioneer Square) to the University District (Ravenna Park).

David T. Denny, 1890
David T. Denny, 1890. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 175313.

Denny Way — originally named Depot Street by Denny after a proposed train station that never materialized — begins as a shoreline street end on Elliott Bay, indistinguishable from the surrounding Myrtle Edwards Park. On the other side of the BNSF Railway tracks, W Denny Way begins as a pathway and stairway from Elliott Avenue to Western Avenue. From here, it is a major arterial, becoming Denny Way as it crosses Queen Anne Avenue N (originally named Temperance Street by Denny), and going 2½ miles east to E Madison Street and 22nd Avenue. (It becomes a neighborhood street on crossing E Olive Way, and the block between Broadway and 10th Avenue E was renamed E Barbara Bailey Way in 2019). E Denny Way begins again at E Madison Street and 23rd Avenue and goes ⅘ of a mile east to Madrona Place E and 38th Avenue, where it turns into Madrona Drive.

Denny Way, which becomes E Denny Way east of Eastlake Avenue E, also divides five of the city’s directional designation zones from each other, similarly to Yesler Way. North of Denny but west of Queen Anne Avenue N, east–west streets carry the W prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix W. North of Denny between Queen Anne Avenue N and Eastlake Avenue E, east–west streets carry no prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix N. North of Denny east of Eastlake Avenue E, east–west streets carry the E prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix E. South of Denny but west of a line that includes Melrose Avenue, Minor Avenue, E Union Street, and Broadway, neither east–west streets nor north–south avenues carry a prefix or suffix. And south of Denny but east of that line, east–west streets carry the E prefix and north–south avenues carry no suffix.

Dexter Avenue N

This street is named for Dexter Horton (1825–1904). Born in Seneca Lake, New York, he was living in Princeton, Illinois before he came west in 1852 with, among others, Thomas Mercer and Daniel and Clarence Bagley. He and Mercer came to Seattle in 1853. In 1870, he founded the city’s first bank, the Dexter Horton Bank. (It later merged with Seattle National Bank and First National Bank to form the First Seattle Dexter Horton National Bank, which unwieldy name became First National Bank of Seattle, then Seattle-First National Bank, and eventually Seafirst, the name it used from 1974 until the brand was retired in favor of Bank of America in 1999. (Bank of America had bought Seafirst in 1983.)

Dexter Horton
Dexter Horton

Dexter Avenue begins just south of Denny Way at 7th Avenue and becomes Dexter Avenue N north of Denny. From there it goes 2 miles north, then northwest, to the intersection of Westlake Avenue N, 4th Avenue N, and Nickerson Street, just south of the Fremont Bridge.

Terry Avenue

This street is named after Charles Carroll Terry (1830–1867), one of the members, along with his older brother, Lee, of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in November 1851. Shortly after the landing, he opened the first store in King County. Lee had made a land claim in Alki a few months earlier, but went home to New York the next year; Charles remained, even after most of the other settlers left for what is now Pioneer Square. It seems he finally moved north in 1857, trading his Alki land for that of David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in Pioneer Square. He died 10 years later, according to this biography, of tuberculosis. (Whether or not he and his brother were responsible for naming the Alki Point settlement New York, which became New York–Alki (the latter word meaning ‘by and by’ or ‘someday’) and then just Alki, is unclear, although he did officially apply the Alki name to the town plat he filed in 1853.)

In 1855, he, along with Edward Lander, bought Carson Boren’s downtown land claim for $500; he and Lander donated two acres to form the first campus of the University of Washington, which opened in 1861. (He named one of his sons, born in 1862, Edward Lander Terry.) His name also appears on Terry Hall, a UW dormitory on NE Campus Parkway.

Charles C. Terry
Charles Carroll Terry

Terry Avenue begins at Alder Street on First Hill and goes ½ a mile to Spring Street, where it is blocked by Virginia Mason Hospital. Resuming at Seneca Street, it goes ⅕ of a mile to Pike Street. On the other side of Interstate 5 and the Washington State Convention Center, it begins again at Howell Street and goes ⅘ of a mile to Valley Street and Lake Union Park, becoming Terry Avenue N as it crosses Denny Way. Amazon.com’s headquarters are at 410 Terry Avenue N, between Harrison Street and Republican Street.

Minor Avenue

This street is named for Dr. Thomas Taylor Minor (1844–1889), who came to Seattle in 1883 from Port Townsend, where he had lived since 1868 and whose mayor he had been in 1880 and 1881. He was one of the founders of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway in 1885 and became mayor of Seattle from 1887 to 1889. He drowned off Whidbey Island while on a duck-hunting trip on December 2, 1889. The other fatalities were George Morris Haller, brother of Theodore Haller for whom Haller Lake is named, and his brother-in-law, Lewis Cox.

Thomas Taylor Minor
Dr. Thomas Taylor Minor

Minor Avenue begins at Broadway just north of Jefferson Street and goes ⅔ of a mile northwest to Pine Street. Resuming on the other side of Interstate 5 at Olive Way, it goes another ⅔ of a mile northwest, then north, to Mercer Street, having become Minor Avenue N north of Denny Way. After a two-block stretch from Roy Street to Aloha Street, it appears again as Minor Avenue E at E Newton Street, and goes nearly ½ a mile to its end at E Roanoke Street.

John Street

“A street of good intentions but easily thwarted,” as Sophie Frye Bass puts it in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, John Street is “named for two Johns,” she writes — “For John Denny [1793–1875], the father of Arthur and David, and John B. [1862–1913], the son of David.”

Today, W John Street begins at Western Avenue W and goes ⅓ of a mile east to 2nd Avenue N and the Pacific Science Center campus. John Street resumes just east of the Space Needle at Broad Street and goes ½ a mile to Terry Avenue N. Picking up half a block to the east, it makes it a further ⅓ of a mile before being blocked by Interstate 5 at Stewart Street and Eastlake Avenue E. Resuming at Melrose Avenue E, it goes ⅙ of a mile to E Olive Way, which itself becomes E John Street a few blocks to the east at Broadway E. From there, it’s ⅓ of a mile to the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center at 15th Avenue E. After beginning again at 16th Avenue E, E John makes it nearly a mile before being stopped by the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt at 32nd Avenue E. Its final stretch is ⅓ of a mile from the 33rd Avenue E right-of-way to 39th Avenue E at Viretta Park.

Boren Avenue

This street was named for Carson Dobbins Boren (1824–1912), a member of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in November 1851. His sisters Mary Ann (1822–1910) and Louisa (1827–1916) married brothers Arthur (1822–1899) and David Denny (1832–1903) in 1843 and 1853, respectively. These weren’t the only Boren–Denny connections, either: his mother, Sarah Latimer Boren (1805–1888), who had been widowed in 1827, married John Denny (1793–1875) — Arthur and David’s father — in 1848. (Their mother, also named Sarah, had died in 1841.)

Boren is said to have built the first cabin in Seattle, at what is now 2nd Avenue and Cherry Street, in April 1852. He was elected King County’s first sheriff the same year. Boren’s land claim of 320 acres covered what is today a rectangle approximately bounded by (going clockwise) Yesler Way, 15th Avenue, E Cherry Street and its projection west, and Western Avenue and its projection north, but he sold it for $500 to Charles Terry and Edward Lander in 1855.*

* “Its projection” is necessary here because of Boren and Arthur Denny’s decision to have their street grid follow the shoreline, while “Doc” Maynard preferred his to follow the cardinal directions; Maynard’s grid eventually extended through the entire city and, indeed, county. (See “Seattle’s first streets.”) The actual southern boundary is a bit north of Yesler Way since both Boren and Maynard adjusted their initial claims to give Henry Yesler land to build and supply his sawmill.

Why Boren sold his land isn’t entirely clear. Sophie Frye Bass writes in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle that he sold it “early at a great sacrifice and became a roamer and, therefore, did not share in the up-building of the town”; her sister, Roberta Frye Watt, is indirectly quoted by Junius Rochester thus: “Carson had an unhappy home life. This compelled him to move deeper and deeper into the forest; to hunt and dream; and to shed most of his possessions.” Indeed, he and his wife, Mary Ann, divorced in 1861.

Carson Dobbins Boren, photographer and date unknown
Carson Dobbins Boren

Today, Boren Avenue S begins at 14th Avenue S, Rainier Avenue S, and S Jackson Street, and goes 2⅕ miles north to Valley Street and Lake Union Park, becoming Boren Avenue as it crosses Yesler Way and Boren Avenue N as it crosses Denny Way. It is one of the few north–south streets in Seattle to have three directional designations.

Mercer Street

This street is named for Thomas Dickerson Mercer (1813–1898), who came to Seattle in 1853 and homesteaded 160 acres in what is now Lower Queen Anne, living at what is now Roy Street and Taylor Avenue N. He became a King County commissioner and probate judge, and named Lake Washington and Lake Union, whose Lushootseed names are x̌ačuʔ and xáx̌əʔčuʔ (‘lake’ and its diminutive, respectively). Mercer Island is named for him, as are three of its main streets, W Mercer Way, N Mercer Way, and E Mercer Way. Mercer Slough in Bellevue is named for his brother Aaron (1826-1902), and his brother Asa (1839–1917) is known for being the first instructor at, and first president of, the Territorial University of Washington (being the only college graduate in Seattle in 1861); and for bringing the “Mercer Girls” to Seattle to address the settlement’s severe gender imbalance (thereby inspiring the 1960s TV show Here Come the Brides).

Thomas Mercer
Thomas Dickerson Mercer

Today, W Mercer Street begins at Elliott Avenue W and goes a block east to 6th Avenue W, where it becomes a stairway. At the top of the stairway, the street becomes a major arterial (connecting directly to Elliott via W Mercer Place) and goes 1⅔ miles east to Eastlake Avenue E and Lakeview Boulevard E, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. (It is, incidentally, laid out on the boundary between the donation land claims of Mercer and David Thomas Denny. Mercer’s claim is today bounded by Queen Anne Avenue N on the west, Lake Union on the east, Highland Drive on the north, and Mercer Street on the south.) Connecting Interbay, Lower Queen Anne, Seattle Center, State Route 99, South Lake Union, Interstate 5, and Capitol Hill, Mercer Street is a linchpin of Seattle’s transportation system — but not a beloved one, having earned the name “Mercer Mess” decades ago.

East of Interstate 5, E Mercer Street begins again at Melrose Avenue E and goes nearly 1½ miles to 28th Avenue E, interrupted only once, at 17th Avenue E, where it is pedestrian-only for half a block. Mercer resumes briefly at Dewey Place E but after a couple hundred feet becomes a stairway connecting to Lake Washington Boulevard E and 31st Avenue E. A block east of that, at 32nd Avenue E, E Mercer Street resumes as another stairway, and becomes a street again just west of 33rd Avenue E. This segment goes about ⅛ of a mile to 36th Avenue E. There is one final 200-foot-long segment of E Mercer Street east of 39th Avenue E. Platted into Lake Washington, this is a shoreline street end, but not, unfortunately, one open to the public. (It was this particular street end that first got me involved with Friends of Street Ends, as I grew up just ¼ of a mile up the hill.)

Blaine Street

This street is named for Catharine V. Paine Blaine (1829–1908) and her husband, David Edwards Blaine (1824–1900). Methodist missionaries from Seneca Falls, New York, where, in 1848, Catharine signed the Declaration of Sentiments at the first women’s rights convention, the Blaines came to Seattle in 1853 but left in 1856, not to return until their retirement from missionary work 26 years later. During their short initial stay in Seattle, however, they managed to build Seattle’s first church (the Little White Church, predecessor of today’s First United Methodist Church of Seattle), and Catharine became Seattle’s first schoolteacher, making $65 a month. Catharine Blaine School in Magnolia is named in her honor.

Catharine and David Blaine
Catharine and David Blaine at their 1853 wedding

Unfortunately, though the Blaines may have been feminists, they, according to HistoryLink.org, had no love for Native Americans (or, for that matter, the Irish). Their departure in 1856 was prompted by the Battle of Seattle. Junius Rochester writes:

On January 20, 1856, a son John, was born to Catharine and David Blaine. Six days later the Battle of Seattle erupted. David had duty at one of the blockhouses, but managed to get Catharine and their babe aboard the Decatur in Elliott Bay. David had described the Indians as a “poor degraded race,” which would “soon disappear.” Catharine compared their “stupidity and awkwardness” to that of the Irish. The Indian uprising confirmed their worst fears and prejudices.

Today, W Blaine Street begins in Magnolia at 36th Avenue W and goes a semicircular ⅕ of a mile to 34th Avenue W and W Howe Street. It resumes at 31st Avenue W and goes almost ⅓ of a mile to Thorndyke Avenue W. There is a stub of W Blaine east of 15th Avenue W that is quickly stopped by the Southwest Queen Anne Greenbelt. The street resumes at 12th Avenue W and goes just over a mile to 4th Avenue N, having briefly become a stairway at 9th Avenue W. After a series of short stretches serving as driveways and parking, the Blaine Street right-of-way resurfaces east of Westlake Avenue N and heads into Lake Union. Here, too, it serves as a driveway and offers no access to the water. East of Lake Union, E Blaine Street begins at Fairview Avenue E and goes ⅛ of a mile to Franklin Avenue E, where it becomes part of the I-5 Colonnade park underneath the freeway. From Lakeview Boulevard E to just west of 10th Avenue E it is a stairway, and then two blocks of roadway ending at 12th Avenue E and Lake View Cemetery. There is then a diagonal ¼-mile stretch from 19th Avenue E to E Howe Street in Montlake. E Blaine finishes up as a ⅕-mile stretch from 37th Avenue E to McGilvra Boulevard E and a final two-block run from E Madison Street to 43rd Avenue E, both in Madison Park.

Pontius Avenue N

This street — originally known as Lincoln when platted in 1875 by Rezin and Margaret Pontius (see Fairview Avenue N) — took the Pontius name as part of the Great Renaming of 1895, when the original Pontius (platted in 1880 by Margaret) became Melrose.

Margaret and Rezin W. Pontius and their children, Frank A., Lincoln H., Albert M., Mary, and Emma
This photograph is undated, but must have been taken before Rezin left the family around 1880. Margaret sued Rezin for divorce that year and he “fled to California,” not to return for many years.

Pontius Avenue N runs ⅓ of a mile from John Street north to just past Mercer Street, where it dead-ends at the Interstate 5–Mercer Street interchange (originally constructed in 1962–1963 as part of the planned Bay Freeway, which was cancelled 10 years later with little more progress having been made. Its original northern end was Roy Street.) Pontius originally began one block further south, at Denny Way, but this portion was vacated as part of the construction of the Denny Substation.*

* Or was it? The clerk file indicates the vacation was granted, but I can find no related ordinance, and the King County Parcel Viewer and quarter section map show the Pontius right-of-way still existing between Denny and John. Something for me to look into… sometime.

Republican Street

This street, platted in 1889 as part of D.T. Denny’s Home Addition to the City of Seattle, was named for the Republican Party, of which David Thomas Denny (1832–1903), a member of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in 1851, was a member. The plat was so named because Denny and his wife, Louisa Boren Denny (1827–1916), lived at what is now Dexter Avenue N and Republican Street from 1871 until 1890. (Adam S. Alsobrook considers it instead “a nod to [their earlier] homestead” of 1860–1871, located on what is now the Seattle Center campus, which is also plausible. [He gives a different date and location on his blog, but the Seattle Times article he cites gives the information above.])

Today, W Republican Street begins a block west of 4th Avenue W and goes ⅖ of a mile east to Warren Avenue N, where it becomes Seattle Center’s pedestrian August Wilson Way. On the east side of Seattle Center, there is a one-block segment of Republican Street between 4th Avenue N and 5th Avenue N; the street then resumes at Dexter Avenue N at the northbound exit from the State Route 99 Tunnel. From there, it runs ⅔ of a mile east to Eastlake Avenue E, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. Resuming east of I-5 as a stairway at Melrose Avenue E, it becomes a street again after half a block and goes another 1⅕ miles from Bellevue Avenue E to 23rd Avenue E, interrupted only once at 17th Avenue E, which can only be crossed by pedestrians and bicycles. After a substantial gap, E Republican Street begins again at 29th Avenue E and E Arthur Place in Madison Valley, and goes ⅖ east to its end at Lake Washington Boulevard E.

(From 33rd Avenue E to Lake Washington Boulevard E, it forms the northern boundary of the Bush School campus; when I went there in the 1980s and 1990s, people from out of town thought I was joking when I told them I went to Bush School on Republican Street. The school, of course, wasn’t named for a member of the Bush political dynasty, but rather for its founder, Helen Taylor Bush.)

E Republican Street Stairway, looking west, January 2008
E Republican Street Stairway, looking west from above Melrose Avenue E, January 2008. When built in 1910, it went all the way down to Eastlake Avenue E, but its lower two-thirds were removed in the 1960s to make way for Interstate 5. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.