N Canal Street

This street appears to have been built sometime between 1908 and 1912. (It was established by ordinance in 1906, but that was legislation, not construction. [It was also originally named Ewing Street, the original name of N 34th Street, which still exists on the Queen Anne side of the Ship Canal.]) When the plat of Denny & Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, W.T., was filed in 1888, no such street was needed, because there was no canal. Instead, Ross Creek connected Lake Union to Salmon Bay. However, as work on the Lake Washington Ship Canal progressed, the Fremont Cut came into being, and it must have been felt a street paralleling the canal to the north was needed, since the original plat took no notice of the creek or any future canal route. (One to the south was needed, too, which is why Nickerson Street was extended from 3rd Avenue W to 4th Avenue N, at the southern end of the Fremont Bridge.)

Why, then, is Canal Street so short — not quite ⅓ of a mile from N 34th Street and Phinney Avenue N in the east to 2nd Avenue NW in the west?

As it turns out, even though Canal Street was to run to what was then the boundary between the cities of Seattle and Ballard at 8th Avenue NW, shortly after Seattle annexed Ballard in 1907 another street was laid out parallel to the canal connecting Fremont to the new neighborhood of Ballard: Leary Way NW (then simply Leary Avenue, all the way from Market Street to Fremont Avenue). Leary became the main arterial, and in 1951 NW Canal Street was vacated between 3rd Avenue NW and 8th Avenue NW, reducing it to its present length. (Until 2016, there was a slight discontinuity in the vicinity of 1st Avenue NW and N 35th Street where the built street deviated from its right-of-way, making it even shorter.)

So this isn’t quite the same as our trio of S Front Street, S River Street, and S Riverside Drive literally being cut short by the rechanneling of the Duwamish River into the Duwamish Waterway — more one of Canal Street being supplanted by Leary Way and becoming more valuable to the city as industrial land than as roadway.

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.

Stone Way N

This street is named for Corliss P. Stone (1838–1906), a member of the Seattle City Council from 1869 to 1872 and mayor of Seattle from 1872 to 1873, who was involved in the development of Fremont and Wallingford. The standard story is that he embezzled $15,000 from his real estate development firm and abandoned his office — and the state — but the truth of the matter is unclear. He returned at some point to Seattle and helped found the Seattle Chamber of Commerce in 1882. His name also appears on Corliss Avenue N.

Corliss P. Stone
Corliss P. Stone

Stone Way N begins on the north shore of Lake Union at N Northlake Way and Waterway 22, and goes 1⅕ miles north to N 50th Street and Green Lake Way N. It forms an unofficial boundary between the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods.

Signs at corner of Burke-Gilman Trail and Stone Way N, August 24, 2009
Signs at corner of Burke-Gilman Trail and Stone Way N, just south of N 34th Street and north of N Northlake Way, August 24, 2009. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

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.

NE Northlake Way

As explained in NE Boat Street, NE Northlake Way was originally Lake Avenue in the 1890 Brooklyn Addition to Seattle, so named because it ran along the northern shore of Lake Union. I couldn’t find an ordinance changing its name from Lake Avenue (used elsewhere, notably for what are now Westlake Avenue and Fremont Avenue N and for part of Eastlake Avenue E) to Northlake Avenue, but the latter name begins to appear in local newspapers in 1901. (Complicating matters slightly, the street appears as North Lake Avenue in the state’s 1907 plat of Lake Union Shore Lands.) Northlake Avenue began being referred to as Northlake Way in 1935, and this was made official in 1956.

Today, NE Northlake Way begins at the west end of NE Pacific Street under the University Bridge at Eastlake Place NE, and continues 1½ miles west to just shy of the Aurora Bridge, where it becomes a private road through formerly industrial land developed by the Fremont Dock Company into a business park. (The Puget Sound Business Journal and The Seattle Times have good articles on how over the years Suzie Burke transformed her father’s Burke Millwork Co., which opened in 1939, into what is today home to local offices for Google and Adobe and corporate headquarters for Tableau and Brooks Sports, among other tenants.) This private roadway continues for ⅖ of a mile beyond the end of the public right-of-way to the intersection of N Canal Street, N 34th Street, and Phinney Avenue N.

NE Northlake Way once began ⅖ of a mile further east, at NE Columbia Road on the University of Washington South Campus, but this stretch was changed to NE Boat Street in 1962, not without some controversy.

Troll Avenue N

When the George Washington Memorial Bridge (more commonly known as the Aurora Bridge) was opened in 1932, a stretch of Aurora Avenue N, unconected to the highway, remained underneath its north approach. This remained the case for 73 years, until its name was changed to Troll Avenue N in 2005. The street — only two blocks long, from N 34th Street to N 36th Street — was renamed as part of the Fremont Neighborhood Plan, which called for the Fremont Troll, located at 36th and Aurora, as a “unifying theme” for the neighborhood, and to improve wayfinding — someone unfamiliar with the area looking for the 3500 block of Aurora Avenue N, say, would be likely to find themselves on the bridge instead of the local street.

Fremont Troll, 2017
Fremont Troll, 2017. Public domain photo by Flickr user jellygator.

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.