W Jameson Street

This street runs, interrupted by the BNSF Railway, for half a mile from 32nd Avenue W and W Government Way in the west to 23rd Avenue W in the east.

J.A. Jameson, of the New York bank Jameson, Smith & Cotting, was a director of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. Daniel Hunt Gilman, who filed the plat of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle in 1890, was a founder of the SLS&E, whose tracks, via the Northern Pacific and Burlington Northern, are now part of BNSF.

 

W Marina Place

This street, established in 1991 as part of the development of the Elliott Bay Marina at the southern foot of Magnolia Bluff, runs ⅖ of a mile west from 23rd Avenue W to just shy of the 30th Avenue W street end beach.

While the origin of its name may not be interesting, the story of its establishment is a bit more so:

  • The marina itself began the permitting process in 1983, but lawsuits delayed its creation for nearly a decade. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Suquamish Tribe sued to block its construction on the basis that “construction of the Marina would eliminate a portion of one of their usual and accustomed fishing areas in Elliott Bay and thus would interfere with their treaty right to fish at the Marina site.” Homeowners on the bluff above intervened on the side of the developers, as “the area has had numerous major landslides that have left several homes at the crest of the bluff at risk and have repeatedly caused breaks in a trunk sewer line located at the base of the bluff.… The Marina construction includes the placement of 500,000 cubic yards of fill at the toe of the bluff, which would stabilize the area.” Eventually, a settlement was reached, which “calls for ongoing fisheries-related expenses paid to the tribe, which will be funded by a percentage of the moorage income.… [the] ‘Indian Treaty Surcharge.’”
  • I believe this was the last major fill operation within Seattle city limits. Such a development would be all but unthinkable today.
  • The marina was built on tidelands where W Lee Street and Puget Avenue W were platted but never built. They were vacated and W Marina Place was established. When it came to naming the access road, the developers originally proposed W Marina Boulevard, contending that as the road fell between the W Oakes Street right-of-way and the former W Lee Street right-of-way, it wasn’t a violation of the city’s principle of maintaining street grid names as much as possible. This was initially rejected by the city, which preferred W Lee Street, but after further discussion, W Marina Place was settled on. An interesting point the developers made was that as W Lee Street had never physically existed in Magnolia, though it had been platted there, calling the access road W Lee Street could actually be confusing, as “people familiar with Seattle streets know that there is no W Lee Street on Magnolia. Rather, they know W Lee Street as being on Queen Anne Hill.” Still, though, I have to believe they were more interested in their own vanity — Marina Boulevard? — than any particular concern for folks’ ability to navigate.
  • For some reason, the public street ends just feet from the 30th Avenue W street end beach. I’m not entirely sure why that is; I don’t think the marina is opposed to public access to the beach; otherwise, they wouldn’t be in favor of the Magnolia Trail project, which would connect W Marina Place to W Galer Street, 32nd Avenue W, and thence to Magnolia Village.
Aerial photograph of Elliott Bay Marina area in the 1930sAerial photograph of Elliott Bay Marina area, present day

W Armory Way

This Interbay street, established in 1910 as Lawton Way, runs ¼ mile northwest from 15th Avenue W to the BNSF Railway’s Balmer Yard. Its right-of-way runs about 800 feet beyond that, across the railroad tracks, to 20th Avenue W, as it was once the location of a bridge to Magnolia.

W Lawton Way was changed to W Armory Way in 1973, presumably in anticipation of the construction in 1974 of an armory for the Washington Army National Guard. Will its name be changed again once the National Guard moves — or if it becomes the location of a new Magnolia Bridge?

(Another Armory Way near Pike Place Market existed on paper for many years — from 1936 to 2019 — but was never built. Something similar is currently under construction.)

Nickerson Street

This Queen Anne street runs 1½ miles from the meeting of 4th, Dexter, and Westlake Avenues N in the east (at the south end of the Fremont Bridge) to the 15th Avenue W interchange in the west. Some businesses in Fishermen’s Terminal have W Nickerson Street addresses, such as Chinook’s at 1900, but these few blocks of Nickerson are Port of Seattle roads that cannot be accessed directly from the public street.

Nickerson Street was named by Alfred A. Nickerson and Elmyra Nickerson, husband and wife, in their plat of Ross 2nd Addition to the City of Seattle in 1888.

W Ruffner Street

This street, which runs, with interruptions, for 2⅓ miles from Queen Anne to just short of Elliott Bay in Magnolia (though it is platted for several more blocks west over the tideflats) is named, as I learned from the Ruffner Family Association, for Presbyterian minister William Henry Ruffner. A slaveholder who “advocated the gradual emancipation and colonization of the state’s African Americans”, he was also, according to Encyclopedia Virginia, “the designer and first superintendent of Virginia’s public school system.”

How did this “Horace Mann of the South” end up with his name on a Seattle street? Apparently, in addition to being an educator, he was also a geologist, and so was hired by Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (of Burke–Gilman Trail fame), two of the founders of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, to spend just over five weeks in 1887 surveying the area, the results of which were published in the SLS&E’s promotional book A Report on Washington Territory two years later. When it came time in 1890 for the plat of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle to be filed, Ruffner’s name appeared on the map. 

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern became part of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1892. Today, the Interbay Car Shop of the BNSF Railway, successor to the NP, is located at the corner of W Ruffner Street and Gilman Avenue W.

Expedia Group Way W

“Look! They’ve finally signed the W Galer Street Flyover!” I thought to myself the other day as I drove onto the Magnolia Bridge onramp from 15th Avenue W. “I wonder why they took so long?” (It was built in 2002.)

Then I saw the sign that directed drivers to take the flyover if they were headed toward Expedia Group Way W. Of course… it was because Expedia was moving their corporate headquarters from Bellevue to Interbay, and the first employees were scheduled to arrive this month.

It made sense for the private road — originally Amgen Court W after the campus’s previous corporate occupants — to change its name… but why to Expedia Group?

Yes, Expedia’s official name is Expedia Group — it’s the parent company not only of the eponymous online travel agency but of many other brands, including Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, and CheapTickets — but still. Wouldn’t Expedia Way W sound and look better? Adding the “group” makes the name sound much more corporate to my ear.