Rainier Avenue S

This street follows the route of the Rainier Avenue Electric Railway Company’s Seattle-to-Renton line, which began to be built in 1891. Both the rail line and street were named for Mount Rainier (təqʷubəʔ), itself named by Captain George Vancouver for his friend, Royal Navy Rear Admiral Peter Rainier (1741–1808). As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted on September 3, 1890, “the avenue points straight toward Mount Rainier, which mountain will be in plain view all the way.”

Rainier Avenue S begins at the intersection of S Jackson Street, Boren Avenue S, and 14th Avenue S, and goes nearly 8 miles southeast to the city limits. From there, it continues around 3¾ miles south to the intersection of Interstate 405 and State Route 167 in Renton.

Looking south on Rainier Avenue S from S Jackson Street, with Mount Rainier in background, and two Metro route 7 buses, July 2011. From https://flickr.com/photos/95482862@N00/5914713222
Looking south on Rainier Avenue S from S Jackson Street. “The mountain is out” on this July 2011 day. Metro route 7 trolleybuses follow the route of the old interurban from here to 57th Avenue S. Photograph by Flickr user Oran Viriyincy, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Aerial view of Rainier Valley looking north, 2001
Aerial view of Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, and Downtown, May 22, 2001. Rainier Avenue S is the tree-lined street running up the middle of the photograph. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 114373.

Boren Avenue

This street was named for Carson Dobbins Boren (1824–1912), a member of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in November 1851. His sisters Mary Ann (1822–1910) and Louisa (1827–1916) married brothers Arthur (1822–1899) and David Denny (1832–1903) in 1843 and 1853, respectively. These weren’t the only Boren–Denny connections, either: his mother, Sarah Latimer Boren (1805–1888), who had been widowed in 1827, married John Denny (1793–1875) — Arthur and David’s father — in 1848. (Their mother, also named Sarah, had died in 1841.)

Boren is said to have built the first cabin in Seattle, at what is now 2nd Avenue and Cherry Street, in April 1852. He was elected King County’s first sheriff the same year. Boren’s land claim of 320 acres covered what is today a rectangle approximately bounded by (going clockwise) Yesler Way, 15th Avenue, E Cherry Street and its projection west, and Western Avenue and its projection north, but he sold it for $500 to Charles Terry and Edward Lander in 1855.*

* “Its projection” is necessary here because of Boren and Arthur Denny’s decision to have their street grid follow the shoreline, while “Doc” Maynard preferred his to follow the cardinal directions; Maynard’s grid eventually extended through the entire city and, indeed, county. (See “Seattle’s first streets.”) The actual southern boundary is a bit north of Yesler Way since both Boren and Maynard adjusted their initial claims to give Henry Yesler land to build and supply his sawmill.

Why Boren sold his land isn’t entirely clear. Sophie Frye Bass writes in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle that he sold it “early at a great sacrifice and became a roamer and, therefore, did not share in the up-building of the town”; her sister, Roberta Frye Watt, is indirectly quoted by Junius Rochester thus: “Carson had an unhappy home life. This compelled him to move deeper and deeper into the forest; to hunt and dream; and to shed most of his possessions.” Indeed, he and his wife, Mary Ann, divorced in 1861.

Carson Dobbins Boren, photographer and date unknown
Carson Dobbins Boren

Today, Boren Avenue S begins at 14th Avenue S, Rainier Avenue S, and S Jackson Street, and goes 2⅕ miles north to Valley Street and Lake Union Park, becoming Boren Avenue as it crosses Yesler Way and Boren Avenue N as it crosses Denny Way. It is one of the few north–south streets in Seattle to have three directional designations.

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.