E Marginal Way S

E Marginal Way S and its twin across the Duwamish Waterway, W Marginal Way SW, are good examples of purely descriptive Seattle street names. In fact, they are first mentioned in the press as adjective + noun, not name + type:

  • “Marginal ways are urged for both sides of Duwamish waterway.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, October 27, 1911, in reference to the Bogue Plan
  • “Coincident with the completion of the Duwamish waterway and the wide marginal streets on each side, a publicly owned railway should be built along these marginal ways…” C.C. Closson, realtor and the Port of Seattle’s first paid employee, in a letter to the editor, Seattle P-I, July 8, 1912
  • “East and west marginal ways, planned by Bogue to parallel the waterway to give railroads, street cars and other transportation facilities access to the Duwamish waterway, will both pass through Oxbow.“ The Seattle Times, March 26, 1914
  • “Marginal ways parallel the new waterway for the whole distance, connecting with the main streets of the city running to the south.” Seattle P-I, August 13, 1914 

A longer excerpt, from an article in the April 19, 1914, issue of The Seattle Times, explains the reason for their creation:

Second only in importance to the waterway are the projected traffic streets, east and west marginal ways, laid out on both sides of the waterway about 1,000 feet back to give railways and street car lines the opportunity to parallel the waterway on both sides for its entire length, to give service to the industries locating along the waterway. As an allowance of $175,000 was made for East Marginal Way in the $3,000,000 county bond issue for roads, that street is now being condemned by the city and will be constructed 130 feet wide to the south city limits, where it will join a county road. West Marginal Way is also being promoted by interested property owners. As the existing railways are already but a short distance east of the Duwamish River, spurs can be thrown into East Marginal Way at slight expense. Also the port commission is considering a plan for port district terminal tracks on the Marginal Ways to serve the waterway.

The Duwamish Waterway, whose construction began on October 14, 1913, was a straightening and deepening of the last 6 miles of the formerly meandering river. Construction of the waterway, with Harbor Island at its mouth (the largest artificial island in the world from 1909 to 1938), plus the filling of the Elliott Bay tidelands, are what give Seattle’s harbor its modern shape.

Plan of the Duwamish Waterway, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 31, 1913, page 44
Plan of the Duwamish Waterway, from the August 31, 1913, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, page 44

E Marginal Way S begins as an extension of Alaskan Way S — originally Railroad Avenue, which served much the same function for the central waterfront — at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 30, and stretches 4⅖ miles from there to the southern city limits. (From the southern end of the Alaskan Freeway to the northern end of the 1st Avenue South Bridge, it carries Washington State Route 99.) Beyond there it runs 3½ miles more to S 133rd Street in Tukwila.

S River Street

S River Street is just ½ a mile long, and none of it parallels the Duwamish River. The reason behind this is the same reason S Front Street is perpendicular to the waterway — the rechanneling of the Duwamish River that began in 1913. In Joseph R. McLaughlin’s Water Front Addition to the City of Seattle, filed in 1906, Front Street had a horseshoe shape. North Front Street is today’s Front Street, and South Front Street was changed to River Street in 1907, when West Seattle was annexed to Seattle. The Baist Atlas depiction of the Oxbow, below left, is from 1912, so has the modern name.

Portion of index page of Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Seattle, 1912, showing Duwamish River oxbowPortion of King County Parcel Viewer map and aerial view of Seattle showing former location of Duwamish River oxbow

 

Today’s S River Street begins at 7th Avenue S and goes ½ a mile west, ending at 1st Avenue S, below the 1st Avenue S Bridge. 

S Front Street

Usually, a Front Street designates a city’s waterfront. Front Street in Philadelphia parallels the Delaware River; NW Front Avenue in Portland, Oregon, goes up the Willamette River; Front Street in Toronto runs along Lake Ontario. Seattle once had a prominent Front Street alongside Elliott Bay, but it was renamed 1st Avenue in 1895. The Front Street we do have runs a grand total of ⅖ of a mile split among three segments, and it runs east–west, while the nearby Duwamish River runs north–south. Why is this?

As it turns out, S Front Street — established as part of Joseph R. McLaughlin’s Water Front Addition to the City of Seattle in 1906 — did use to run along the river, before it was rechanneled beginning in 1913. (Here is an excellent post from the Burke Museum on the Duwamish meanders, with some great maps and aerials.) The maps below show its course along the Duwamish River Oxbow in 1912 (left) and its current landlocked state (right). You can still make out its former location, as well as small remnants in the form of the Slip 2 and Slip 3 inlets. (Incidentally, Front Street originally was shaped like a horseshoe — today’s S Front Street was originally North Front Street, and South Front Street is today S River Street.)

Portion of index page of Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Seattle, 1912, showing Duwamish River oxbowPortion of King County Parcel Viewer map and aerial view of Seattle showing former location of Duwamish River oxbow

 

Speaking of the Oxbow, here’s an advertisement for it. So much for that “16,000 feet of deep water frontage.”

Advertisement for Oxbow in June 1, 1906, issue of The Seattle Times
Advertisement for Oxbow in June 1, 1906, issue of The Seattle Times

Today’s S Front Street begins at 6th Avenue S and goes ¼ of a mile west, ending just beyond 4th Avenue S. There is another 400-foot-long section between E Marginal Way S and 1st Avenue S, below the approach to the 1st Avenue S Bridge. And then there is one last 200-foot-long section on the west side of the Duwamish River — SW Front Street starts at W Marginal Way SW and ends at the entrance to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 115 (which used to be Boeing Plant 1, the airplane manufacturer’s first production facility).

Incidentally, here’s a great article on the one in New Orleans I came across while looking up various Front Streets. It’s hard to beat a lede like this: “In a city replete with famed streets, scenic avenues and poetic street names, one particular artery excels at being obscure, nominally insipid, marvelously intermittent, and sometimes barely even a street.”

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 Angelo Street

This street, which runs not quite a tenth of a mile from Ellis Avenue S in the west to 13th Avenue S in the east, was named by Angelo Boitano after himself as part of Boitano’s Supplemental Addition to the City of Georgetown in 1906. (Incidentally, if I ever had the opportunity to name a street after myself, I would call it Lukoff, not Benjamin.)

There isn’t much on the internet about him, but apparently he was interested in chestnut growing, and was in a bad buggy accident in 1908.

July 19, 1908 article in The Seattle Times on buggy accident that injured Boitano
July 19, 1908 article in The Seattle Times on buggy accident that injured Boitano

S Carstens Place

This short street — just over 300 feet long — runs from Airport Way S in the east to Corson Avenue S in the west. It was established in 1903 as Carstens Street, part of Carstens’ Addition to Georgetown, “filed for record at the request of Thomas Carstens on the 4[th] day of June 1903 at 49 Min. past 9 A.M.” This is the first time I’ve seen the actual time of filing on a plat!

Thomas Carstens, born in 1865 in Husum, Germany, near Denmark, came to the Pacific Northwest in 1884, and in 1890 established a butcher shop with his brother, Ernest, which later grew into the Carstens Packing Company.

Carstens Packing Company Matchbook
Carstens Packing Company matchbook. Photo by Oliver Hammond, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Clinton A. Snowden, author of History of Washington: The Rise and Progress of an American State, wrote in 1911 of Carstens:

Mr. Carstens, besides being president of the Carstens Packing Company, is president of the Tacoma Wheat Land Company, president of the Pacific Oil Mills, and director of the National Realty Company of Tacoma. He is a member of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Commercial Club, Arctic Club of Seattle, Seattle Manufacturers’ Association, Duwamish River Improvement Club, Tacoma Commercial Club, and Tacoma Chamber of Commerce.

Occidental Avenue S

Occidental Avenue S, which begins at Yesler Way in Pioneer Square, is one of those Seattle streets whose names extend into the suburbs. It makes its southernmost appearance at S 197th Street in Des Moines.

It received its name in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming — it had originally been S Second Street. It once had a partner, Oriental Avenue, to the east (originally S Fourth Street), which is today 3rd Avenue S. “Oriental,” of course, means “Eastern,” as “Occidental” means “Western.” (I haven’t been able to determine just when Oriental Avenue became 3rd, but it was last mentioned in The Seattle Times on October 17, 1920.)

And why this particular pairing? The Occidental Hotel, which once overlooked the beginning of Occidental Avenue, is almost certainly the reason, but it’s not spelled out in the ordinance.