S King Street

King Street another of the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It was named after William Rufus DeVane King, a slaveholding Unionist Democratic politician who founded and named Selma, Alabama; was a senator from Alabama from 1819 to 1844 and from 1848 to 1852 (he was ambassador to France in the interim); and was vice president under Franklin Pierce for 45 days in 1853 (he died two days after he returned to the U.S. from Cuba, where he had been convalescing from tuberculosis; King Street was named in his honor 35 days after that).

King County, of which Seattle is the county seat, was named after him in 1852, though it was “renamed” after Martin Luther King, Jr., in 2005. No such action has yet been proposed for King Street.

S King Street begins on the Elliott Bay waterfront at Alaskan Way S and runs ¼ of a mile to King Street Station just past 2nd Avenue S. It resumes at at 5th Avenue S, where it is spanned by the Historic Chinatown Gate, then makes it a full mile to 20th Avenue S, passing through Chinatown and Little Saigon along the way. East of there it exists in various segments, none of which is longer than ⅓ of a mile, and it finally ends at Lakeside Avenue S, where it is one of the String of Pearls shoreline street ends.

Historic Chinatown Gate, S King Street and 5th Avenue S
Historic Chinatown Gate. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

S Jackson Street

Jackson Street was another one of the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It, like King, Lane, and Weller Streets, was named after a prominent Democratic politician — in this case Andrew Jackson, president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Because of his history as a slaveholder and a proponent of Indian removal, there have been calls to at least symbolically change the street’s namesake to another Jackson, if not change the name outright.

S Jackson Street begins today at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and has an uninterrupted 2-mile run as an arterial to 31st Avenue S in Leschi. On the other side of Frink Park, it makes its way the few remaining blocks to Lake Washington as a minor arterial, then a staircase, then a minor street, and finally a shoreline street end, part of the String of Pearls.

Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street
Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street. Photograph by Stephen Fesler, The Urbanist, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

S Weller Street

Weller Street was among the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It was named after John B. Weller, Democratic senator from California from 1852 to 1857 (Maynard named four streets in his plat after prominent Democratic politicians). Though he wasn’t a slaveowner like President Andrew Jackson or Vice President William R. King, or a future secessionist like Joseph Lane, who was the Southern Democrats’ nominee for vice president in 1860, he was a pro-slavery “Lecompton Democrat” who planned to have California become independent in case of civil war.

S Weller Street begins today at 5th Avenue S and runs ¼ of a mile through the ChinatownInternational District to just east of 8th Avenue S, where it, like S Lane Street, is blocked by Interstate 5. It resumes at 10th Avenue S and runs ¾ of a mile to its end at 20th Place S and Washington Middle School.

Maynard Avenue S

Maynard Avenue S, which was 8th Street in David Swinson “Doc” Maynard’s first plat of Seattle in May 1853, was given its current name as part of the 1895 Great Renaming. It begins today at S Main Street* and goes about ⅖ of a mile south to Airport Way S just past S Charles Street. There is another block-long segment in the Industrial District and then one of 2½ blocks in Georgetown. Maynard is generally credited with naming the town of Seattle, after his friend siʔaɫ, or Chief Seattle, and he was its “first physician, merchant, Indian agent, and justice of the peace.”

* As a card-carrying address nerd, I feel compelled to mention that the driveway for the Nippon Kan Theatre/Kobe Park Building at the dead end of S Washington Street is, technically, the northernmost segment of Maynard Avenue S, at least for its first hundred feet.

David Swinson Maynard, ca 1868, photographer unknown
David Swinson Maynard, ca 1868, photographer unknown

Maynard — unlike Republican Arthur Armstrong Denny, who platted the tract to the north — was a Democrat, and named a number of streets in his plat after prominent Democratic politicians, including the slaveholders President Andrew Jackson and Vice President William Rufus DeVane King; Oregon Territorial Governor Joseph Lane, who went on to be the pro-slavery Southern Democratic candidate for vice president in 1860; and pro-slavery California Senator John B. Weller. I haven’t seen much online about Maynard’s personal racial views, but he was known to have had good relations (given the era) with the local Native Americans, at least. Junius Rochester writes for HistoryLink:

Perhaps one of Doc Maynard’s most enduring qualities, besides his amiability, was his high regard for the local Indians. Chief Seattle was a particular friend, having stated: “My heart is very good toward Dr. Maynard.” Maynard, who knew tribulations in his own life, understood that besides the tools, medicines, guns, and other wonders that the white men had brought to Puget Sound, they also introduced disease, intolerant religions, and the inhospitable idea of private property.

But, as Clay Eals notes,

There can be no avoiding his privileged promotion of white settlers at Native Americans’ expense. “They will fight,” he writes on Nov. 4, 1855. “There is no reason why they (sho)uld not, but we must conquer them.”

One hopes that, if Maynard were alive today, he would choose worthier men (and women) to honor than Jackson, King, Lane, and Weller.

S Lane Street

Lane Street was another one of Seattle’s first streets, platted on May 23, 1853 by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard. It was named after Joseph Lane, governor of Oregon Territory (which then included what is now Washington) from March 1849 to June 1850. Ten years later, he was the pro-slavery, pro-secession Southern Democratic nominee for vice president, with John C. Breckenridge at the head of the ticket.

S Lane Street begins today at 6th Avenue S just east of the flagship Uwajimaya grocery store, and runs ⅕ of a mile through the ChinatownInternational District to just east of 8th Avenue S, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. East of there, it is a path and stairway from 10th to 13th Avenues S, past which it appears in segments of varying lengths until it ends for good at Lakeside Avenue S.

S Washington Street

Washington Street was one of Seattle’s first streets, platted on May 23, 1853 by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard and named after President George Washington. Its initial segment begins at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and ends half a mile to the east at Kobe Terrace Park. East of Interstate 5 it exists in a number of segments interrupted by schools and parks and finally ends at S Frink Place and Frink Park.

Washington Street Boat Landing, September 2007, by Joe Mabel
Washington Street Public Boat Landing, September 2007. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

University Street

University Street was established as part of the Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny on November 16, 1861. It was named for the Territorial University of Washington, which had opened 12 days earlier on a 10-acre site atop “Denny’s Knoll.”

Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny, November 16, 1861
Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny, November 16, 1861
Territorial University on opening day, showing south and west sides of main building, November 4, 1861
Territorial University of Washington on opening day, November 4, 1861

Even though the University of Washington moved to its current location on Portage and Union Bays in 1895, the name was not changed. Nor did the university relinquish the land, though not for lack of trying. This turns out to have been fortunate. The UW owns the Metropolitan Tract to this day, and it earned $25 million in rent on the property during fiscal year 2020 alone.

The street, which originally ran from Front Street (now 1st Avenue) to the university campus, just northeast of 3rd Avenue, today begins at Alaskan Way on the Elliott Bay waterfront, and makes it just one block, to Western Avenue, before it becomes the Harbor Steps. From 1st Avenue, it’s about a third of a mile to 7th Avenue, where University Street is blocked by Interstate 5. It resumes at 9th Avenue and goes for another third of a mile to Boylston Avenue.

Portion of King County quarter section maps covering Metropolitan Tract
Portion of King County quarter section maps covering Metropolitan Tract

Incidentally, you’ll notice in the map above that 4th and 5th Avenues between Seneca and Union Streets, as well as University Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, plus half a block on either end, are marked private way subject to public use — long term grant of use for street purposes. This fact — that the University of Washington still owns all the land within the Metropolitan Tract and never formally dedicated those streets to the public — was something I never knew until I started taking close looks at King County’s quarter section maps as part of my local history research. It might seem an academic distinction, but as The Seattle Times reported in 2015, there are very real financial consequences.

In 2008… the UW wanted the city to interpret the tract as one undivided lot, streets and all. That novel argument would benefit the UW in calculating the development footprint, or base.… The bigger the base, the logic went, the more square footage a developer could build before triggering affordable-housing fees under the city’s formula.… The university held a heavy hammer in negotiations. Because the UW owned development rights for the land under Fifth Avenue and University Street, it could make the city compensate it, one way or another, for using those streets.

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.

Spring Street

Spring Street was another of Seattle’s “first streets.” Sophie Frye Bass writes in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle:

Where springs of clear water bubbled from the earth and the beach was sandy and free from rocks, there the Indians camped. Such a choice spot was Tzee-tzee-lal-litch [dzidzəlalič], which Arthur Denny called Spring Street.

Spring Street begins at Alaskan Way and runs nearly a mile, to Harvard Avenue, before it is interrupted. A few more segments run through the Central District and Madrona. The last is from 38th Avenue to Grand Avenue, at which point it continues to Lake Washington Boulevard as a footpath and stairway.

Cherry Street

Cherry Street was among the first streets platted in Seattle on May 23, 1853. Sophie Frye Bass, author of Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, writes:

I choose to think that Cherry Street is named for the little town of Cherry Grove, Illinois — Mother’s birthplace — where the Dennys started on their long journey over the Oregon Trail.

“Mother,” in this case, refers to Louisa Catherine Denny Frye, one of three children of Arthur Armstrong Denny and Mary Ann Boren Denny of the Denny Party. She was 7 years old when they landed at Alki Point in November 1851.

In 2006, Hunter Brown wrote a People’s History essay for HistoryLink, “Finding Cherry Grove,” detailing his efforts to locate Cherry Grove, whose name was later changed to Cedar Township. The nearest town today is called Abingdon.

Bass began her Pig-Tail Days piece on Cherry Street by calling it “another up-and-up street… with no interferences. It begins at First Avenue, goes east and ends at Thirty-seventh avenue.” This is no longer quite the case because of a very small gap at the south end of the Seattle University campus. Today, Cherry begins at 1st Avenue and ends a block east of Broadway. It starts up again a couple hundred feet to the east as a continuation of the James Street/E James Way arterial, and then does go on to 37th Avenue in Madrona. All told it is 2⅓ miles long.