S Plummer Street

S Plummer Street, like S Charles Street, was created as part of the 1876 plat of Plummer’s Addition to the City of Seattle, and was named by George Washington Harris after his late stepfather, Charles Plummer, who had died 10 years earlier.

Charles Plummer
Charles Plummer

Unlike S Charles Street, which makes it all the way to Lake Washington, S Plummer Street runs a mere block from Airport Way S and Maynard Avenue S in the west to 7th Avenue S in the east, where it is stopped by the city’s Charles Street Service Center.

S Charles Street

Charles Street originates in the 1876 plat of Plummer’s Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by George Washington Harris (late 1840s–1914).* How did Harris end up with the land, and why would he name the addition after Charles Plummer (who, it appears from the text of the plat description, bought the tract from David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in 1860)?

* I write “late 1840s” because Harris’s birth year is given variously as 1848 (death certificate, historical journal article, Tacoma Public Library), 1847 (Genealogy.com, The Seattle Times), and 1846 (Geni, FamilySearch). 

As it turns out: Plummer married Ellender Smith (sister of Dr. Henry A. Smith, namesake of Smith Cove and Smith Street) in 1855. Harris’s mother, Sarah Jane Crossman, was widowed the next year. Plummer himself became a widower when his wife died giving birth to twins Edward and Frank in 1859, and he married Harris’s mother in 1860, apparently at Maynard’s own Alki Point house. Harris then became Plummer’s stepson (and a daughter, Ida, was born to the newlyweds the next year). When Plummer died in 1866, Harris apparently inherited at least this much of his stepfather’s estate. (It’s unclear just what Edward and Ida may have received; Frank is reported to have inherited $60,000.)

Charles Plummer
Charles Plummer

Today, S Charles Street begins at Airport Way S and 6th Avenue S and is stopped a block and a half to the east at 7th Avenue S by the city’s Charles Street Service Center. (Its twin to the south, S Plummer Street, also ends at the service center, never to return.) It briefly reappears at the northern lip of Beacon Hill between 12th Avenue S and Sturgus Avenue S, and then east of Interstate 90 runs for about ⅓ of a mile between Poplar Place S and 20th Place S at Judkins Park. The right-of-way, which continues through the park, becomes an improved street again at 22nd Avenue S, and ends just east of 26th Avenue S. East of here, S Charles runs three blocks from 28th Avenue S to 30th Avenue S, and then around ¼ mile made up of alternating roadway and stairways from the alley west of 32nd Avenue S to a shoreline street end on Lake Washington — one of Leschi’s String of Pearls.

W Marginal Way SW

W Marginal Way SW, like its twin across the water, E Marginal Way S, began literally as a “marginal way” to “give railroads, street cars and other transportation facilities access to the Duwamish waterway.”

W Marginal Way SW begins at 26th Avenue SW at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5. From there, it’s 3 miles southeast to 2nd Avenue SW, by the south end of the 1st Avenue S Bridge. It resumes on the east side of the bridge as W Marginal Way S, an extension of Highland Park Way SW, and runs 4⅖ miles from there to the southern city limits. (For all but the first few blocks of this stretch, it is a limited-access highway carrying Washington State Route 99.) Beyond there it runs 3½ miles more to the vicinity of an interchange with Tukwila International Boulevard. The name is dropped at this point (and does not appear on signs south of the initial few blocks); the highway continues 1¾ miles as Washington State Route 599 to Interstate 5.

Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, 4705 W Marginal Way SW, May 2010
Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, 4705 W Marginal Way SW, May 2010. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff, originally appearing in Seattle Then and Now.
Copyright © 2010 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

W Marginal Way S is the location of the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center, across the street from həʔapus Village Park and Shoreline Habitat (formerly Terminal 107 Park). həʔapus, or x̌əʔapus, was the name of a Duwamish village that was burned down by settlers in 1895. The new longhouse became the first one within city limits in 114 years. Notably, descendants of settlers Charles Terry and David Denny participated in fundraising and advocacy, without which the project would have been impossible, as the Duwamish were forced to purchase back the land. (A good article for more detail is “On the Duwamish River, a longhouse rises,” which appeared in Real Change in March 2009.)

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 Royal Brougham Way

This street begins at Colorado Avenue S in the west, at an onramp to the northbound lanes of the State Route 99 tunnel, and goes ⅔ of a mile east to Airport Way S. Originally S Connecticut Street, it was renamed in 1979 in honor of sportswriter Royal Brougham (1894–1978), who worked for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper from 1910 until his death. Such a name change was formally proposed by city councilman George Benson following a suggestion by P-I columnist Emmett Watson. Originally it was to be Occidental Avenue S whose name was to be changed, then the 2nd Avenue S Extension when objections were raised. Finally S Connecticut Street was settled upon; it was thought to be particularly appropriate because he “worked so hard to see the Kingdome built… and eventually spent his last day on earth there.”

Lumen Field, built on the former Kingdome site, is on the north side of Royal Brougham between 1st Avenue S and 4th Avenue S; and T-Mobile Park is on the south side between 1st Avenue S and 3rd Avenue S.

Royal Brougham's ID card for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, 1925
Royal Brougham’s Seattle P-I staff ID card, 1925

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.

Edgar Martinez Drive S

This street runs ¼ mile from 1st Avenue S in the west to 4th Avenue S in the east. West of 1st, it’s S Atlantic Street — its original name — and east of 4th, it’s the beginning of Interstate 90. It is part of State Route 519, a short highway that connects I-90 to Washington State Ferries’ Colman Dock.

Edgar Martínez was a member of the Seattle Mariners baseball team from 1987 to 2004. This stretch of S Atlantic Street was renamed in his honor the year he retired.

Edgar Martínez at bat, September 15, 2004, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:E_Martinez.jpg
Edgar Martínez at bat, September 15, 2004. Photographs by Galaksiafervojo, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Now — why is it Edgar Martinez Drive S instead of S Edgar Martinez Drive, since east–west streets in Seattle have their directional designators at the beginning? I asked Paul Jackson this in 2005. Jackson, who was then the Seattle Department of Transportation’s manager of traffic, signs, and markings, responded:

I appreciate your desire to see our City’s sign system remain consistent.… But ultimately, there is nothing requiring such a naming convention in the Seattle Municipal Code.… In this case, those proposing the street name change wanted to see Edgar Martínez’s name out front. Because this is only a three-block stretch of street (from 1st Avenue S to 4th Avenue S), and does not have any addresses along it, the decision was made to veer slightly from the typical naming convention. The term “drive” was agreed upon to evoke Mr. Martínez’s batting skills at the plate.

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.