W Fort Street

Fort Street originated as Fort Place in the 1905 plat of Lawton Park, an Addition to the City of Seattle. It originally formed part of the “government roadway leading from the east boundary of the military reservation of Fort Lawton,” but in 1961 four of its blocks were officially renamed W Government Way. What remains today is a one-block stretch between 36th Avenue W and 35th Avenue W, a three-block stretch between Kiwanis Memorial Reserve Park and 32nd Avenue W, and a bridge over the BNSF Railway tracks from 28th Avenue W and Gilman Avenue W to 27th Avenue W.

W Bertona Street

This street, as with Dravus Street, was created in 1888 as part of Denny & Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory, and is also is part of a series of streets — Aetna, Bertona, Cremona, Dravus, Etruria, and Florentia — that appear in alphabetical order and have the common theme of being locations in Italy. Montebello di Bertona (Mundibbèlle in the Abruzzese dialect) is a small town in Pescara, Abruzzo, located near Mt. Bertona.

Technically, W Bertona Street begins as Bertona Street at the Ship Canal Trail around 80 feet east of Queen Anne Avenue N, but both streets there are little more than parking aisles nestled up against Seattle Pacific University’s Wallace Field. W Bertona begins in earnest at W Nickerson Street and goes ¾ of a mile west to 14th Avenue W, where it becomes a block-long stairway to 15th Avenue W. On the other side of 15th, it goes two more blocks before being stopped by the BNSF Railway tracks at 17th Avenue W; on the other side of the tracks it goes ⅗ of a mile west from 20th Avenue W to 30th Avenue W, becoming a stairway again for a block just about halfway. As with its Magnolia partner W Dravus Street, it’s ⅓ of a mile from 31st Avenue W to 36th Avenue W, where it becomes a stairway for a block, and then ½ a mile more from 37th Avenue W to 45th Avenue W. There is finally a 300-foot-long segment west of Perkins Lane W, where the roadway ends. (There is a shoreline street end beyond that, but it is currently inaccessible.)

Dravus Street

This street was created in 1888 as part of Denny & Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory by Edward Blewett and his wife, Carrie, of Fremont, Nebraska, who had purchased the land a few months earlier from Arthur Denny and John Hoyt. According to Valarie Bunn in her article “Fremont in Seattle: Street Names and Neighborhood Boundaries,” Edward Corliss Kilbourne may have done much of the actual naming of streets as attorney-in-fact for the Blewetts.

Portion of plat map of Denny and Hoyt's Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory (1888) showing Aetna, Bertona, Cremona, Dravus, Etruria, and Florentia Streets
Portion of plat map of Denny and Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory (1888) showing Aetna, Bertona, Cremona, Dravus, Etruria, and Florentia Streets

As can be seen in the plat map above, Dravus is part of a series of streets — Aetna, Bertona, Cremona, Dravus, Etruria, and Florentia — that appear in alphabetical order and have the common theme of being locations in Italy, which had been unified 17 years earlier. I have yet to find a connection between Denny, Hoyt, the Blewetts, or Kilbourne and Italy. The closest I’ve come is an item in the February 28, 1903, issue of The Seattle Mail and Herald, which reports that “on February 27, the Woman’s Century Club met and discussed the subject ‘Italian Art and Literature.’ Mrs. Bessie L. Savage and Mrs. E.C. Kilbourne [Leilla Shorey] prepared papers relating to these subjects.” I would love to find out if there’s anything more solid!

The Drava River, which originates in the Italian region of the South Tyrol, flows from there through Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia, forming much of the border between that country and Hungary, and joining the Danube on the Croatia–Serbia border. It was known as Dravus in Latin and Δράβος in Greek.

Dravus Street begins in the east at Nickerson Street and goes ⅗ of a mile west to 8th Avenue W and Conkling Place W. It resumes for half a block at 10th Avenue W, is briefly a foot path and stairway, and then is an arterial connecting Queen Anne and Magnolia via Interbay, going just over a mile from 11th Avenue W to 30th Avenue W. (This section was originally known as Grand Boulevard, and indeed W Dravus is double the width of the other streets in the area, though it features wide planting strips instead of a central median.) It’s ⅓ of a mile from 31st Avenue W to 36th Avenue W, where it becomes a stairway for a block, and then ½ a mile more from 37th Avenue W to just west of Magnolia Boulevard W, where the roadway ends. (There is a shoreline street end off Perkins Lane W, but it is currently inaccessible.)

W Armour Street

This street was named in 1890 as part of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle, which, as noted in Gilman Avenue W and other articles on streets in that addition, was associated with Daniel Hunt Gilman and the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway (SLS&E).

In the below excerpt from Thomas W. Prosch’s A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897 (1901), some of Gilman’s fellow investors are listed, including Judge Thomas Burke (Burke Avenue N, Burke–Gilman Trail), James D. Smith (W Commodore Way), and Herman Ossian Armour. (The D is a typo, perhaps because of his brother, Philip Danforth Armour’s, middle initial.) The brothers founded the Chicago meatpacking company Armour and Company in 1867. 

Paragraph on establishment of Puget Sound Construction Company in 1886
Paragraph on establishment of Puget Sound Construction Company in 1886

In his article “The Orphan Railroad and the Rams Horn Right of Way,” in the April 1923 issue of The Washington Historial Quarterly, C.H. Hanford writes of the SLS&E, “A number of Seattle men… subscribed to the capital of the new company to the extent of their means, and having gained so much, Gilman and Judge Burke were successful in inducing Philip D. Armour of Chicago to advance the money required to start the enterprise.” So it is unclear just which Armour brother the street is named for — perhaps it is named for them both.

W Armour Street starts at 1st Avenue N and goes two blocks west to 1st Avenue W, where it is stopped by Rodgers Park. It makes it two more blocks, from 3rd Avenue W to 5th Avenue W, before again being stopped, this time by Mount Pleasant Cemetery. From there it exists in a number of short segments, including paths and stairs, before being stopped, once again, by the Interbay Golf Center at 15th Avenue W. Once across the railroad tracks in Magnolia, there is a nearly uninterrupted ¾ mile stretch from Thorndyke Avenue W to the West Magnolia Playfield at 32nd Avenue W, and then a few more short segments west of 34th Avenue W, ending for good at 46th Avenue W. (There is a shoreline street end off Perkins Lane W, but it is currently inaccessible.)

W Commodore Way

W Commodore Way, which runs 1⅓ miles along Salmon Bay from 21st Avenue W to 40th Avenue W, obviously has a nautical name, but is its backstory as simple as that, like NE Boat Street along Portage Bay? Or does it honor a particular person?

The only online mention I’ve seen of a possible specific referent of Commodore is in the Don Sherwood Parks History file for Commodore Park:

Who was particularly in mind when the street was named Commodore Way is not recorded. However, the choice of Commodore Peary’s flagship [the SS Roosevelt]… to participate in the dedication of the [Ballard] Locks is significant. Peary must have sailed from Seattle as the port nearest Alaska and the Arctic.

It’s a reasonable theory on its face, but there are some major flaws. The street was named in 1890 as part of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle, when Peary was a lieutenant — 19 years before he reached the North Pole (supposedly) and 27 years before the Ballard Locks were dedicated. In addition, Peary’s port of departure was New York, not Seattle. It doesn’t seem possible Commodore Way was named for Robert E. Peary.

Rather, I think there’s good evidence it was named for James Dickinson Smith (1829–1909), commodore of the New York Yacht Club in 1882 and 1883 and president of the New York Stock Exchange in 1885 and 1886. In Men of Progress: Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Leaders in Business and Professional Life in and of the State of Connecticut (1898), they write that he “has a national and international reputation as a yachtsman, and is best known all over the world as Commodore James D. Smith.” But where is the connection to Seattle? And why Commodore Way instead of Smith Way?

James Dickinson Smith
James Dickinson Smith

I first became aware of Smith’s connection to Seattle when I came across this line in the March 30, 1890, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, while looking for a connection between Commodore and the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway: “Mr. J.S. Dunham, treasurer of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern, and Commodore Smith visited Snohomish yesterday.”

Portion of article mentioning Commodore Smith in March 30, 1890, issue of Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Item mentioning Commodore Smith in March 30, 1890, issue of Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Before I go too much farther, I should note that the landowners in the plat of Gilman’s Addition were listed as Dr. Henry A. Smith and Franklin M. Jones and his wife, Carrie B. Jones. Franklin was a member of the New York banking firm Jameson, Smith and Cotting, financiers of the business ventures of Daniel Hunt Gilman, including the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway (SLS&E). Hence the search terms I’d been using at Washington Digital Newspapers

This article from the June 17, 1897, issue of the P-I also came up, further associating Commodore Smith (to distinguish him from Dr. Smith) with the SLS&E and with New York:

Portion of article mentioning Commodore Smith in June 17, 1897, issue of Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Portion of article mentioning Commodore Smith in June 17, 1897, issue of Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I then did some reading on Commodore Smith… but still wasn’t quite sure until I found this passage in Men of Mark in Connecticut: Ideals of American Life Told in Biographies and Autobiographies of Eminent Living Americans (1904): “Among his successful performances was the establishment, in 1865, of the banking firm of Jameson, Smith & Cotting, now the banking house of James D. Smith & Company.” So Commodore Smith was the Smith in Jameson, Smith and Cotting! If J.A. Jameson merited a street (W Jameson Street), surely so did Commodore Smith. And why Commodore Way instead of Smith Way? Because there was another Smith to be honored — Dr. Henry A. Smith (Smith Street, as well as Smith Cove).

It may not have been one of the great mysteries of the ages, but I do think I may have solved this one.

Thorndyke Avenue W

This street was named for Grace Chalmers Thorndike (, who married Daniel Hunt Gilman (Gilman Avenue W) in 1888. It was created in 1890 as part of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle. The original plan was that Gilman and Thorndyke Avenues would intersect each other at Grand Boulevard (now W Dravus Street), but this was changed, as can be seen in the plat map below, likely in the knowledge that the tracks of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway would soon multiply and make that impractical.

Gilman's Addition to Seattle, 1890, two sheets stitched together
Gilman’s Addition to Seattle, 1890

It’s not entirely clear why the street is named Thorndyke rather than Thorndike. There was an announcement of the Gilman–Thorndike wedding in the January 15, 1888, issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that spelled the name with a y, but otherwise the family’s name routinely appears in the Seattle press with an i. Yet we see that Grace’s sister Minnie — wife of James Bothwell (W Bothwell Street) — spelled her name with a y (at any rate, that is what appears on her tombstone).

(It’s also worth noting that Grace’s sister Estella married Captain William Rankin Ballard, after which the Ballard neighborhood is named, and her sister Delia married Ballard’s business partner Captain John Ayres Hatfield. The Thorndikes’ father was himself a ship’s captain, one Ebenezer Augustus Thorndike.)

Today, Thorndyke Avenue W begins at W Galer Street, at the west end of the Magnolia Bridge, and goes just over a mile northwest to 20th Avenue W and W Barrett Street. It picks up again as a minor road on the other side of the BNSF Railway tracks, going about ⅕ of a mile northwest from 17th Avenue W and W Bertona Street to a dead end under the 15th/Emerson/Nickerson overpass at the south end of the Ballard Bridge.

Gilman Avenue W

This street was named for Daniel Hunt Gilman (1845–1913), who among other things was one of the founders of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway (SLS&E) in 1885. The SLS&E is now part of the BNSF Railway, and its old right-of-way along the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Lake Washington is now the Burke–Gilman Trail.

Daniel Hunt Gilman, circa 1890
Daniel Hunt Gilman, circa 1890

The street was created in 1890 as part of Gilman’s Addition to the City of Seattle by Dr. Henry A. Smith (Smith Cove) and Franklin M. Jones and his wife, Carrie B. Jones. Franklin was a member of the New York banking firm Jameson, Smith and Cotting, financiers of Gilman’s business ventures.

Today, Gilman Avenue W begins at 20th Avenue W and W Bertona Street and goes ⁹⁄₁₀ of a mile northwest to 28th Place W, where it becomes W Government Way. The right-of-way continues on from there, though, and there is a 120-foot-long segment between 32nd Avenue W and Gay Avenue W and then, on the other side of Kiwanis Memorial Preserve Park, another 120-foot-long segment at the end of 34th Avenue W.

Originally, Gilman Avenue W existed east of the railroad tracks as well, but that section, between 15th Avenue W and 11th Avenue W, was changed to Gilman Drive W in 1961.

Gilman's Addition to Seattle, 1890, two sheets stitched together
Gilman’s Addition to Seattle, 1890

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
Aerial photograph of Elliott Bay Marina area in the 1930sAerial photograph of Elliott Bay Marina area, present day
Elliott Bay Marina area: 1930s and 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.)