Yesler Way

This street is named after Henry Leiter Yesler (1810–1892). Originally from Leitersburg, Maryland, which was founded by his great-grandfather, and living in Massillon, Ohio, before coming west, he moved to Seattle from Portland, Oregon, in 1852. As John Caldbick writes for HistoryLink.org:

…[Yesler] quickly established himself as the most important resident of the rain-swept little spot that would soon become Seattle. He had the first steam-powered sawmill on Puget Sound up and running within months, and for several years he employed almost every male settler in Seattle and a considerable number of Native Americans. His mill was early Seattle’s only industry, and without it the town’s development would have been greatly delayed.

Carson Dobbins Boren and David Swinson “Doc” Maynard had already claimed land on Elliott Bay either side of what is today Pioneer Square, but they gave him part of their claims so he could access the water from the claim he made farther up First Hill. Yesler’s mill was built at the foot of what is now Yesler Way but was originally Mill Street, also known as Skid Road — and yes, Seattle may be where the term originated, referring to a neighborhood largely inhabited by the “down and out.”

Yesler was also King County auditor in 1852, and Seattle mayor from 1874 to 1875 and 1885 to 1886.

Yesler had two children: a son, Henry George Yesler (1845–1859), by his wife, Sarah Burgert Yesler (1822–1887); and a daughter, Julia Benson Intermela (1855–1907). Her mother wasn’t Sarah, who didn’t come to Seattle until 1858, but rather a Duwamish woman named Susan, daughter of Salmon Bay Curley (Su-quardle), who had worked at Yesler’s mill. When Sarah finally joined her husband, he sent Susan and Julia to live with Jeremiah S. Benson, a cook at the mill. In the 1870 territorial census, Julia is listed as living with the Bensons, but the next year she is listed as a HB (“half-breed”) house servant for the Yeslers. Unlike Rebecca Lena Graham, who successfully sued the relatives of Franklin Matthias to be recognized as his rightful heir, Julia inherited nothing when her father died in 1892. Even so,

…The settlement of Henry Yesler’s estate was an imbroglio of epic proportions. It pitted Minnie Gagle Yesler [a younger cousin whom he married a few years before his death] and her mother against James Lowman [his nephew] and municipal authorities, who believed that Yesler had made a will that left most of his fortune, by then worth more than $1,000,000, to the city, hoping thereby to cement his reputation as the “Father of Seattle.”

Yesler is also quoted as anticipating “Strange Fruit” by 55 years… though it’s by no means a sentiment Abel Meeropol or Billie Holiday would have shared. In January 1882, a mob lynched James Sullivan, William Howard, and Benjamin Paynes between two of his maple trees. Harper’s Weekly reported Yesler’s reaction: “That was the first fruit them trees ever bore, but it was the finest.”

Henry L. Yesler
Henry L. Yesler. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 12257

Yesler Way begins on the Elliott Bay waterfront at Alaskan Way and goes 2⅙ miles east to Leschi Park, just past 32nd Avenue. It also appears just west of Lake Washington Boulevard, where it goes about 200 feet west and essentially serves as a driveway for a couple of houses.

Yesler Way, which becomes E Yesler Way east of Broadway, also divides three of the city’s directional designation zones from each other. South of Yesler, east–west streets carry the S prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix S. North of Yesler, north–south avenues carry no suffix; east–west streets carry the E prefix east of Broadway and no prefix west of Broadway.

Frink Place S

This street, and the park through which it runs, were named for John Melancthon Frink (1855–1914). Born in Pennsylvania but raised in Kansas, he came to Seattle in 1874. At various times he was a teacher, businessman, school board director, city councilman, and state senator. Frink became a parks commissioner in 1906, the same year he bought Washington Park (not to be confused with the park of the same name to the north) and donated it to the city, which renamed it after him. Frink Place was established in 1927; there had been an earlier Frink Boulevard, but it, like University Boulevard, Stixrud Drive, and Blaine Boulevard, among others, had become part of Lake Washington Boulevard by 1920.

John M. Frink
John Melancthon Frink

S Frink Place begins at S Washington Street just east of 32nd Avenue S, and goes ⅙ of a mile through the park to the intersection of S Jackson Street, 34th Avenue S, and Lake Washington Boulevard S.

Terrace Street

This street — named Pine Street in Terry’s Second Addition to the Town of Seattle, filed in 1872 — was renamed Terrace in 1876, presumably to avoid duplicating the Pine Street to the north. My assumption is it was given this name because of how steep First Hill is at this point — Paul Dorpat, writing for HistoryLink, says “Except at Terrace Street on the south and near Union Street on the north, the hill was readily negotiable first by hikers and later by street graders and trolley tracks.” One can see in the image below the long, steep stairway in the Terrace Street right-of-way “from 5th Avenue east to beyond 7th Avenue,” as Dorpat writes on his own blog.

Official from Seattle Weights and Measures Division with confiscated scales standing in Terrace Street
Seattle Weights and Measures Division officials standing with confiscated scales in Terrace Street, 1917. Note long stairway in upper-right corner. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 1210.

Today, Terrace Street begins at Yesler Way above 4th Avenue and goes a block and a half up the hill before being blocked by Interstate 5. It resumes just east of Harborview Medical Center and goes ⅓ of a mile east to 12th Avenue. There is another short stretch of E Terrace Street from 20th Avenue to 23rd Avenue by Garfield High School, and then a final ½ mile from 30th Avenue to Lake Washington Boulevard in Leschi, the portion between 36th Avenue and Randolph Avenue being a stairway.

E Spruce Street

This street, like Alder Street and Fir Street — all, of course, named for trees — originates in the 1872 plat of Terry’s Second Addition to the Town of Seattle, filed by Arthur Armstrong Denny, Henry Leiter Yesler, Erasmus Smithers, and Franklin Matthias, the last two as executors of the estate of Charles Carroll Terry, who was part of the Denny Party of settlers in 1851, and died in 1867. However, it was originally named Cedar Street (duplicative of another in Belltown). It received its current name as part of the Great Renaming of 1895, when Cedar Street, Prince William Street, and Erie Street were all changed to Spruce.

Today, E Spruce Street begins at Broadway and goes nearly a mile east to 25th Avenue, only interrupted once, at Boren Avenue, which it connects to as a pair of stairways. It resumes at 28th Avenue and goes just over ¼ of a mile to Lake Dell Avenue (the portion from Peppi’s Playground through Peppi’s Woods as a stairway). Farther east, there is a couple-hundred-foot-long section at the west end of Euclid Avenue, and then a longer one — almost ⅒ of a mile — from near the east end of Euclid Avenue to E Alder Street. (Its complicated end is the result of platted streets not always matching up with topography, or with where people actually ended up building roads.)

Portion of King County Parcel Viewer showing E Spruce Street right-of-way from Lake Dell Avenue to E Alder Street along with Euclid Avenue
King County Parcel Viewer showing E Spruce Street right-of-way from Lake Dell Avenue in the west to E Alder Street in the east. Instead of the eastern portion of Spruce connecting directly to the western portion, there is a gap; instead, the western portion connects to Euclid Avenue by going through private property.

Alder Street

This street originates in the 1872 plat of Terry’s Second Addition to the Town of Seattle, filed by Arthur Armstrong Denny, Henry Leiter Yesler, Erasmus Smithers, and Franklin Matthias, the last two as executors of the estate of Charles Carroll Terry, who was part of the Denny Party of settlers in 1851, and died in 1867. (In 1857, Matthias was listed as being a carpenter, originally from Indiana, Pennsylvania; not too long thereafter, he apparently married and had a child with the daughter of Shilshole Curley [native name Saxkla’xid{?}], “head-man” of the shill-shohl-AHBSH village at šilšul on Salmon Bay. This child, Rebecca Lena Graham, later had to sue Matthias’s relatives to be recognized as his rightful heir. You can read more about her on the Yale University Press blog, at Fitz-Henry Family History, and in the Pacific Northwest Quarterly.)

Today, Alder Street begins at the south entrance to the Harborview Medical Center parking garage, its original first few blocks having been obliterated by Interstate 5, and goes ⅓ of a mile northeast and then east to the Children and Family Justice Center at 12th Avenue.* It resumes at 14th Avenue and goes just over a mile to 32nd Avenue. Finally, just west of 35th Avenue, the Lake Dell Avenue arterial becomes E Alder Street, which snakes ⅕ of a mile down the hill to end at Lake Washington Boulevard. It was originally part of a group of streets named after trees — Pine, Alder, Cedar, and Fir — though Pine and Cedar have since become Terrace and Spruce, since they duplicated street names in other parts of Downtown.

* The Alder Street right-of-way technically begins at Yesler Way just west of 6th Avenue, but is unimproved and indistinguishable from the adjacent open space, and the Interstate 5 right-of-way begins on the east side of 6th.

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.

S Judkins Street

S Judkins Street, like S Norman Street, S Addition Street, and SW Seattle Street, was named in the 1869 plat of Judkin’s (sic) Addition to the Town of Seattle, whose street names were, from north to south, Norman, B, Judkins, Addition, Town, and Seattle.

Plat of Judkin's Addition to the Town of Seattle

Because its original location is covered by King County Metro’s Atlantic Base and Interstate 5, Judkins Street now starts on Beacon Hill just west of 12th Avenue S and goes around 850 feet east to just east of 14th Avenue S, where it becomes a stairway to 15th Avenue S. The unimproved right-of-way continues through a greenbelt to 16th Avenue S, where there exists a 100-foot stretch of Judkins before it is stopped by Sturgus Avenue S, Daejon Park, and Interstate 90. On the other side of I-90, it resumes at 20th Avenue S and goes ⅘ of a mile east to Lake Washington Boulevard S, the last 50 or so feet being a stairway. Between Lake Washington Boulevard S and Lakeside Avenue S, only the first 150 feet is improved, mainly serving as a driveway for two houses. And east of Lakeside Avenue S there is a very short stretch that, like its neighbor to the north, S Norman Street, turns into a shoreline street end on Lake Washington — one of Leschi’s String of Pearls.

Judkins Street gives its name to Judkins Park and Playfield, which stretches for a number of blocks north of S Judkins Street and 22nd Avenue S, as far as Washington Middle School. The land between S Judkins Street and Interstate 90 through which the I-90 Trail winds (part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway) is also sometimes considered to be part of Judkins Park. The park, in turn, gives its name to the neighborhood of Judkins Park, and to the future Judkins Park station of Sound Transit’s Line 2 extension to the Eastside.

Built on the site of a former ravine landfill that was used for about four decades, Judkins Park was transferred to the parks department in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and opened to the public on October 8, 1977, according to a story in the October 6 issue of The Seattle Times.

Aerial view of Judkins Park and Playground, 1965
Aerial view of Judkins Park and Playfield, 1965. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 29470. S Judkins Street is at bottom center and right, below the park. Washington Middle School is at the north end of the park and 23rd Avenue S is the arterial to its east. Lake Washington and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge (Washington State Route 520) are visible in the distance.

S Norman Street

For the origin of S Norman Street, we go back to our first street name post, SW Seattle Street, which read in part:

On August 4, 1869, Ike M. Hall — the executor of the estate of Norman B. Judkins — filed the Judkin’s (sic) Addition to the Town of Seattle, located just southwest of where the interchange between I-5 and I-90 is today. From north to south, the east–west streets are named Norman, B, Judkins, Addition, Town, and Seattle.

Plat of Judkin's Addition to the Town of Seattle

Today, S Norman Street begins on the other side of Beacon Hill, the portion shown above having been obliterated by King County Metro’s Atlantic Base and Interstate 5. (In fact, S Addition Street is the only one remaining in its original location, Judkins Street now starting on Beacon Hill and Seattle Street only existing in West Seattle.) Beginning at Poplar Place S just east of Interstate 90, it goes for a block northeast to Rainier Avenue S. It picks up again at Davis Place S and S Bush Place and goes a block east to 21st Avenue S. Resuming at 22nd Avenue S, just east of Judkins Park (also named for Norman B. Judkins), it goes ⅗ of a mile east to 33rd Avenue S, with only two short interruptions:

  • An unimproved stretch south of St. Gebriel Ethiopian Orthodox Church between 26th Avenue S and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S: what looks to be a bramble patch followed by a driveway for some townhouses; and
  • A stairway from 31st Avenue S to half a block west of 32nd Avenue S.

There appears to be a privately maintained stairway from 33rd Avenue S down to Lake Washington Boulevard S, and the next block is completely unimproved, though in both cases neighbors appear to be incorporating the right-of-way into their yards and driveways. Finally, there is a short stretch of Norman Street east of Lakeside Avenue S that turns into a shoreline street end on Lake Washington — one of Leschi’s String of Pearls

King County Parcel Viewer showing S Norman Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Way S
King County Parcel Viewer showing S Norman Street between 26th Avenue S and Martin Luther King Jr. Way S. What appears to be a private driveway from Martin Luther King is actually public right-of-way.
King County Parcel Viewer showing S Norman Street from 33rd Avenue S to Lake Washington
King County Parcel Viewer showing S Norman Street from 33rd Avenue S to Lake Washington. The private driveway in the public right-of-way east of Lake Washington Boulevard S (center of image) is easily visible, as is the shoreline street end east of Lakeside Avenue S.

S King Street

King Street is another of the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It was named after William Rufus DeVane King, a slaveholding Unionist Democratic politician who founded and named Selma, Alabama; was a senator from Alabama from 1819 to 1844 and from 1848 to 1852 (he was ambassador to France in the interim); and was vice president under Franklin Pierce for 45 days in 1853 (he died two days after he returned to the U.S. from Cuba, where he had been convalescing from tuberculosis; King Street was named in his honor 35 days after that).

King County, of which Seattle is the county seat, was named after him in 1852, though it was “renamed” after Martin Luther King, Jr., in 2005. No such action has yet been proposed for King Street.

S King Street begins on the Elliott Bay waterfront at Alaskan Way S and runs ¼ of a mile to King Street Station just past 2nd Avenue S. It resumes at at 5th Avenue S, where it is spanned by the Historic Chinatown Gate, then makes it a full mile to 20th Avenue S, passing through Chinatown and Little Saigon along the way. East of there it exists in various segments, none of which is longer than ⅓ of a mile, and it finally ends at Lakeside Avenue S, where it is one of the String of Pearls shoreline street ends.

Historic Chinatown Gate, S King Street and 5th Avenue S
Historic Chinatown Gate. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

S Jackson Street

Jackson Street was another one of the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It, like King, Lane, and Weller Streets, was named after a prominent Democratic politician — in this case Andrew Jackson, president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Because of his history as a slaveholder and a proponent of Indian removal, there have been calls to at least symbolically change the street’s namesake to another Jackson, if not change the name outright.

S Jackson Street begins today at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and has an uninterrupted 2-mile run as an arterial to 31st Avenue S in Leschi. On the other side of Frink Park, it makes its way the few remaining blocks to Lake Washington as a minor arterial, then a staircase, then a minor street, and finally a shoreline street end, part of the String of Pearls.

Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street
Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street. Photograph by Stephen Fesler, The Urbanist, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

S Weller Street

Weller Street was among the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It was named after John B. Weller, Democratic senator from California from 1852 to 1857 (Maynard named four streets in his plat after prominent Democratic politicians). Though he wasn’t a slaveowner like President Andrew Jackson or Vice President William R. King, or a future secessionist like Joseph Lane, who was the Southern Democrats’ nominee for vice president in 1860, he was a pro-slavery “Lecompton Democrat” who planned to have California become independent in case of civil war.

S Weller Street begins today at 5th Avenue S and runs ¼ of a mile through the ChinatownInternational District to just east of 8th Avenue S, where it, like S Lane Street, is blocked by Interstate 5. It resumes at 10th Avenue S and runs ¾ of a mile to its end at 20th Place S and Washington Middle School.

S Lane Street

Lane Street was another one of Seattle’s first streets, platted on May 23, 1853 by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard. It was named after Joseph Lane, governor of Oregon Territory (which then included what is now Washington) from March 1849 to June 1850. Ten years later, he was the pro-slavery, pro-secession Southern Democratic nominee for vice president, with John C. Breckenridge at the head of the ticket.

S Lane Street begins today at 6th Avenue S just east of the flagship Uwajimaya grocery store, and runs ⅕ of a mile through the ChinatownInternational District to just east of 8th Avenue S, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. East of there, it is a path and stairway from 10th to 13th Avenues S, past which it appears in segments of varying lengths until it ends for good at Lakeside Avenue S.

S Washington Street

Washington Street was one of Seattle’s first streets, platted on May 23, 1853 by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard and named after President George Washington. Its initial segment begins at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and ends half a mile to the east at Kobe Terrace Park. East of Interstate 5 it exists in a number of segments interrupted by schools and parks and finally ends at S Frink Place and Frink Park.

Washington Street Boat Landing, September 2007, by Joe Mabel
Washington Street Public Boat Landing, September 2007. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Cherry Street

Cherry Street was among the first streets platted in Seattle on May 23, 1853. Sophie Frye Bass, author of Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, writes:

I choose to think that Cherry Street is named for the little town of Cherry Grove, Illinois — Mother’s birthplace — where the Dennys started on their long journey over the Oregon Trail.

“Mother,” in this case, refers to Louisa Catherine Denny Frye, one of three children of Arthur Armstrong Denny and Mary Ann Boren Denny of the Denny Party. She was 7 years old when they landed at Alki Point in November 1851.

In 2006, Hunter Brown wrote a People’s History essay for HistoryLink, “Finding Cherry Grove,” detailing his efforts to locate Cherry Grove, whose name was later changed to Cedar Township. The nearest town today is called Abingdon.

Bass began her Pig-Tail Days piece on Cherry Street by calling it “another up-and-up street… with no interferences. It begins at First Avenue, goes east and ends at Thirty-seventh avenue.” This is no longer quite the case because of a very small gap at the south end of the Seattle University campus. Today, Cherry begins at 1st Avenue and ends a block east of Broadway. It starts up again a couple hundred feet to the east as a continuation of the James Street/E James Way arterial, and then does go on to 37th Avenue in Madrona. All told it is 2⅓ miles long.

James Street

James Street, one of the first streets platted in Seattle on May 23, 1853, was named by Arthur Armstrong Denny after his younger brother, James Marion Denny (1824–1854). Histories of Seattle report that James was too sick to leave Oregon and come to Puget Sound with the Denny Party and, indeed, he died in the town of Sublimity, Oregon, just a year after the street was named for him. Nothing I have found reports an actual cause of death. Marion Street is also named after this brother.

James Street runs ¾ of a mile from Yesler Way just east of 1st Avenue to an alley just east of Broadway. It appears east of there in a few short stretches and finally as a stairway from 38th Avenue to Lake Washington Boulevard at Madrona Park.

E Conover Court

This cul-de-sac, which runs about 300 feet from the end of 35th Avenue just south of E James Street, was named by journalist and real estate developer C.T. (Charles Tallmadge) Conover after himself. Unlike many developers, he didn’t do this when his plat (“Conover Park”) was first filed in 1907, but rather 15 years later when a new street was established in the subdivision. Perhaps his most lasting achievement was Washington’s nickname, “The Evergreen State,” which he coined in 1890.

Cover of Washington the Evergreen State and Seattle Its Metropolis brochure
Cover of brochure “Washington the Evergreen State and Seattle Its Metropolis”