S Atlantic Street

As part of the Great Renaming of 1895, Texas Street, Town Street, Fontenelle Street, Flemming Street, Davidson Street, and Canal Street became Atlantic Street, from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington. The name was extended into West Seattle in 1907, when Grant Street and Louisiana Street were combined.

Street sign at 1st Avenue S (incorrectly signed as 1st Avenue), where S Atlantic Street becomes Edgar Martinez Drive S, May 2006
Street sign at 1st Avenue S (incorrectly signed as 1st Avenue), where S Atlantic Street becomes Edgar Martinez Drive S, May 2006. Photograph by Flickr user Dave O, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Today, SW Atlantic Street begins in West Seattle at Sunset Avenue SW and goes ¼ of a mile east to Palm Avenue SW. It next appears, as S Atlantic Street, just east of U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle at Alaskan Way S, and goes around 800 feet east to 1st Avenue S, where it becomes Edgar Martinez Drive S (renamed in honor of the ball player in 2004). Apart from a stub east of Airport Way S that is soon blocked by Interstate 5, the street’s next appearance is on Beacon Hill, where it goes ⅓ of a mile from just west of 11th Avenue S to 17th Avenue S, the portion between 15th Avenue S and 16th Avenue S being a stairway.

After being interrupted for a number of blocks by Interstate 90, S Atlantic Street reappears at 21st Avenue S and goes a block to just east of 22nd Avenue S. (Here, it gives its name to the surrounding Atlantic neighborhood.) It resumes — again having been interrupted by Interstate 90’s Mount Baker Tunnel — at Bradner Place S and goes ⅓ of a mile east to Lake Washington Boulevard S, the portions between 30th Avenue S and 31st Avenue South as well as between 32nd Avenue S and 33rd Avenue S being stairways. The right-of-way begins again at 35th Avenue S and goes around ⅛ of a mile east to Lake Washington, but is either incorporated into adjacent homeowners’ yards or serves as their driveways for most of this distance. Between Lakeside Avenue S and the water, it is one of the city’s shoreline street ends.

Looking south toward the intersection of Colorado Avenue S and S Atlantic Street, December 2018. The Bemis Building, at 55 S Atlantic Street, housed the local operations of the Bemis Brothers Bag Company from 1905 to 1993.
Looking south toward the intersection of Colorado Avenue S and S Atlantic Street, December 2018. The Bemis Building, at 55 S Atlantic Street, housed the local operations of the Bemis Brothers Bag Company from 1905 to 1993. Renovation began in 1995 and today it houses live/work spaces for artists. Photograph by Flickr user Washington State Department of Transportation, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

S Massachusetts Street

This is another of the many streets created in 1895 as part of the Seattle Tide Lands plat that were named after states, e.g., Utah Avenue SColorado Avenue SS Oregon StreetS Idaho Street, and SW Florida Street.

SW Massachusetts Street begins in West Seattle at the intersection of Bonair Drive SW, 47th Avenue SW, and Sunset Avenue SW, and goes just under ⅓ of a mile east to Palm Avenue SW. It begins again at Ferry Avenue SW and goes just over 450 feet east to Victoria Avenue SW. There is a short segment (just over 400 feet) on Harbor Island east of 13th Avenue SW, and then another one, about the same length, leading from Alaskan Way S to the entrance to U.S. Coast Guard Base Seattle. (Here, the street’s directional designation has changed to S, it being east of the Duwamish Waterway.)

S Massachusetts Street resumes at Colorado Avenue S and goes ⅙ of a mile east to Occidental Avenue S. There is a block-long segment east of 4th Avenue S to just shy of the SODO Busway, and then a longer one — about ¼ of a mile — from the SODO Trail to Airport Avenue S.

East of Interstate 5, on Beacon Hill, S Massachusetts Street begins at 11th Avenue S and goes nearly ¼ of a mile east to just past 15th Avenue S, the portion between 14th Avenue S and 15th Avenue S being pedestrian-only, as the right-of-way between the sidewalks has been turned into the Beacon Bluff P-Patch community garden. It begins again just west of Sturgus Avenue S and goes nearly a mile east to just past 31st Avenue S, the portion that runs for half a block west of 17th Avenue S being a pathway. S Massachusetts Street resumes for the last time at 32nd Avenue S and goes ¼ mile east to Lake Washington, where it is a shoreline street end.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/litlnemo/1354627272
Misspelled street sign at the corner of Rainier Avenue S and S Massachusetts Street, July 2007. Photograph by Flickr user litlnemo (Wendi Dunlap), licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

S Oregon Street

This street received its name in 1907, uniting streets formerly known as Nebraska Street, 8th Street, Bedford Street, Conover Street, and G Street. (There had been an Oregon Street in the 1895 Seattle Tide Lands plat in which Nebraska Street was created, but it became Spokane Street and Chelan Avenue in the same 1907 change.)

S Oregon Street begins in West Seattle as SW Oregon Street at the Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook on Beach Drive SW and goes two blocks east to Me-Kwa-Mooks Park at 56th Avenue SW. It briefly resumes at 52nd Avenue SW and goes two blocks east to 51st Avenue SW, then begins again in earnest at 50th Avenue SW, going nearly a mile east to the West Seattle Stadium at 35th Avenue SW, part of the stretch between there and Fauntleroy Way SW being footpath and stairway. East of the West Seattle Golf Course, it goes around 175 feet to 26th Avenue SW and the Delridge Playfield, and on the other side of the playfield serves as a short connector between Delridge Way SW and 23rd Avenue SW.

S Oregon Street resumes east of the Duwamish Waterway at a shoreline street end and goes ¼ mile east to E Marginal Way S. It then serves as short connectors between Diagonal Avenue S and Denver Avenue S and between 7th Avenue S and Airport Way S.

East of Interstate 5, on Beacon Hill, S Oregon Street begins again at 10th Avenue S and goes ⅓ of a mile east to 15th Avenue S and S Columbian Way. It picks up again in the Rainier Valley at S Columbian Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S and goes ⅔ of a mile east to Genesee Park at 42nd Avenue S. East of the park, it resumes at 47th Avenue S and goes ¼ mile east to its end at 52nd Avenue S above the Lakewood Marina on Lake Washington.

West Seattle Summer Fest at SW Oregon Street, July 2013
Looking south on California Avenue SW toward SW Oregon Street during West Seattle Summer Fest, July 2013. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

S Nevada Street

This street — originally Rainier Street in the Industrial District — received its current name in 1906, a few months after the town of South Seattle was annexed by Seattle in October 1905.

Article on South Seattle street name changes in January 14, 1906, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Article listing South Seattle street name changes in January 14, 1906, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

SW Nevada Street begins in West Seattle at 30th Avenue SW and goes ¼ mile east to 26th Avenue SW. It next appears east of the Duwamish Waterway in the Industrial District, as a ¼-mile-long service road off E Marginal Way S and a 300-foot-long dead-end road off 6th Avenue S. East of Interstate 5 on Beacon Hill, it goes ¼ mile east from 11th Avenue S to 16th Avenue S at Jefferson Park. It resumes for the last time in Rainier Valley at 28th Avenue S and S Adams Street and goes ¼ mile east to 31st Avenue S.

S Idaho Street

This is one of the many streets created as part of the 1895 Seattle Tide Lands plat that were named after U.S. states, including S Dakota Street, Utah Avenue S, and Colorado Avenue S. If I am correct, though, it is by far the shortest, as S Idaho Street begins just east of the Duwamish Waterway and goes just ¼ mile east to E Marginal Way S.

S Dakota Street

This street was created in 1895 as part of the Seattle Tide Lands plat. As I wrote in S Spokane Street,

Streets in this plat that were not extensions of already existing ones, such as Commercial Street, were named after letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington.… the states appear neither in alphabetical nor geographic order.

In this case, of course, the street was named for the Dakotas, not for South Dakota.

SW Dakota Street begins at 56th Avenue SW and goes 1⅓ miles east to 34th Avenue SW. It resumes at 30th Avenue SW and goes a further ⅓ of a mile east to Delridge Way SW, the portion between 28th Avenue SW and 26th Avenue SW being footpaths through the Longfellow Creek Natural Area park. SW Dakota Street begins again just west of 21st Avenue SW and goes just over 750 feet east to 19th Avenue SW, and there is one final segment west of the Duwamish Waterway between 16th Avenue SW and W Marginal Way SW.

East of the Duwamish, S Dakota Street runs for a block between 1st Avenue S and 2nd Avenue S, then picks up again at 6th Avenue S and goes ¼ mile east to 9th Avenue S. East of Interstate 5 on Beacon Hill, S Dakota Street resumes at 12th Avenue S and goes another ¼ mile east to Jefferson Park at 16th Avenue S. It begins again in the Rainier Valley at 29th Avenue S and goes ⅓ of a mile east to 34th Avenue S, picking up again at Rainier Avenue S and going ⅖ of a mile east to Genesee Park at 43rd Avenue S. On the other side of the park, it resumes at 46th Avenue S and goes ⅓ of a mile east to its end at 51st Avenue S, overlooking Lake Washington.

Chelan Avenue SW

This street was created in 1895 as part of the plat of Seattle’s tide lands, which featured streets named for letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington. Among the latter were S Spokane Street, Duwamish Avenue S, Klickitat Avenue SW, and our current subject, Chelan Avenue SW. It appears to have been named for Lake Chelan (an anglicization of ščəl̕ámxəxʷ, meaning ‘deep water’ in Nxaʔamxcín, the language spoken by the Chelan people) — the largest natural lake in Washington and the third deepest lake in the United States (after Crater and Tahoe).

Chelan Avenue SW begins at SW Spokane Street and goes ¼ mile northwest to the West Duwamish Waterway.

SW Florida Street

This street was created in 1895 as part of the Seattle Tide Lands plat along with S Spokane Street, Colorado Avenue S, Utah Avenue S, Duwamish Avenue S, Klickitat Avenue SW, and others. As I wrote in S Spokane Street,

Streets in this plat that were not extensions of already existing ones, such as Commercial Street, were named after letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington.… the states appear neither in alphabetical nor geographic order.

SW Florida Street begins on Harbor Island at 11th Avenue SW and goes ¼ mile southwest to 16th Avenue SW. The right-of-way continues for another ⅖ of a mile through Terminal 5 in West Seattle, though only a small portion (beginning at Harbor Avenue SW and going about 700 feet northeast) corresponds with an actual roadway.

Cranes at the east end of SW Florida Street, Harbor Island, Seattle, Washington, USA, December 17, 2011
Harbor Island cranes at the east end of SW Florida Street, December 2011. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Klickitat Avenue SW

Like S Spokane Street, Colorado Avenue S, and Utah Avenue S, this street was created in 1895 as part of the plat of Seattle’s tide lands. As I wrote in S Spokane Street,

Streets in this plat that were not extensions of already existing ones, such as Commercial Street, were named after letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington.

Those places in Washington were Chelan, Duwamish, Kitsap, Klickitat, Queets, Quilcene, Quileute, Quinault, Spokane, Vashon, Wenatchee, and Whatcom, many (though not all) of which were themselves named after Native American groups or people. (Chelan, Duwamish, Klickitat, and Spokane are the only street names that remain.) In this particular case, we have the Klickitat River, a tributary of the Columbia in south central Washington, itself named for the Klickitat people.

Klickitat Avenue SW begins at 16th Avenue SW and goes around ⅖ of a mile southeast to SW Manning Street, all on Harbor Island.

Seattle skyline from Klickitat Avenue
Looking northeast toward the Seattle skyline from Harbor Island, December 2011. The Klickitat Avenue Bridge is in the foreground. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Ohio Avenue S

This street was created in 1918 as part of the Industrial Addition to the City of Seattle. Named for the Buckeye State, it appears to have been so named simply for its proximity to Colorado Avenue S and Utah Avenue S, as it was a state whose name had not yet been applied to a street. (N.H. Latimer and John H. Powell of the Wauconda Investment Company might have chosen Illinois, instead, both having been born there and having named their company after an Illinois town ― but the name had already been assigned in the same 1895 plat of the Seattle Tide Lands that created Colorado and Utah Avenues.)

Ohio Avenue S begins at Diagonal Avenue S and goes nearly ½ a mile south to E Marginal Way S and S Dawson Street. It resumes ⅛ of a mile south of there at E Marginal Way S and S Brandon Street and goes a further ⅓ of a mile south to S Fidalgo Street.

Utah Avenue S

Like Colorado Avenue S, this street was created in 1895 as part of the plat of Seattle’s tide lands. As I wrote in that post,

As Seattle expanded to the south, it became obvious that Commercial Street (1st Avenue S) would not be the westernmost street east of Elliott Bay. Fortunately, instead of using zero or negative numbers, they went with states: the first street west of 1st was named Utah, and the next, Colorado. (Some perpendicular streets were named Alaska, Vermont, Connecticut, Texas, Massachusetts, etc. There doesn’t appear to have been any particular order.)

Utah Avenue S begins at S Atlantic Street and goes 1⅐ miles south to S Hinds Street, the block between S Stacy Street and S Lander Street, in front of the Starbucks Center, being closed to motorized traffic. There is another short segment between Denver Avenue S and S Alaska Street, and a final one that stretches ⅓ of a mile from S Hudson Street to S Findlay Street.

Sears building, 1918
The most famous structure on Utah Avenue S was built between 1912 and 1915 as the West Coast catalog distribution center for Sears, Roebuck and Company. It was once the largest building west of the Mississippi River. This photograph was taken in May 1918.
Starbucks Center, 2016
A Sears retail store opened in the building in 1925. The distribution center closed in 1987; Starbucks made the building its world headquarters in 1997, and the retail store closed in 2014. Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user Coolceasar, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Duwamish Avenue S

This street was created in 1895 as part of the Seattle Tide Lands plat. As I wrote in S Spokane Street, “Streets in this plat that were not extensions of already existing ones, such as Commercial Street, were named after letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington”; these last included Chelan, Duwamish, Kitsap, Klickitat, Queets, Quilcene, Quileute, Quinault, Spokane, Vashon, Wenatchee, and Whatcom, the ones in italics still existing today. It seems strange to me that the Duwamish name would have been applied to such a short street, it being the name of Seattle’s principal river (dxwdəw) and indigenous inhabitants, the Duwamish Tribe (dxʷdəwʔabš), but there you have it. At least it still exists.

In “Elliott Way” just a placeholder name, I quote an email I wrote to the Seattle City Council and the Waterfront Seattle Program in December 2020 which read, in part, “I urge you… to name [Elliott Way] something else. The Duwamish people, for example, have Duwamish Avenue S named for them (actually more likely for the river…), but it is an insignificant street 2/10 of a mile long hidden under the Spokane Street Viaduct and the Alaskan Freeway. Perhaps Duwamish Avenue would be a better choice, if the tribe approved?” I still think this would be a good idea (and it would give us another naming opportunity as well). They did respond favorably, said they had been thinking along the same lines, and as of January 2022 “continue to coordinate with the tribes and other partners on a proposed name.” I hope they come up with something soon, as what is still being referred to as Elliott Way is due to open by year’s end!

As I mentioned in my email, Duwamish Avenue S is 2/10 of a mile long, beginning at E Marginal Way S and ending at a Port of Seattle road just south of the West Seattle and Spokane Street Bridges.

Portion of 1895 plat of Seattle Tide Lands showing Duwamish Avenue, as platted from Spokane Avenue (now Street) in the northwest to Seattle Boulevard in the southeast. The visible portion of Seattle Boulevard is now Diagonal Avenue S, Whatcom Avenue is now E Marginal Way S, and Grant Street is now Airport Way S.

Airport Way S

Airport Way S does not, as one might expect, go from the city to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (known to locals as Sea–Tac), but rather to King County International Airport (better known as Boeing Field). It got its current name in 1931 at the request of the Georgetown-South Seattle Improvement Club, which, according to an article in the April 12 issue of The Seattle Times,

…asked the City Council to merge portions of Seattle Boulevard, Eighth and Ninth Avenues South and Duwamish Avenue, leading from the central business area to Boeing Field, into a new highway, to be known as Airport Way.… [They contended] that strangers are confused in efforts to find the airport by lack of any specifically designated street leading to it.

Seattle Boulevard originated as

The Beach or River Road… [which] skirted the shore of the bay at the foot of the high Beacon Hill bluff, east of what is now Airport Way, and ran south along the Duwamish.… Built in the early fifties, [it] was a hard road to keep in good condition.… In 1886, a road was built on piling over the mud flats a little west of the Beach Road to avoid the slides and floods. This street became known as the Grant Street Bridge.

Sophie Frye Bass, Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle

I elaborate in Diagonal Avenue S that

Essentially, there were a series of roads following the semicircular curve of Elliott Bay from Downtown to the Duwamish River before the tideflats were filled in: first Beach Road (or River Road), then the Grant Street Bridge, which in turn became Seattle Boulevard once the fill was complete. Sometime before 1918… the portion of Seattle Boulevard that ran northeast–southwest (the southern third of the semicircle) was renamed Diagonal Avenue. (In 1931, the rest of Seattle Boulevard was renamed Airport Way.)

View from Beacon Hill looking northwest over Grant Street Bridge and Elliott Bay tideflats, circa 1900
This photograph, taken circa 1900 by Anders Beer Wilse, looks northwest from Beacon Hill over the Grant Street Bridge and the Elliott Bay tideflats. At upper left is West Seattle; at upper right is Magnolia. From this perspective, Downtown Seattle appears just below Magnolia. Bainbridge Island is in the distance across Puget Sound.

Once Sea–Tac fully opened in 1949, Airport Way S no longer led to the region’s primary airport, which was more directly reached via U.S. 99, but no further name changes took place.

Today, Airport Way S begins at Seattle Boulevard S and 6th Avenue S and goes 6⅗ miles southeast, then south, then southeast again, ending at Boeing Access Road. Its lower 2½ miles parallel the eastern boundary of Boeing Field.

Boeing Field aerial
Aerial of Boeing Field, looking northwest, December 2014. In the foreground is Interstate 5; just to the west are the BNSF Railway tracks, then Airport Way S, then Perimeter Road S. Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user Bernstea, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Seattle Boulevard S

In 2010, the portion of Airport Way S between 4th Avenue S and 6th Avenue S was renamed Seattle Boulevard S at the request of the adjacent property owners, restoring a name that disappeared from the map in 1931.

As I explain in Diagonal Avenue S,

There were a series of roads following the semicircular curve of Elliott Bay from Downtown to the Duwamish River before the tideflats were filled in: first Beach Road (or River Road), then the Grant Street Bridge, which in turn became Seattle Boulevard once the fill was complete. Sometime before 1918… the portion of Seattle Boulevard that ran northeast–southwest (the southern third of the semicircle) was renamed Diagonal Avenue. (In 1931, the rest of Seattle Boulevard was renamed Airport Way.)

Seattle Boulevard was obviously named for the city, which itself was named after Si’ahl [siʔaɫ], better known in English as Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes.

Since 2010, then, there have been two streets in the city that bear its and siʔaɫ’s name: Seattle Boulevard S and SW Seattle Street.

siʔaɫ, or Chief Seattle
The only known photograph of siʔaɫ, or Chief Seattle (1786?–1866), taken by E.M. Sammis in 1864
Sign at corner of S Dearborn Street and Seattle Boulevard S, January 30, 2011
Sign at corner of S Dearborn Street and Seattle Boulevard S, January 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Marginal Place SW

This street, created in 1919 by Ordinance 39638, is named for W Marginal Way SW. It begins there and goes just under 800 feet northwest to a dead end underneath the West Seattle Bridge. The Duwamish Trail continues on from there to the West Seattle Bridge Trail, while the 18th Avenue SW stairway heads south up the hill to SW Charlestown Street in Pigeon Point.

S Spokane Street

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks because I’ve been in Spokane, visiting my wife’s family for the holidays and attending the memorial service of my sister-in-law, may her memory be for a blessing. Since there is no Emily Street in Seattle, why not return, then, with a post on Spokane Street?

S Spokane Street looking west from 1st Avenue South, July 5, 2013
S Spokane Street looking west from 1st Avenue South, July 5, 2013. Photograph by Flickr user Curtis Cronn, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic. The barcodes on the support columns for the Spokane Street Viaduct was, in the words of the artwork’s creators, Claudia Reisenberger and Franka Diehnelt, intended “to ‘label’ the many layers that constitute SoDo’s history”; the word visible at upper left, ‘slóóweehL’, is a Lushootseed-language word that, according to Coll Thrush, author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, “refers to channels, or ‘canoe-passes’, in the grassy marsh through which canoes can be pushed to effect a shortcut,” and was a Duwamish place name referring to what is now approximately 4th Avenue S and S Spokane Street. (Incidentally, this is the same word rendered as sluʔwiɫ in the IPA-based Lushootseed alphabet, which was also used as a name for what is now University Village, and is now the official name of a street on the University of Washington campus.)

Spokane Street appears to have been created in 1895 as part of the Seattle Tide Lands plat. Streets in this plat that were not extensions of already existing ones, such as Commercial Street, were named after letters of the alphabet, American cities, American states, prominent local politicians, and places in Washington. The letters of the alphabet and the American cities appear in alphabetical order, but the states appear neither in alphabetical nor geographic order, and the places in Washington do not appear to be in any order whatsoever (except that a number beginning with Q are physically clustered together). They are as follows, listed alphabetically:

* Still exists

(I leave out West Point Avenue [which still exists, but only as a paper street] and Seattle Boulevard [now Airport Way S and Diagonal Avenue S] because the former was named for its proximity to West Point and the latter, it seems, for its prominence.)

It isn’t a list entirely composed of cities, islands, peninsulas, lakes, or rivers… the only things I notice are ⅔ of them are in Western Washington, with Chelan, Klickitat, and Wenatchee being in Central Washington and Spokane being in Eastern Washington; plus half the Western Washington locations (those beginning with Q) are on the Olympic Peninsula. It seems what is today Spokane Street could just as easily have been something else, and what is today such a prominent street wasn’t purposefully named after what was then the state’s third largest city (today, it ranks second).

Trestles over the Elliott Bay tideflats, 1905
Trestles over the Elliott Bay tideflats, 1905. Photograph by Ira Webster and Nelson Stevens. According to the Wikimedia Commons entry for a similar photograph, the trestle in the foreground, running right to left (north to south), is today’s Airport Way S; the parallel trestle in the distance is 4th Avenue S; and running perpendicular from lower left to upper right (east to west, toward West Seattle) is S Spokane Street. The Seattle Box Company plant is visible at 4th and Spokane.
Industrial District, Harbor Island, and West Seattle from above Beacon Hill, with Interstate 5, West Seattle Bridge, and Spokane Street Viaduct, August 15, 2010
A modern view of the Industrial District, Harbor Island, and West Seattle from above Beacon Hill, August 15, 2010. Photograph by Flickr user J Brew, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. The freeway in the foreground, running right to left (north to south), is Interstate 5. Airport Way S is visible just west of the freeway. The Spokane Street Viaduct and West Seattle Bridge can be seen at left heading from Beacon Hill to West Seattle. 4th Avenue S is still a major arterial, though it isn’t nearly as prominent in this photograph as the one taken 105 years earlier.

Today, SW Spokane Street begins in West Seattle at Beach Drive SW, ½ a mile southeast of Alki Point, then goes nearly ½ a mile east to Schmitz Park, the block between 61st Avenue SW and 60th Avenue SW being a stairway. It resumes on the other side of the park at 51st Avenue SW and goes another ½ mile to 42nd Avenue SW. After a few interrupted segments between 35th Avenue SW and 30th Avenue SW, including another stairway, it begins again in earnest at Harbor Avenue SW and SW Admiral Way. From here it goes a full 2¼ miles east to Airport Way S, crossing the Duwamish Waterway and Harbor Island on the Spokane Street Bridge, and for this entire length runs either underneath or in the shadow of the West Seattle Bridge or the Spokane Street Viaduct, the latter of which leads to S Columbian Way on Beacon Hill.

After a short segment between Hahn Place S and 13th Avenue S, S Spokane Street begins again at 14th Avenue S and S Columbian Way and goes ⅔ of a mile east to 24th Avenue S. With the exception of an even shorter segment hanging off 25th Avenue S north of the Cheasty Boulevard greenspace, it next appears in Mount Baker, where it runs for two blocks between 33rd Avenue S and 35th Avenue S (part of this being stairway); then two more blocks between 36th Avenue S and York Road S (featuring another stairway); and two final blocks between 37th Avenue S and Bella Vista Avenue S.

Portion of 1895 plat of Seattle Tide Lands showing Spokane Avenue, now Spokane Street
Portion of 1895 plat of Seattle Tide Lands showing Spokane Avenue, now Spokane Street. The visible portion of Seattle Boulevard is now Diagonal Avenue S, and Whatcom Avenue is E Marginal Way S. Portions of Chelan Avenue, Klickitat Avenue, and Duwamish Avenue still exist, as do Oregon Street, Dakota Street, Idaho Street, Colorado Avenue, and Utah Avenue.

Harbor Avenue SW

As noted in Alaskan Way, Harbor Avenue SW was once part of Railroad Avenue. When the Elliott Bay tidelands were platted in 1895, Railroad Avenue stretched from (using current landmarks) the Magnolia Bridge along the waterfront to the Industrial District, then across Harbor Island to West Seattle, ending southwest of Duwamish Head. In 1907 the West Seattle portion was renamed Alki Avenue, and sometime between 1912 and 1920 it was given its current name.

Looking northwest up what is now Harbor Avenue SW toward Duwamish Head, April 1902
Looking northwest up what is now Harbor Avenue SW toward Duwamish Head, April 1902

Today, Harbor Avenue SW begins at SW Avalon Way and SW Spokane Street at the west end of the West Seattle Bridge and goes 1¾ miles northwest to Duwamish Head, where it becomes Alki Avenue SW.

Street sign at corner of Harbor Avenue SW and Alki Avenue SW, October 2017
Street sign at corner of Harbor Avenue SW and Alki Avenue SW, Duwamish Head, with Elliott Bay and downtown Seattle in background, October 2017. Photograph by Ron Clausen, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Alaskan Way

Alaskan Way was originally Railroad Avenue. Jennifer Ott writes for HistoryLink.org:

On the central waterfront a web of railroads grew out from the shore in the 1880s and 1890s as various railroads, including the Columbia & Puget Sound, the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern, and the Northern Pacific jockeyed for space at the foot of the bluffs that ended at the beach, where Western Avenue is today. In January 1887 the City Council passed an ordinance establishing Railroad Avenue, a street created, according to historian Kurt Armbruster, to provide space for the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern franchise to the west of the Northern Pacific’s franchise along the shoreline.

Railroad Avenue looking south from between Madison and Marion Streets, circa 1898
Railroad Avenue looking south from between Madison and Marion Streets, circa 1898

When the tidelands were platted in 1895, Railroad Avenue extended to Harbor Island and West Seattle, but:

  • Sometime between 1912 and 1920 the Harbor Island portion was renamed W Florida Street (SW Florida Street today).
  • In 1907, the West Seattle portion was renamed Alki Avenue.
    • Sometime between 1912 and 1920 the West Seattle portion southeast of Duwamish Head was given its current name, Harbor Avenue.

In an article for Crosscut, Knute Berger explains why a new name was wanted for the remainder:

Seattle’s waterfront was unpaved — a beat-up plank road ran its length. There was no modern seawall — the street was built over the water. Train tracks were everywhere.… But the waterfront was undergoing a massive renovation. A seawall was being constructed, the shoreline filled in, the road made into a wide, paved boulevard.…

According to Berger and Ott’s articles, names that were proposed but were ultimately rejected included Anchors Way, Artery Way, Battery Way, Bois Boolong, Bread Street, Cargo Way, Chief Seattle Avenue, Cosmos Quay, Dock Street, Export Way, Fleet Way, Gateway Avenue, Golden West Way, Hiak Avenue, Klatawa Avenue, Maritime Avenue, Metropolis Avenue, Olympian Way, Pacific Way, Pier Avenue, Port Strand, Port Way, Port-Haven Drive, Potlatch Avenue, Puget Avenue, Puget Dyke, Puget Portal, Queen City Way, Roadstead Way, Salt Spray Way, Salt Water Avenue, Seawall Avenue, Seven Seas Road, Skookum Way, Steamship Way, Sunset Avenue, Terminal Avenue, Terrebampo Way, The Battery, The Esplanade, Transit Row, Voyage Way, Welcome Way, and Worldways Road. (Those in italics apparently came under serious consideration.)

So how did we end up with Alaskan Way? And why Alaskan instead of Alaska (the already existing S Alaska Street could have been renamed)?

Alaskan Way, July 1939
Alaskan Way between Marion and Madison Streets, Canadian National Dock at left, July 1939. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 77093

The May 19, 1932, issue of The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Maritime Association had run a renaming contest which received “more than one thousand letters… some of them contained scores of suggestions.” 4,868 names (including duplications) were received, and the judges selected four finalists, in order of preference: Puget Portal (one submission), Klatawa Avenue (one submission, from Chinook Jargon word meaning ‘to go, to travel’), Hiak Avenue (one submission, from Chinook Jargon word meaning ‘lively, quick and fast’), and Maritime Avenue (49 submissions [Maritime Way received 99 submissions but was not chosen]). The next day, the Times reported that the judges had chosen Maritime Avenue, and awarded the $20 prize to a Mr. B.I. Schwartz, the first to have suggested the name.

Alaskan Way Viaduct, July 1952
Alaskan Way Viaduct, July 1952, the year before it opened. The double-decker freeway paralleled Alaskan Way as far north as Union Street, where it diverged from the alignment on its approach to Elliott Avenue and the Battery Street Tunnel. Bell Street Pier, with the large Port of Seattle sign, is at left. The Bell Street Overpass can be seen behind the ‘P’ in ‘Port’. The bridge at the southern end of the pier is the Lenora Street Viaduct. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 43586

However, that July, a George D. Root proposed the name Cosmos Quay. At first, it was met with indifference, and then it seems the entire renaming project was put on the back burner until construction progressed. Somehow, when he restarted his campaign in 1934, Cosmos Quay became a leading candidate, and it was approved unanimously by the city council on January 14, 1935. An ordinance began to be drafted. But, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted the next day, this was only because one councilmember, Frank J. Laube, had been absent… and he was adamantly opposed.

He wasn’t the only one. The Seattle Times published an editorial on January 20 headlined ‘City Locksmith Needed for Pronunciation Key’, which proclaimed that “to burden the waterfront stretch with a name that could be used and understood only through long courses in cosmogony, cosmology, etymology, and articulation would be a sad piece of nonsense for which there is no excuse.” The next day the Times reported that David Levine, city council president, said Cosmos Quay “no longer sounds so good to him. Many citizens have complained its meaning, as well as its pronunciation, mystifies them.” On February 4, according to the P-I, the council killed the ordinance and decided to leave Railroad Avenue as it was.

Alaskan Way Viaduct, February 2018
Alaskan Way Viaduct, February 2018. It closed permanently in January 2019; the replacement tunnel opened the next month. and demolition was complete by November of the same year. Photograph by Flickr user Washington State Department of Transportation, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

When the new street opened in 1936, the question of renaming came up again. Mayor John F. Dore appointed a committee that chose The Pierway, a suggestion that won a W.C. Denison, Jr., a prize of $50 from the mayor’s own pocket, but the final decision lay with the city council, which was not enthused. Pacific Way emerged as their favorite, according to a Seattle Times article on July 2, 1936, though a July 6 article in the same paper “the public apparently was not in accord with the idea.” On July 7, the Times reported that even though “at least seven votes [were] lined up in advance for the adoption of ‘Pacific Way’… with Council President Austin E. Griffiths contending for ‘Cosmos Quay’ or ‘Cosmos Way’,” an ordinance renaming Railroad Avenue “Alaskan Way” passed unanimously.

Alaska Way had been proposed in 1932 by the Puget Sound Travel Directors, according to an article in the April 13 issue of The Seattle Times. (As an aside, it was also proposed in 1931 by attorney John S. Robinson as an alternate name for Aurora Avenue N and the Aurora Bridge, according to a Times article on June 19.) It was also an entry in the Seattle Maritime Association’s aforementioned naming contest, submitted by Fred E. Pauli, manager of the Alaska Division of the Washington Creamery Company, according to a Times article on April 10, 1932. Then, in 1935, after Cosmos Quay had been rejected by the city council, the Alaska Yukon Pioneers endorsed Alaska Way (The Seattle Times, March 5), followed by the Whittier Heights Improvement Club (Times, March 7) and the Junior Alaska-Yukon Pioneers (Times, July 25). When renaming became a distinct possibility once again in 1936, as discussed above, the Alaska Yukon Pioneers passed a resolution in favor of Alaska Way (Times, July 4): “…It was here that the gold rush activity actually took place… put Seattle on the map and directly made possible the magnificent improvement now about completed.”

Alaskan Way south from Bell Street
Alaskan Way looking south from the Bell Street pedestrian bridge, August 2011. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is barely visible at center; the Seattle Aquarium is at center right. Photograph by Orange Suede Sofa, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

It came down to one councilmember, apparently. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on July 7 that, the previous day, Robert H. Harlin proposed that the already-prepared ordinance renaming Railroad Avenue “Pacific Way” be amended to read “Alaskan Way” instead:

Councilman Robert H. Harlin, who offered the motion for adoption of “Alaskan Way,” said he preferred it to “Alaska Way” because it “recognizes the human element, honoring the men and women who pioneered the territory.” Although a majority of the council had informally agreed to support the name “Pacific Way,” sentiment crystallized rapidly in favor of “Alaskan Way” after Harlin’s statement.

Alaskan Way, March 2021
Alaskan Way from the Pike Place Market’s MarketFront, March 2021. Construction of the street that supposedly will not be called Elliott Way is visible at center right. The Seattle Great Wheel can be seen above the Seattle Aquarium. Photograph by Flickr user Scott Smithson, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Today, Alaskan Way S begins at the north end of E Marginal Way S, at the entrance to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 30, and goes 2⅓ miles north, then northwest, to Broad Street, having become Alaskan Way on crossing Yesler Way. This is the Alaskan Way most people think of.

But, as they say, wait — there’s more! The right-of-way continues for another 1¾ miles, ending at W Garfield Street under the Magnolia Bridge, at the entrance to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91. From the Olympic Sculpture Park, which begins at Broad Street, to Myrtle Edwards Park, the right-of-way is taken up by park land and the tracks of the BNSF Railway — successor to the Columbia & Puget Sound; the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern; and the Northern Pacific, the railroads for which Railroad Avenue was originally built. Northwest of Myrtle Edwards, it’s entirely taken up by the tracks that run alongside Centennial Park. It isn’t until W Galer Street that there’s a city street in the right-of-way again, and Alaskan Way W only goes about ⅙ of a mile northwest from there to W Garfield Street. Even less than that is signed Alaskan Way, as the city has put up a sign for Expedia Group Way W where the W Galer Street flyover “touches down.” However, even though southeast of Galer the roadway runs first on Expedia property, then Port of Seattle property, the city appears to still consider it Alaskan Way W between the Expedia campus entrance and the north end of Centennial Park — a distance of just over ⅓ of a mile.

S Industrial Way

In 1930, Seattle City Light acquired a number of transmission line rights-of-way. The one immediately concerning us approaches the utility’s South Service Center from the southeast. East of Interstate 5, the Chief Sealth Trail runs along the right-of-way from Beacon Hill to Kubota Garden. West of the freeway, a road was built in the late 1960s as part of the South Seattle Redevelopment Project, or South Seattle Industrial Park, as it came to be known. This street was designated Industrial Way in 1969, and runs from Airport Way S in the southeast to 4th Avenue S and Diagonal Avenue S in the northwest, a distance of about ⅓ of a mile.

Aerial view of Industrial District with S Industrial Way at center right
Aerial view of Industrial District, May 2009. S Industrial Way is the boulevard with the grassy median at center right, leading to the City Light South Service Center. The diagonal street at its end is, appropriately, Diagonal Avenue S, and the arterial it stops at is 4th Avenue S. The Union Pacific Railroad’s Argo Yard is in the upper-left-hand corner, and Airport Way S and Interstate 5 run along the bottom. Photograph by Flickr user J Brew, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Colorado Avenue S

This street was created in 1895 as part of the plat of Seattle’s tide lands. As Seattle expanded to the south, it became obvious that Commercial Street (1st Avenue S) would not be the westernmost street east of Elliott Bay. Fortunately, instead of using zero or negative numbers, they went with states: the first street west of 1st was named Utah, and the next, Colorado. (Some perpendicular streets were named Alaska, Vermont, Connecticut, Texas, Massachusetts, etc. There doesn’t appear to have been any particular order.)

Colorado Avenue S begins at S Royal Brougham Way and goes ⅓ of a mile south to S Massachusetts Street. It begins again on the back side of the Starbucks Center and goes ⅘ of a mile to just south of S Spokane Street, and its final segment begins just north of Diagonal Avenue S and goes ⅔ of a mile to S Dawson Street.