S Fontanelle Street

This fragmented street starts at Rainier Avenue S and travels two blocks west to 46th Avenue S. It makes its next appearance in Beacon Hill as a block-long street hanging off Military Road S, just east of Interstate 5. There are a few more blocks in South Park, from 5th to 2nd Avenues S, then half a block in West Seattle just west of California Avenue SW and a few final blocks from just east of Vashon Place SW to 47th Avenue SW at Lincoln Park. It is named for Fontanelle, Iowa, where Joseph and Catherine (Henderson) Dunlap (of S Henderson Street) lived before coming to Seattle in 1869.

S Fairbanks Street

This street runs not quite 300 feet from Martin Luther King Jr. Way S in the east to 42nd Avenue S in the west, just south of S Henderson Street. Like nearby Valdez Avenue S and Yukon Avenue S, it was established in 1905 as part of Dunlap’s Supplemental to the City of Seattle, and, in keeping with the Alaska theme, was named after the city of Fairbanks, which had been founded just four years earlier. (Fairbanks itself was named after Indiana Senator Charles Warren Fairbanks [1897–1905], who was vice president under Theodore Roosevelt from 1905 to 1909.) 

Yukon Avenue S

This very short street (375 feet long) in the Dunlap neighborhood runs from Spear Place S in the south to S Henderson Street in the north. Like Valdez Avenue S, which it intersects, it was established in 1905 as part of Dunlap’s Supplemental to the City of Seattle, and was named after the Yukon River, likely due to the recent Klondike Gold Rush (ended 1899).

Yukon Avenue S, incidentally, holds the distinction of being the at the very end of the list of Seattle streets taken in alphabetical order — hence the tagline for Streets of Seattle, a blog from 2012 that sadly never seems to have gotten off the ground: “Seattle street names, from Adams to Yukon.”

Valdez Avenue S

This short street (just ⅛ of a mile long) connects Martin Luther King Jr. Way S to Yukon Avenue S in Seattle’s Dunlap neighborhood. Established in 1905 as part of Dunlap’s Supplemental to the City of Seattle, it was named after Valdez, Alaska, which was itself named after Spanish naval officer Antonio Valdés y Fernández Bazán. (Other streets in the plat include the above-mentioned Yukon Avenue as well as Tanana Drive, Fairbanks Drive, and Rampart Drive. Tanana Drive is now part of S Henderson Street; Fairbanks Drive is now S Fairbanks Street; and Rampart Drive is now part of S Director Street.)

I haven’t been able to find a specific connection the Hulbert or Dunlap families might have with Alaska, but 1905 was just six years after the Klondike Gold Rush ended, and just four years before the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition. Seattle’s population went from 42,837 in 1890 to 80,671 in 1900 — an increase of 88% — and much of this was due to its central role in the gold rush as “the premier supply centre and the departure point for the gold fields.”

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.

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.

Bitter Place N

This street runs a tenth of a mile along the Bitter Lake waterfront from N 134th Street to the grounds of Broadview-Thomson K-8 School and Bitter Lake Playground. It was established in 1923 as part of Bitter Lake Villa Tracts.

Bitter Lake itself was so named because, as HistoryLink puts it, “A small, lake-bound sawmill operation at the southwest corner of Bitter Lake contracted with the Puget Mill and Brown Bay Logging Company to process their lumber cut from nearby forests. The tannic acid from logs dumped into the lake was so bitter that horses refused to drink from it, thus giving the 20-acre pond its name.” Its native name is čʼalqʼʷadiʔ, meaning ‘blackcaps on the sides’.

E Foster Island Road

This street, which runs about ¼ mile from Lake Washington Boulevard E to the beginning of the Foster Point Trail, all within the Washington Park Arboretum, was without a name until 1968, when it was named for the island in Union Bay to which it led. (It remained unsigned until a few decades later, however. There was no sign at the intersection until at least the 1990s, as I know since my parents’ house was at the south end of the Arboretum and I drove or biked by there weekly, if not more often, while I was growing up.)

Foster Island is known by the Duwamish tribe, who once used it as a burial ground, as Stitici, or ‘little island’. It was named by the settlers for Joel Wellington Foster, who came to Washington in the 1870s from St. Joseph, Missouri. He is said to have donated the island to the city in one HistoryLink article, but another says the city bought it in 1917.

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

Portage Bay Place E

This street, which runs ³⁄₁₀ of a mile from Fuhrman Avenue E to E Allison Street, was established as an alley in 1890 as part of the Denny–Fuhrman Addition to the City of Seattle, but only received a name in 1936. It was named for Portage Bay, the eastern arm of Lake Union, which it parallels. Portage Bay was in turn named for the portage from Union Bay (part of Lake Washington) to Lake Union over the Montlake Isthmus, which is today the Montlake Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal.