SW Niesz Court

This street was created as part of the 1889 plat of West Seattle Park and named after West Seattle developer and Seattle city councilman Uriah Roush Niesz (1849–1929). According to Images of America: West Seattle,

…In what is now the Admiral District, the now familiar moniker “West Seattle” was first used by Uriah Niesz when developing five-acre homesites in 1885.

Born in Canton, Ohio, Niesz arrived in Seattle in 1883, was elected to the city council in 1887, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of the city after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889. According to Clarence Bagley in his History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time,

[He took] a prominent part in the replatting and upbuilding of the city. He with other members of the council had mapped out the whole plan some time previous to the fire, which made it possible to accomplish their purpose.… As a member of the council Mr. Niesz was made chairman of the judiciary, finance and harbor and wharves committees and the last named took up the whole burden of replatting the business and shipping section of the city.… Herculean as was the task of this committee in bringing order out of chaos in this part of the city; in opening the way for land and water traffic to meet at a minimum cost of transshipment; in providing facilities for a marvelous growth in the business of a future great city; in short in giving the city a new birth, yet this great task paled into insignificance compared with the responsibilities resting upon the finance committee, of which Mr. Niesz was also chairman.

I find that contemporary biographies of pioneers tend to read like hagiographies, but in this case I think Niesz’s entire biography is worth a read.

SW Niesz Court begins at 50th Avenue SW just south of the College Street Ravine and goes two blocks east to 48th Avenue SW.

SW Bronson Way

This West Seattle street was created in 1900 as part of the Replat of the West Seattle Land & Improvement Co’s. Third Plat. Originally Beach Way, it was renamed Bronson Way in 1907, when Seattle annexed West Seattle. Given that Ira Hull Bronson (1868–1930) was attorney for and vice president of the WSL&IC, it seems a fair assumption that it was named for him.

Ira Bronson, from his June 17, 1930, obituary in The Seattle Times
Ira Bronson, from his June 17, 1930, obituary in The Seattle Times. He had died the day before.

Bronson, a former president of the American Bar Association, was described in the June 18, 1930, issue of The Seattle Times as a “pioneer Seattle attorney and leader in admiralty circles… [who] was one of the founders of the Inland Navigation Company, which later became the Puget Sound Navigation Company.” (The PSNC’s domestic ferry routes were bought by the state in 1951, forming Washington State Ferries, and most of its Canadian routes became part of the new BC Ferries system in 1961. The firm, now known as the Black Ball Ferry Line, now runs one boat, the MV Coho, between Port Angeles and Victoria. Through a series of mergers, Bronson’s law firm is now Stoel Rives.)

Though the right-of-way begins further inland, SW Bronson Way only physically exists between Harbor Avenue SW and Elliott Bay. About 180 feet long, it is nearly 90 feet wide (quite a length-to-width ratio!) and essentially serves as a public parking lot. It is a shoreline street end, platted into the water, and features an unobstructed view of the city across the bay.

Ferry Avenue SW

This street, created in 1888 as part of the First Plat of West Seattle by the West Seattle Land and Improvement Company, was originally named Grand Avenue. It was renamed, along with many other West Seattle streets, in 1907, when West Seattle was annexed by Seattle. The name was a reference to the WSL&IC ferry terminal at what is today Harbor Avenue SW at California Way SW. The West Seattle Water Taxi has been operating from the same location since 1997.

Today, Ferry Avenue SW begins at California Way SW and goes about ³⁄₇ of a mile southwest to just past California Avenue SW, at California Place park (built on the site of a former streetcar terminal; before that, a cable car ran up the Ferry Avenue right-of-way from Elliott Bay to this location). It resumes on the other side of the park at SW Hill Street and goes a further 600 feet southwest to SW Walker Street.

SW City View Street

This street was created in 1905 as part of the Steel Works Addition to West Seattle by Albert C. Phillips. Originally Cityview Street, it formed a trio with Grandview Street and Bayview Street, which are today SW Hinds Street and SW Spokane Street, and was named for its view of Seattle, to the northwest across Elliott Bay.

SW City View Street begins at 35th Avenue SW as a driveway and foot path which becomes a paved street just before 34th Avenue SW and extends just beyond, about 325 feet in all. The right-of-way continues through a greenbelt, and the road picks up at again at SW Admiral Way, where it goes 500 feet east to end at 30th Avenue SW.

Wickstrom Place SW

This street is named for Peter Wickstrom (1837–1915), who immigrated to the United States from Sweden in the late 1860s. According to Thomas Ostenson Stine’s Scandinavians on the Pacific, Puget Sound, he lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Oregon, before coming to Seattle. His obituary, which ran in The Seattle Times on January 15, 1915, the day after his death, reads in part:

Peter Wickstrom, well-known pioneer of Seattle and an extensive realty holder, died unexpectedly yesterday afternoon after leaving the dinner table at his residence near Alki Point.… The deceased made his home at “The Old Homestead,” a tract of land not far from Alki Point.… Wickstrom came to this city in 1873 and conducted a hotel prior to the fire of 1889. Subsequent to that time he had not engaged actively in business.

Peter Wickstrom, from his Seattle Times obituary, January 15, 1915
Peter Wickstrom, from his Seattle Times obituary

Wickstrom Place SW begins at 54th Place SW just south of Alki Avenue SW and goes around 500 feet south to a dead end.

Clarmar Place SW

This West Seattle street is really more of a footpath, being narrow, unpaved, and closed to motor vehicles. The public right-of-way runs about 450 feet northwest from Bonair Drive SW as it descends through the Duwamish Head Greenbelt from Sunset Avenue SW to Alki Avenue SW, and the path continues for some 1,150 feet more through property owned by the parks department.

Clarmar Place SW was created in 1941 as part of the plat of Clarmar Crags, which name appears to be a combination of Clara Coumbe (died 1975?), landowner, and mar, for its location above Elliott Bay and Puget Sound.

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.

Sunset Avenue SW

I enjoy writing posts on streets like W Commodore Way (I believe I am the first to have accurately identified its namesake), Division Avenue NW (I show that, even though it doesn’t divide anything from anything else today, it once served as Ballard’s eastern city limit for a few blocks), Loyal Avenue NW (I discover that it’s named not for the concept of loyalty, but for a baby girl whose first name was Loyal), and sluʔwiɫ (the University of Washington’s new Lushootseed-language name for Whitman Court). But sometimes I just like knocking something out quickly (I’m looking at you, W View Place and View Avenue NW). Sunset Avenue SW is another one of those. It originated in the 1888 First Plat of West Seattle by the West Seattle Land and Improvement Company, and the name simply refers to the street’s western view of Puget Sound; Vashon, Blake, and Bainbridge Islands; the Kitsap Peninsula; and the Olympic Mountains.

Sunset Avenue SW begins as a stairway at California Avenue SW, just across the street from Hamilton Viewpoint Park. Once the roadway begins up the hill, it goes ⅘ of a mile southwest to a dead end at the College Street Ravine southwest of 50th Avenue SW.

Schmitz Boulevard

This road, and the park through which it runs, Schmitz Park (or Schmitz Preserve Park), was named for German immmigrants Ferdinand Schmitz (1860–1942) and his wife, Emma Althoff Schmitz (1864–1959). Ferdinand was a banker, city councilman, and parks commissioner. He and Emma donated land — mostly, though not entirely, old-growth forest — to the city in 1908, forming the core (just over 55%) of the present park.

The Schmitzes had four children: Dietrich, Henry, Emma Henrietta, and Ferdinand Jr. A banker, Dietrich (1890–1969) became president of Washington Mutual in 1934 and retired as chairman of the board two years before his death. He was also a member of the Seattle School Board from 1928 (or 1930; sources differ) to 1961. Henry (1892–1965) was president of the University of Washington from 1952 to 1958. Schmitz Hall, the university’s administration building on NE Campus Parkway, was named in his memory in 1970.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seattle_-_Schmitz_Park_road_01.jpg
Schmitz Boulevard looking north toward SW Stevens Street and SW Admiral Way. September 2007. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

According to the Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks,

The roadway was originally envisioned as a continuation of the West Seattle Parkway, never realized, which would have connected Alki Beach to Lake Washington via a series of parkways. The built section is instead a short road that provided the only automobile entry to Schmitz Park, extending through an allée of trees and terminating at a pergola and shelterhouse.

Map of proposed West Seattle Parkway, cropped from a 1928 map of Seattle's park system
Map of proposed West Seattle Parkway, cropped from a 1928 map showing both existing (red) and proposed (red hatched) park features. Schmitz Park and Boulevard are at upper left. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 2333.

The portion between 59th Avenue SW and 58th Avenue SW in front of Alki Elementary School having been closed in 1949, Schmitz Boulevard today begins at 58th Avenue SW and SW Stevens Street and goes not quite half a mile east, then southeast, then north, to SW Admiral Way and SW Stevens Street. It is closed to automobile traffic.

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

S Lander Street

I initially posted that this street was named for Judge Edward Lander (1816–1907), chief justice of the territorial supreme court from 1853 to 1857. In 1855, he, along with Charles Terry, bought Carson Boren’s downtown land claim for $500. They subsequently donated two acres of land, along with Arthur Denny, who donated eight, to form the first campus of the University of Washington, which opened in 1861. The university owns the Metropolitan Tract to this day, though it moved to its present location in 1895. Lander’s name also appears on Lander Hall, a UW dormitory on NE Campus Parkway.

Edward Lander
Edward Lander

However, I recently (April 2022) came across “What’s in a Name?,” a paper by Phillip H. Hoffman, director of the Alki History Project, in which he asserts that the correct namesake is Edward Lander’s brother, Frederick William Lander (1821–1862). I find his argument compelling. The street was named by Edward Hanford (S Hanford Street) when he filed the plat of Hanford’s Addition to South Seattle in 1869. Hanford also named streets for George McClellan and Isaac Stevens. All three men — McClellan, Stevens, and Frederick Lander — were part of the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey (1853–1855), and all three were likewise Union generals in the Civil War. Besides this,

Edward Lander was a political foe of and was jailed by Stevens [then governor of Washington Territory] when Lander opposed Stevens’ 1855 martial law declaration and actions. Stevens and Edward Lander maintained a widely recognized lifelong enmity. It is unlikely that Hanford would have memorialized this hostility.

Frederick William Lander
Frederick W. Lander

SW Lander Street begins at 59th Avenue SW in the Alki neighborhood of West Seattle, and goes ⅕ of a mile to 55th Avenue SW. It resumes just to the south at S Lander Place and goes a further ⅛ of a mile to SW Admiral Way. Picking up again at 50th Avenue SW, it makes it ½ a mile to Walnut Avenue SW before being interrupted again, as happens to so many West Seattle streets because of the varying topography. There is a final ¼-mile stretch in West Seattle from 39th Avenue SW to 36th Avenue SW, then a very short segment on Harbor Island before S Lander Street resumes in the Industrial District at Colorado Avenue S and goes ¾ of a mile east to Airport Way S. On Beacon Hill, Lander begins just west of 13th Avenue S and goes ⅔ of a mile to just past 23rd Avenue S, including the block-long stretch that is now known as S Roberto Maestas Festival Street. Lander begins again at 30th Avenue S in Mount Baker and goes a final four blocks to 34th Avenue S.

S Hanford Street

This street is named for Edward Hanford (1807–1884) and his wife, Abigail Jane Holgate (1824–1905), who left Iowa in the early 1850s to settle adjacent to Abigail’s brother, John (namesake of S Holgate Street), on what is today known as Beacon Hill but was known from then until the early 1890s as Holgate and Hanford Hill. Edward and his family were loggers, then orchardists, and unlike John Holgate, he went on to develop his donation claim.

The Hanfords’ son Clarence (1857–1920) founded, with James D. Lowman, the Lowman & Hanford Stationery and Printing Company in 1885. The firm went out of business in the 1960s, but their Pioneer Square building still, the last time I drove by, had a sign painted on it reading “Seattle’s Oldest Retail Company,” which it very well might have been when it closed. Their son Thaddeus (1847–1892) was for a time the owner of the Daily Intelligencer newspaper, predecessor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And their son Cornelius (1849–1926), a federal judge from 1890 to 1912, was earlier a territorial legislator, Seattle city attorney, and chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court. He is the namesake of Hanford, Washington, and by extension the Hanford Site, which produced the plutonium used in the first nuclear explosion and the bombing of Nagasaki. He was also the author of Seattle and Environs, 1852-1924.

Edward Hanford
Edward Hanford

SW Hanford Street begins in West Seattle at SW Admiral Way and 59th Avenue SW and goes ¼ mile east to Schmitz Preserve Park at 56th Avenue SW. It begins again at 51st Avenue SW and goes nearly a mile east to 36th Avenue SW, becoming a stairway for the half-block east of 46th Avenue SW. After serving as little more than a driveway between SW Admiral Way and Fauntleroy Avenue SW, it next appears as S Hanford Street at E Marginal Way S, where it goes for ⅓ of a mile east to Occidental Avenue S. After a few short segments farther east in the Industrial District, Hanford begins again on Beacon Hill at 12th Avenue S and goes nearly a mile east to Rainier Avenue S, the segment between 25th Avenue S and Morse Avenue S being a stairway. It resumes a few blocks east at 30th Avenue S and finishes up ½ a mile east at Cascadia Avenue S.

S Holgate Street

This street is named for John Cornelius Holgate (1828–1868). Born in Ohio, he took the Oregon Trail west in 1847 and explored Elliott Bay and the Duwamish River by canoe in the summer of 1850. (The Seattle Times calls him “the first non-Indian of record to have done so.”) He returned to Oregon afterwards, however, and did not settle in what is now Seattle — specifically, Beacon Hill — until 1853, two years after the Denny Party landed at Alki Point. His mother, Elizabeth; brothers, Lemuel and Milton; and sister, Abigail, along with her husband, Edward Hanford (namesakes of S Hanford Street), soon followed. The Hanfords settled on the hill — known thereafter as Holgate and Hanford Hill until the late 1880s — adjacent to Holgate. (Milton was one of three whites to die in the Battle of Seattle in 1856, and was himself the cause of one of those deaths, having earlier shot Jack Drew, a deserting sailor from the USS Decatur, in a “friendly-fire” incident.)

A gold prospector, Holgate left for Idaho in 1863, and died there in 1868, the first casualty of the War Under the Mountain, a conflict between two rival gold mines in the Owyhee Desert, one of which he was part owner. According to Robert L. Deen, writing for True West magazine, there are conflicting accounts of Holgates death. The Owyhee Avalanche reported that:

Desperate fighting ensued during the charge…. John C. Holgate… one of the foremost in the advance, was shot in the head, and must have died instantaneously.

The Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman had a slightly different story:

It appears that J.C. Holgate has been killed, some say assassinated, murdered — not killed in a fight, but shot through the head without provocation.

SW Holgate Street begins in West Seattle just west of 47th Avenue SW and goes ¼ of a mile east to California Avenue SW at Palm Avenue SW. There are two more short segments on the peninsula, between 41st Avenue SW and Arch Avenue SW and between Victoria Avenue SW and Brook Avenue SW. S Holgate Street resumes at Utah Avenue S and goes ¾ of a mile east to an overpass over Interstate 5, where it becomes Beacon Avenue S. There is a one-block stretch between 12th Avenue S and 13th Avenue S on top of the hill, and then Holgate goes a mile from the Beacon Hill Playfield at 14th Avenue S to 31st Avenue S at Colman Park, the half-block east of 16th Avenue S being a stairway and the block between 28th Avenue S and 29th Avenue S being unimproved. There is finally a short stretch east of Lakeside Avenue S at 36th Avenue S that essentially serves as a private driveway; it is a shoreline street end, but one not yet accessible to the public.

California Avenue SW

This West Seattle street was established in 1888 as part of the First Plat of West Seattle by the West Seattle Land and Improvement Company. As “most of [its] capital came from San Francisco,” I would assume that is why California Avenue was given its name.

California Avenue SW — a major West Seattle arterial connecting the Admiral, Alaska, and Morgan Junctions (three commercial hubs named after long-gone streetcar line intersections) — runs 4½ miles from California Lane SW in the north, past which it turns into California Way SW on its way down the hill to the waterfront, to SW Sullivan Street in the south. Beyond there it exists as a few short segments, then briefly as part of the SW Brace Point Drive–SW Barton Street arterial, and lastly as a nearly mile-long residential street that ends at Marine View Drive SW.

Sign at corner of SW Donald Street and California Avenue SW, July 4, 2011
Sign at corner of SW Donald Street and California Avenue SW, July 4, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Fauntleroy Way SW

This 4-mile-long thoroughfare runs from the west end of the West Seattle Bridge to Brace Point, passing Morgan Junction, Lincoln Park, and the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal on the way. It was named for Fauntleroy Cove, location of that terminal, from which riders depart for Vashon Island and Southworth, on the Kitsap Peninsula.

Fauntleroy Cove was itself named after Robert Henry Fauntleroy by George Davidson, Fauntleroy’s future son-in-law. They were both members of the U.S. Coast Survey. He is one of three Fauntleroys whose names appear on Seattle street signs — Ellinor Drive W and Constance Drive W are named for Mounts Ellinor and Constance in the Olympic Mountains, themselves named by Davidson after his future wife and sister-in-law, respectively.

SW Seattle Street

What better way to start things off than with SW Seattle Street?

SW Seattle Street is a minor residential street in West Seattle that runs about ³/₁₀ of a mile from 42nd Avenue SW in the east to Sunset Avenue SW in the west.

It might seem strange that such a short street would be chosen to bear the city’s name — it was the only one to do so until 2010, when the first two blocks of Airport Way S were renamed Seattle Boulevard S — but this has more to do with unimaginative naming than with civic pride.

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.

Portions of the original Seattle Street were vacated over the years (for example, in 1900, 1957, and 2000), and the construction of I-5 took care of the rest. However, when the city annexed West Seattle in 1907 it changed the name of Maple Street to W Seattle Street as part of rationalizing the street grid… and so the name lives on.

(The city itself, of course, was named after Si’ahl [siʔaɫ], better known in English as Chief Seattle of the Duwamish and Suquamish Tribes.)

siʔaɫ, or Chief Seattle
The only known photograph of Chief Seattle (1786?–1866), taken by E.M. Sammis in 1864
Sign at corner of SW Seattle Street and 46th Avenue SW, July 4, 2011
Sign at corner of SW Seattle Street and 46th Avenue SW, July 4, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

So, why SW Seattle Street instead of Seattle Street SW?

In Seattle, east–west streets have the directional come first, and north–south avenues have it come last. The Wikipedia article “Street layout of Seattle,” which I helped write, has a more comprehensive description of Seattle’s addressing system, including the answer to this question:

Why was it W Seattle Street in 1907 but SW Seattle Street now?

In 1961, city ordinance 89910 “established a standard system of street name designations” so that in almost all cases streets within a given zone would carry the same directional. West Seattle avenues already carried the SW designation.