Aurora Avenue N

What is now Aurora Avenue N began in 1888 as Aurora Street in Denny & Hoyt’s Addition to the City of Seattle, Washington Territory, previously discussed in our post on Dravus Street. Edward Blewett and his wife, Carrie, of Fremont, Nebraska, were the landowners, and Edward Corliss Kilbourne (1856–1959) filed the plat as attorney-in-fact for the Blewetts. Dr. Kilbourne (a dentist), was from Aurora, Illinois, and it seems to be generally accepted (The Fremocentrist, Wedgwood in Seattle History, Fremont Neighborhood Council, Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle) that he named the street after his hometown.

(I have seen elsewhere [HistoryLinkWashington’s Pacific Highway], that Aurora was given its name sometime in the early 20th century by George F. Cotterill, mayor of Seattle from 1912–1914, because it was “the highway to the north, toward the aurora borealis,” but they have the century wrong, and Aurora Street was no highway in 1888. In addition, those two pages call him “city engineer, later mayor,” but he was never city engineer — although he was assistant city engineer from 1892–1900. The Licton Springs Community Council mentions both theories.)

At any rate, Ordinance 6947, filed on June 6, 1901, refers to the street as Aurora Street, and Ordinance 7942, filed on November 5 of that year, refers to it as Aurora Avenue. I can find no specific record of the name change, but Ordinance 6864, filed on May 8, has to do with “altering, defining and establishing the names of streets in the City of Seattle in the portion thereof lying north of Lake Union, Salmon Bay and the route of the Lake Washington Canal,” and is likely responsible. (No text is available online for the ordinance, and the drafters of Ordinance 6947 must have neglected to take the change into account.)

Aurora Avenue N might have remained just another North Seattle street were it not for the decision to route the Pacific Highway, U.S. Route 99, across the Lake Washington Ship Canal there instead of Stone Way N, Albion Place N, Whitman Avenue N, or Linden Avenue N. As it happened, Aurora was chosen as the location for the crossing (known today as the Aurora Bridge), and the name was officially extended through Queen Anne to Downtown Seattle in 1930 in preparation for the bridge’s opening in 1932.

Lake Union, Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Fremont Bridge, and the George Washington Memorial Bridge (Aurora Bridge), Seattle, Washington, circa 1932, from https://flickr.com/photos/uw_digital_images/4860576629/
Postcard of Lake Union, Lake Washington Ship Canal, the Fremont Bridge, and the George Washington Memorial Bridge (Aurora Bridge), circa 1932. View looks southeast, with Fremont in foreground. Public domain image from University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Aurora Bridge, 2011, from https://flickr.com/photos/mlinksva/5996553637/, public domain
Aurora Bridge, 2011. View looks east, with Gas Works Park and Wallingford neighborhood at center, Lake Union and Capitol Hill at right. Public domain photo by Flickr user Mike Linksvayer.

Today, Aurora Avenue N begins at 7th Avenue N and Harrison Street by the north portal of the State Route 99 Tunnel and goes 7⅘ miles north to the city limits; the name continues 3 further miles to the King–Snohomish county line, and the highway another 12 miles beyond that to Broadway in Everett. A block-long segment from 6th Avenue and Battery Street to Denny Way has been renamed Borealis Avenue, and Aurora between Denny Way and Harrison Street is once again 7th Avenue N. A two-block-long segment underneath the north approach to the Aurora Bridge has also been changed to Troll Avenue N.

Roosevelt Way NE

This street runs nearly 6 miles from the north end of the University Bridge in the south (at Eastlake Avenue NE and NE Campus Parkway) to Aurora Avenue N in the north, just shy of Seattle city limits at N 145th Street. It runs north–south for most of its length, but starting at NE 125th Street, its last 1½ miles cut a northwest–southeast diagonal across the street grid, making it Roosevelt Way N once it crosses 1st Avenue NE between N 133rd and N 135th Streets.

Originally 10th Avenue NE south of NE 125th Street, Roosevelt received its current name in 1933. According to local historian Feliks Banel, this was first proposed in 1927 by businesses in the Roosevelt district, itself having taken that name earlier in the decade in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, who died in 1919. Nothing came of it for six years, but in 1933 they tried again and asked that 10th Avenue be renamed after both Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had been elected president the previous November. As Banel notes in his piece, The Seattle Times had this to say:

This change, we assume, must be pleasing to local Democrats of all sorts and shades. At the same time, due to the incidence of somewhat tenuous family ties, it cannot be at all displeasing to Republicans. The name of Roosevelt has high standing in both political parties, as indeed it has throughout the world. Even now it is quite certain that those who may traverse our Roosevelt Way in years to come will neither know nor particularly care whether it was named for Teddy or for Frank.

As for its diagonal stretch, it appears on old King County maps as M. Roy Sayles Road (County Road 2240), Golf Way, and State Highway 1J (predecessor of today’s SR 513). It ceased to be a state highway in 1991. As for when it, too, became Roosevelt Way, it’s difficult to tell as King County doesn’t have as good a system for looking up ordinances online as Seattle’s. It appears as Roosevelt Way on a 1966 map in local historian Rob Ketcherside’s maps album on Flickr, but as Golf Way in another one from 1947. As the area in question wasn’t annexed into Seattle until 1953, the name must have been changed by the county sometime between 1947 and 1953 in anticipation. (The 1933 Seattle ordinance is the only one on file relating to Roosevelt Way’s name, so this must have been a county change.)

As for M. Roy SaylesThe International Confectioner’s January 1915 issue reports that he, along with Annie B. Sayles, C.M. Sayles, and W.H. Rogers, founded the Rogers Candy Co. in Seattle in 1915; and Golf Way almost certainly comes from the road’s proximity to the public course at Jackson Park, which opened in 1928.