Lenny Wilkens Way

I’m not sure how I missed the news, but in December 2021 the block of Thomas Street between 1st Avenue N and 2nd Avenue N, just south of Climate Pledge Arena, was officially renamed Lenny Wilkens Way, after the Seattle basketball legend.

Leonard Randolph Wilkens (born 1937), who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, played basketball for the Seattle SuperSonics from 1968–1972, also serving as head coach from 1969–1972. He returned to coach the Sonics in 1977 and stayed until 1986, when he went to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He led the Sonics to two consecutive NBA championship games, in 1978 and 1979, the latter of which the Sonics won, giving Seattle its first national title since the Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup in 1917, and its last until 2004, when the Storm won the WNBA Championship. Wilkens finished his career as head coach of the New York Knicks in 2005. Through the Lenny Wilkens Foundation, which recently wound up operations, he also raised millions of dollars for Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic.

As far as I know, and please correct me if I’m wrong, this makes Lenny Wilkens only the second Black person to have a street named after him in Seattle, the first being Martin Luther King Jr.

Mayfair Avenue N

This North Queen Anne street originates in the 1907 Mayfair Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by the Mayfair Land Company. Don Sherwood notes that “Mayfair is a fashionable district in London, east of Hyde Park,” which was named after the annual May Fair (1686–1764).

Ad for Mayfair Addition in the Seattle Times, March 8, 1907
Advertisement for the Mayfair Addition in The Seattle Times, March 8, 1907

Mayfair Avenue N begins at Florentia Street between 2nd Avenue N and 3rd Avenue N and goes just over ¼ of a mile south to just past Mayfair Park, where it becomes a private road that goes around 600 feet east to Nob Hill Avenue N. The private section runs through land once owned by the Lorentz family (Lorentz Place N) — in fact, a few members still own houses there.

Mayfair Avenue N street sign, May 28, 2011
Mayfair Avenue N street sign, May 28, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

W Pleasant Place

This street was created in 1890 as part of the Queen Anne 3rd Addition to the City of Seattle, platted by Frank Morrell Jordan (1863–1931) of F.M. Jordan & Co. According to Clarence Bagley’s History of Seattle from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, he had been “connected with Seattle throughout the entire period of its development since the fire of 1889 and has been in hearty sympathy with the movement for the building of the city upon broader and more beautiful municipal lines.”

As the street is less than 150 feet south of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I assume that is the origin of its name.

W Pleasant Place exists in two short segments not much longer than 150 feet each. Both head east: one from 7th Avenue W and the other from 6th Avenue W, neither making it a whole block.

Birch Avenue N

This street was created in 1890 as part of Hunter’s Lake Union Addition to the City of Seattle by Colonel Morton C. Hunter (1825–1896), Civil War veteran and congressman from Indiana. (His son, Frank, was an insurance and real estate man in Seattle, and it was he who requested the recording of the plat.) Absent any evidence to the contrary, I assume it was named for the tree, though it is the only such street in the plat.

Birch Avenue N begins at Halladay Street just east of Aurora Avenue N and south of Canlis, and goes 300 feet southeast to a dead end.

Elliott Avenue

Elliott Avenue, which originated as Water Street in A.A. Denny’s 6th Addition to the City of Seattle, filed in 1873, received its current name in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming. It was named for Elliott Bay, which was itself named for Midshipman Samuel Bonnyman Elliott (1822–1876), part of the United States Exploring Expedition, otherwise known as the Wilkes Expedition. (Even though for years people thought the bay had been named for Chaplain J.L. Elliott, Howard Hanson makes a convincing argument in “The Naming of Elliott Bay: Shall We Honor the Chaplain or the Midshipman?”, an article in the January 1954 issue of The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, that the honor belongs to the midshipman.)

Elliott Avenue begins at Western Avenue and Lenora Street and goes 2⅕ miles northwest to halfway between W Galer Street and W Garfield Street, where it becomes 15th Avenue W.

Looking south down Elliott Avenue W at W Mercer Place, August 1921, from http://archives.seattle.gov/digital-collections/index.php/Detail/objects/25558
Looking south down Elliott Avenue W at W Mercer Place, August 1921. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 1862
Looking northwest up Elliott Avenue W from the W Thomas Street pedestrian bridge, August 2015. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elliott_Ave,_at_3rd_Ave_and_Thomas_Street,_Seattle.JPG
Looking northwest up Elliott Avenue W from the W Thomas Street pedestrian bridge, August 2015. Photograph by Dllu, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Queen Anne Boulevard

Like Queen Anne Avenue N, Queen Anne Boulevard is named for the neighborhood and hill, themselves named for the Queen Anne architectural style popular with builders in the 1880s. Unlike the avenue, though, the boulevard is not one single street, but a scenic loop incorporating many streets (and hence has no directional designation, such as Queen Anne Boulevard W).

The legislation establishing Queen Anne Boulevard was passed in 1907, and construction took place from 1911 to 1916. The Seattle Department of Transportation has had jurisdiction over the streets since 1942; jurisdiction over the landscaping remains with Seattle Parks and Recreation.

The loop is slightly over 3⅔ miles in length; the ordinance gives its route as follows (edited for style and current street names and directional designations, with notes added):

Extending from Prospect Street between Warren Avenue N and 2nd Avenue N, in a northeasterly direction*, to an intersection with Galer Street near Bigelow Avenue N; thence northerly following the general direction of Bigelow Avenue N as nearly as the contours of the ground will permit, to Wheeler Street; thence westerly to Nob Hill Avenue N; thence southerly to McGraw Street; thence westerly to 2nd Avenue N; thence northwesterly to Smith Street, west of Warren Avenue N; thence westerly along Smith Street to a point east of 1st Avenue W; thence southerly to W McGraw Street and 2nd Avenue West; thence westerly to 3rd Avenue W; thence northwesterly to 5th Avenue W and W Smith Street§; thence northerly to W Raye Street; thence westerly to 8th Avenue W; thence northerly to W Armour Street; thence northwesterly to W Fulton Street; thence westerly to 9th Avenue W; thence southwesterly to 10th Avenue W and W Armour Street; thence southerly to W Wheeler Street; thence easterly to 8th Avenue W; thence southerly to W McGraw Street; thence easterly to 7th Avenue W; thence southerly to W Blaine Street; thence westerly to 8th Avenue W; thence southerly to W Lee Street; thence southeasterly to W Highland Drive and 7th Avenue West.

* Now the southern extension of Bigelow Avenue N.
Now McGraw Place.
Now the east half of W McGraw Place.
§ Now the west half of W McGraw Place.
Now 8th Place W.

Notably, there is a gap in the loop; Highland Drive between 7th Avenue W and Warren Avenue N could have made it closed, but this was not done.

As noted in Bigelow Avenue Nneighbors’ yards often encroach on the public right-of-way, leading, among other things, to confrontations over chestnuts…

Queen Anne Boulevard street sign, corner of 5th Avenue W, W Smith Street, and W McGraw Place, September 2015
Street sign, corner of 5th Avenue W, W Smith Street, and W McGraw Place, September 2015. The signs for 5th and McGraw are brown because of Queen Anne Boulevard’s status as a parks boulevard; note also the distinctive Queen Anne Boulevard sign beneath that for McGraw. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Queen Anne Boulevard Seattle Historic Landmark Parks Department sign, 1st Avenue W and W Smith Street, July 2015
“Queen Anne Boulevard, Seattle Historic Landmark” Parks Department sign, 1st Avenue W and W Smith Street, July 2015. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 178301
Queen Anne Boulevard at night: 8th Place W just north of Marshall Park, July 2015
Queen Anne Boulevard at night: 8th Place W just north of Marshall Park, July 2015. Note the Wilcox Wall supporting the light fixtures. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 178303

Queen Anne Avenue N

Originally Temperance Street and Villard Avenue, Queen Anne Avenue N was given its current name in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming. It was named after Queen Anne Hill and the Queen Anne neighborhood. Originally called Eden Hill or Galer Hill, they were themselves renamed after the Queen Anne architectural style that became popular in the 1880s.

Looking up the Counterbalance (Queen Anne Avenue N), 1910
Looking north up the Counterbalance (Queen Anne Avenue N), 1910
Looking south down Queen Anne Avenue N, April 2012
Looking south down Queen Anne Avenue N, April 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Joe Wolf, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Queen Anne Avenue begins at Western Avenue, less than 100 feet south of Denny Way, and becomes Queen Anne Avenue N as it crosses Denny. From there it goes 2⅕ miles north to Bertona Street and the Ship Canal Trail.

Signs at corner of Comstock Street and Queen Anne Avenue N, June 17, 2011
Signs at corner of Comstock Street and Queen Anne Avenue N, June 17, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Bigelow Avenue N

This street was named for developer Isaac Newton Bigelow (1838–1922). The Queen Anne Historic Context Statement, as we quoted in Newton Street, says:

In the early 1870s, the Denny and Mercer families gradually began to systematically subdivide their large land holdings on the south and east slopes of Queen Anne Hill. When a severe windstorm blew down thousands of trees in the north district in 1875, views opened up and land seekers turned their attentions beyond Belltown. Real estate speculators new to the territory arrived and began to buy up property on the crest of Queen Anne Hill. Some of these speculators also became developers, such as George Kinnear, or builder-developers, such as Isaac Bigelow.

Bigelow Avenue N forms a major part of Queen Anne Boulevard, the scenic loop atop Queen Anne Hill. It begins at 2nd Avenue N and Prospect Street and goes 9⁄10 of a mile to Wheeler Street between 4th Avenue N and 5th Avenue N.

Part of the street is lined with chestnut trees — not horse chestnuts, but the edible variety, specifically the Chinese chestnut, Castanea mollissima, according to the city’s records. My family (my mother was Korean) never foraged here, though we have done so elsewhere in the area, both for chestnuts and fiddlehead ferns. But plenty of others have, and continue to do so, as these articles show:

It should be noted that since Bigelow Avenue N is part of Queen Anne Boulevard, the trees belong to the parks department, not to the neighbors. As with similar park boulevards in town, neighbors’ yards often encroach on the public right-of-way.

Street sign at corner of Comstock Street and Bigelow Avenue N, February 2010
Street sign at corner of Comstock Place and Bigelow Avenue N, February 2010. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Beginning of Bigelow Avenue N (Queen Anne Boulevard) at 2nd Avenue N and Prospect Street, October 2015. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

W Blewett Way

This street is named for Edward Blewett (1848–1929), one of the developers of the Fremont neighborhood (named after his hometown, Fremont, Nebraska).

“But,” you might say, “if he developed Fremont, why is W Blewett Way in Queen Anne?”

As you can see in the map below, and in this plat he filed in 1888 of what is now Fremont and North Queen Anne before the Fremont Cut was dug, Ewing and Blewett Streets used to be part of both neighborhods. When they became separated, the names were left alone on the Queen Anne side; in Fremont, they were changed as follows: Kilbourne to N 36th Street, Blewett to N 35th Street, and Ewing to N 34th Street.

Portion of 1912 Baist Atlas Showing Fremont Cut
Portion of 1912 Baist Atlas showing Fremont Cut

It’s not quite that simple, though — Blewett never reached quite as far as 13th Avenue W. What appears to have happened is that a name was needed when what is now W Blewett Way was created in 1907, and because the street to the south was still Ewing, Blewett presented itself as a natural choice. The rest of Blewett south of the canal was vacated over the years, so this is all that’s left of the name.

Today, W Blewett Way begins at the north end of 13th Avenue W and goes east just about ⅒ of a mile before it becomes a private driveway.

Van Buren Avenue W

This street first appears in the 1875 plat of the Northern Addition to Seattle, W.T., filed by James Marston McNaught (1842–1919) and his wife, Agnes Martha Hyde McNaught (1856–1918). James was “a wealthy lawyer working in the railroad industry.” I assume it was named for Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States, and not for his namesake, Martin Van Buren Stacy, a Seattle real estate developer, though I wouldn’t be surprised if McNaught and Stacy knew each other, as their dwellings, in addition to that of Henry Yesler, were considered “the three most lavish mansions in the city.”

I wasn’t sure whether to label Van Buren Avenue a “paper street” or not. Unlike W Semple Street and Albert Place W, part of the right-of-way has actually been improved (see below). However, like those two streets, it is not signed; and unlike Semple, there are no buildings with Van Buren Avenue addresses. (There are two houses on the street, but one has a W Prospect Street address; the other, an Elliott Avenue W address.)

The right-of-way stretches from just southeast of W Prospect Street, northeast of Elliott Avenue W, to where the Magnolia Bridge onramp turns west at W Garfield Street. The first 350 or so feet are drivable. There is also a foot trail through the Southwest Queen Anne Greenbelt in the right-of-way, beginning at the east end of W Lee Street and heading southeast. Lastly, just under 600 feet of the Magnolia Bridge onramp is located in the right-of-way. It could conceivably be signed Van Buren Avenue W instead of W Galer Street Flyover, but this is not the case.

Western Avenue

This street appears to originate in this 1871 plat made by Arthur A. Denny. Unlike with E North Street or Eastern Avenue N, no mystery here: originally named West Street, it was the first street west of Front Street (today’s 1st Avenue). Front Street ran along the waterfront, as its name implied, south of about Seneca Street, but north of there the Elliott Bay shoreline curved and the street grid didn’t curve with it (that would happen farther north, at Stewart Street). Hence West Street, which was changed to Western Avenue in 1895. (West Street would be extended farther south once they started filling in the tideflats; today, it begins at Yesler Way.)

Western Avenue in Pike Place Market, October 2008
Western Avenue in Pike Place Market, October 2008. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

Today, Western Avenue begins at Yesler Way and goes 1¾ miles northwest to Elliott Avenue W at 3rd Avenue W and W Thomas Street, having become Western Avenue W on crossing W Denny Way.

Denny Way

This street is named for David Thomas Denny (1832–1903). He was one of the members of the Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in 1851, led by his older brother, Arthur Armstrong Denny (1822–1899). In 1853, he married his sister-in-law, Louisa Boren (1827–1916). (Louisa’s older sister, Mary Ann Boren [1822–1910], had married Arthur in 1843. She, Louisa, and their brother, Carson Dobbins Boren [1824–1912], were also part of the Denny Party).

The Dennys settled on land in what is now Lower Queen Anne, living in a series of houses in the area until they went bankrupt in the Panic of 1893 and had to leave their mansion for their summer cottage at Licton Springs, where they lived with their oldest child, Emily Inez Denny (1853–1918), until they died.

Denny Park is named for the couple, which had given the land to the city as its first cemetery in 1861; the bodies were moved to the Washelli Cemetery on Capitol Hill in the 1880s, at which time the original cemetery was converted to a park, likewise the city’s first. (Just a few years later, Washelli was also converted to a park, initially known as Lake View Park, then City Park, and finally, in 1901, Volunteer Park. The Dennys’ private burial ground near the no-longer-existent Oak Lake eventually became the Oaklake Cemetery, which, after being sold by their son Victor in 1914, was renamed Washelli after the original cemetery of that name; Evergreen Cemetery, across Aurora Avenue N from Washelli, bought the latter in 1922, and the combined cemetery took its current name, Evergreen Washelli, in 1962.)

David Denny was active in government. According to HistoryLink.org, he was:

…Probate judge, King County commissioner, Seattle City Council member, a director of the Seattle School District, and regent of the Territorial University of Washington.… Denny was an ardent advocate of woman suffrage and helped lead the movement that in the 1880s won Washington women the right to vote. He opposed the expulsion of Chinese immigrants in 1886, which antagonized local nativists.

Denny was also involved in the development of a number of Seattle neighborhoods; in addition to Queen Anne, he developed tracts in South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and Ravenna, and founded the Rainier Power and Railway Company, which ran the first streetcar from Downtown (Pioneer Square) to the University District (Ravenna Park).

David T. Denny, 1890
David T. Denny, 1890. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 175313.

Denny Way — originally named Depot Street by Denny after a proposed train station that never materialized — begins as a shoreline street end on Elliott Bay, indistinguishable from the surrounding Myrtle Edwards Park. On the other side of the BNSF Railway tracks, W Denny Way begins as a pathway and stairway from Elliott Avenue to Western Avenue. From here, it is a major arterial, becoming Denny Way as it crosses Queen Anne Avenue N (originally named Temperance Street by Denny), and going 2½ miles east to E Madison Street and 22nd Avenue. (It becomes a neighborhood street on crossing E Olive Way, and the block between Broadway and 10th Avenue E was renamed E Barbara Bailey Way in 2019). E Denny Way begins again at E Madison Street and 23rd Avenue and goes ⅘ of a mile east to Madrona Place E and 38th Avenue, where it turns into Madrona Drive.

Denny Way, which becomes E Denny Way east of Eastlake Avenue E, also divides five of the city’s directional designation zones from each other, similarly to Yesler Way. North of Denny but west of Queen Anne Avenue N, east–west streets carry the W prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix W. North of Denny between Queen Anne Avenue N and Eastlake Avenue E, east–west streets carry no prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix N. North of Denny east of Eastlake Avenue E, east–west streets carry the E prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix E. South of Denny but west of a line that includes Melrose Avenue, Minor Avenue, E Union Street, and Broadway, neither east–west streets nor north–south avenues carry a prefix or suffix. And south of Denny but east of that line, east–west streets carry the E prefix and north–south avenues carry no suffix.

Signs at corner of 34th Avenue and E Denny Way, May 29, 2010
Signs at E Denny Way, where 34th Avenue becomes 34th Avenue E, May 29, 2010. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2010 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Dexter Avenue N

This street is named for Dexter Horton (1825–1904). Born in Seneca Lake, New York, he was living in Princeton, Illinois before he came west in 1852 with, among others, Thomas Mercer and Daniel and Clarence Bagley. He and Mercer came to Seattle in 1853. In 1870, he founded the city’s first bank, the Dexter Horton Bank. (It later merged with Seattle National Bank and First National Bank to form the First Seattle Dexter Horton National Bank, which unwieldy name became First National Bank of Seattle, then Seattle-First National Bank, and eventually Seafirst, the name it used from 1974 until the brand was retired in favor of Bank of America in 1999. (Bank of America had bought Seafirst in 1983.)

Dexter Horton
Dexter Horton

Dexter Avenue begins just south of Denny Way at 7th Avenue and becomes Dexter Avenue N north of Denny. From there it goes 2 miles north, then northwest, to the intersection of Westlake Avenue N, 4th Avenue N, and Nickerson Street, just south of the Fremont Bridge.

W Kinnear Place

This street was named in 1895 for George Kinnear (1836–1912), the namesake of nearby Kinnear Park. Born in Ohio, he grew up first in Indiana, then Illinois. He fought for the Union during the Civil War and came to Seattle in 1878, his brother, John, following a few years later. During the time of anti-Chinese agitation, he was captain of the Home Guard that enforced the rule of law and prevented those who wished to expel Chinese laborers from doing so violently. His account of the events of February 1886 was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1911 as “Anti-Chinese Riots at Seattle, Wn., February 8th, 1886.”

W Kinnear Place begins at 1st Avenue W and goes ⅖ of a mile west to W Prospect Street between Willard Avenue W and 7th Avenue W.

John Street

“A street of good intentions but easily thwarted,” as Sophie Frye Bass puts it in Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, John Street is “named for two Johns,” she writes — “For John Denny [1793–1875], the father of Arthur and David, and John B. [1862–1913], the son of David.”

Today, W John Street begins at Western Avenue W and goes ⅓ of a mile east to 2nd Avenue N and the Pacific Science Center campus. John Street resumes just east of the Space Needle at Broad Street and goes ½ a mile to Terry Avenue N. Picking up half a block to the east, it makes it a further ⅓ of a mile before being blocked by Interstate 5 at Stewart Street and Eastlake Avenue E. Resuming at Melrose Avenue E, it goes ⅙ of a mile to E Olive Way, which itself becomes E John Street a few blocks to the east at Broadway E. From there, it’s ⅓ of a mile to the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center at 15th Avenue E. After beginning again at 16th Avenue E, E John makes it nearly a mile before being stopped by the Harrison Ridge Greenbelt at 32nd Avenue E. Its final stretch is ⅓ of a mile from the 33rd Avenue E right-of-way to 39th Avenue E at Viretta Park.

Orange Place N

This street was created in 1882 as part of Latta’s Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by Marion Cline Latta (1845–1924) and his wife, Mary (1867–1929). An architect, carpenter, and builder by trade, he came to Seattle in 1875 and left for what is now Bellingham in 1883; between then and 1918 he held various political offices, including city councilman, school board director, mayor, county commissioner, city treasurer, and city street superintendent.

In that plat, Orange Avenue, as it was then named, is to the east of Jacobs Avenue, which is today Warren Avenue N. When I first saw this, I immediately thought of Orange Jacobs (1827–1914), associate, then chief justice of the territorial supreme court from 1869 to 1875, territorial delegate to Congress from 1875 to 1879, mayor of Seattle from 1879 to 1880, territorial councilman from 1885 to 1887, city attorney in 1890, and superior court judge from 1896 to 1900. 

I have no proof, of course, that Orange Avenue was named for Orange Jacobs — people rarely, if ever, documented why they gave particular names to streets in their subdivisions — but Jacobs and Latta were both Republicans and, more importantly, members of the same Masonic lodge, so for now I’m willing to put Jacobs down as the namesake of Orange Place N.

Orange Jacobs
Orange Jacobs

Smith Street

This street is named for Dr. Henry A. Smith (1830–1915), after whom Smith Cove is also named. He and his family once owned most of what is now Interbay, between Smith Cove and Salmon Bay. He is likely best known today for his translation of Chief Seattle’s Speech. Though its authenticity has been questioned, it is accepted by the Suquamish Tribe and Duwamish Tribe, both of which siʔaɫ was chief.

Dr. Henry A. Smith
Dr. Henry A. Smith

Today, W Smith Street begins in Magnolia at the intersection of 37th Avenue W and 36th Avenue W and goes ⅘ of a mile east to just past 24th Avenue W, briefly becoming a stairway just west of 26th Avenue W at Ella Bailey Park. It begins again in Queen Anne at 7th Avenue W and goes ½ a mile east to Warren Avenue N, forming a portion of Queen Anne Boulevard between 1st Avenue W and Warren Avenue N. Smith Street’s final segment begins at 4th Avenue N and goes a block east, ending at a greenbelt overlooking Aurora Avenue N.

Mercer Street

This street is named for Thomas Dickerson Mercer (1813–1898), who came to Seattle in 1853 and homesteaded 160 acres in what is now Lower Queen Anne, living at what is now Roy Street and Taylor Avenue N. He became a King County commissioner and probate judge, and named Lake Washington and Lake Union, whose Lushootseed names are x̌ačuʔ and xáx̌əʔčuʔ (‘lake’ and its diminutive, respectively). Mercer Island is named for him, as are three of its main streets, W Mercer Way, N Mercer Way, and E Mercer Way. Mercer Slough in Bellevue is named for his brother Aaron (1826-1902), and his brother Asa (1839–1917) is known for being the first instructor at, and first president of, the Territorial University of Washington (being the only college graduate in Seattle in 1861); and for bringing the “Mercer Girls” to Seattle to address the settlement’s severe gender imbalance (thereby inspiring the 1960s TV show Here Come the Brides).

Thomas Mercer
Thomas Dickerson Mercer

Today, W Mercer Street begins at Elliott Avenue W and goes a block east to 6th Avenue W, where it becomes a stairway. At the top of the stairway, the street becomes a major arterial (connecting directly to Elliott via W Mercer Place) and goes 1⅔ miles east to Eastlake Avenue E and Lakeview Boulevard E, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. (It is, incidentally, laid out on the boundary between the donation land claims of Mercer and David Thomas Denny. Mercer’s claim is today bounded by Queen Anne Avenue N on the west, Lake Union on the east, Highland Drive on the north, and Mercer Street on the south.) Connecting Interbay, Lower Queen Anne, Seattle Center, State Route 99, South Lake Union, Interstate 5, and Capitol Hill, Mercer Street is a linchpin of Seattle’s transportation system — but not a beloved one, having earned the name “Mercer Mess” decades ago.

East of Interstate 5, E Mercer Street begins again at Melrose Avenue E and goes nearly 1½ miles to 28th Avenue E, interrupted only once, at 17th Avenue E, where it is pedestrian-only for half a block. Mercer resumes briefly at Dewey Place E but after a couple hundred feet becomes a stairway connecting to Lake Washington Boulevard E and 31st Avenue E. A block east of that, at 32nd Avenue E, E Mercer Street resumes as another stairway, and becomes a street again just west of 33rd Avenue E. This segment goes about ⅛ of a mile to 36th Avenue E. There is one final 200-foot-long segment of E Mercer Street east of 39th Avenue E. Platted into Lake Washington, this is a shoreline street end, but not, unfortunately, one open to the public. (It was this particular street end that first got me involved with Friends of Street Ends, as I grew up just ¼ of a mile up the hill.)

Street sign at corner of Lake Washington Boulevard E, 31st Avenue E, and E Mercer Street, October 11, 2009
Street sign at corner of Lake Washington Boulevard E, 31st Avenue E, and E Mercer Street. Both 31st and Mercer are pathways leading to stairways here, as noted by the🚶 icon. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff, October 11, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Blaine Street

This street is named for Catharine V. Paine Blaine (1829–1908) and her husband, David Edwards Blaine (1824–1900). Methodist missionaries from Seneca Falls, New York, where, in 1848, Catharine signed the Declaration of Sentiments at the first women’s rights convention, the Blaines came to Seattle in 1853 but left in 1856, not to return until their retirement from missionary work 26 years later. During their short initial stay in Seattle, however, they managed to build Seattle’s first church (the Little White Church, predecessor of today’s First United Methodist Church of Seattle), and Catharine became Seattle’s first schoolteacher, making $65 a month. Catharine Blaine School in Magnolia is named in her honor.

Catharine and David Blaine
Catharine and David Blaine at their 1853 wedding

Unfortunately, though the Blaines may have been feminists, they, according to HistoryLink.org, had no love for Native Americans (or, for that matter, the Irish). Their departure in 1856 was prompted by the Battle of Seattle. Junius Rochester writes:

On January 20, 1856, a son John, was born to Catharine and David Blaine. Six days later the Battle of Seattle erupted. David had duty at one of the blockhouses, but managed to get Catharine and their babe aboard the Decatur in Elliott Bay. David had described the Indians as a “poor degraded race,” which would “soon disappear.” Catharine compared their “stupidity and awkwardness” to that of the Irish. The Indian uprising confirmed their worst fears and prejudices.

Today, W Blaine Street begins in Magnolia at 36th Avenue W and goes a semicircular ⅕ of a mile to 34th Avenue W and W Howe Street. It resumes at 31st Avenue W and goes almost ⅓ of a mile to Thorndyke Avenue W. There is a stub of W Blaine east of 15th Avenue W that is quickly stopped by the Southwest Queen Anne Greenbelt. The street resumes at 12th Avenue W and goes just over a mile to 4th Avenue N, having briefly become a stairway at 9th Avenue W. After a series of short stretches serving as driveways and parking, the Blaine Street right-of-way resurfaces east of Westlake Avenue N and heads into Lake Union. Here, too, it serves as a driveway and offers no access to the water. East of Lake Union, E Blaine Street begins at Fairview Avenue E and goes ⅛ of a mile to Franklin Avenue E, where it becomes part of the I-5 Colonnade park underneath the freeway. From Lakeview Boulevard E to just west of 10th Avenue E it is a stairway, and then two blocks of roadway ending at 12th Avenue E and Lake View Cemetery. There is then a diagonal ¼-mile stretch from 19th Avenue E to E Howe Street in Montlake. E Blaine finishes up as a ⅕-mile stretch from 37th Avenue E to McGilvra Boulevard E and a final two-block run from E Madison Street to 43rd Avenue E, both in Madison Park.

Sign for E Blaine Street, April 22, 2010
Sign for E Blaine Street at Broadway E, April 22, 2010. Blaine is a stairway on both sides of Broadway, hence the double 🚶 icon. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2010 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Ward Street

This street is named for Dillis B. Ward (1838-1922). In Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle, Sophie Frye Bass writes:

Dillis Ward, when a young man, did his part in building the old University for he drove a team that hauled stone and lime for the foundation. After the building was finished, he entered as a pupil into the first class. He taught school later on, and many an old-timer can recall the genial, kindly school teacher.

According to this biography, Ward, who came to Seattle in 1859, also had a hand in founding both The Post (a predecessor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) and The Seattle Daily Chronicle (a predecessor of The Seattle Times). However, his name does not appear in Professor Edmond S. Meany’s Newspapers of Washington Territory, in this article on the Post Building from the Pacific Coast Architecture Database, or in this HistoryLink article on the history of the P-I. All of them do mention brothers Kirk C. and Mark Ward, but Dillis’s entry at FamilySearch mentions no siblings, and Mark and Kirk’s entries do not mention Dillis. However, they do appear to have the same father, Jesse Ward. It looks as if Dillis was Jesse’s son from his first marriage, to Elizabeth Raley. As she died the same year Dillis was born, it may have been in childbirth. Kirk and Mark appear to be Jesse’s sons from his subsequent marriage to Exeline Cason. Exactly what part he may have played in the founding of the papers, and why this is missing from the articles above (and, incidentally, from Pig-Tail Days, which one would think might have mentioned this fact) is unclear.

Ward Street begins at Queen Anne Avenue N and goes ⅗ of a mile east to Aurora Avenue N. There is a short segment of E Ward Street on Capitol Hill between 14th Avenue E and 15th Avenue E, followed by another one, ⅓ of a mile long, from 23rd Avenue E and Turner Way E down the hill to 29th Avenue E and E Aloha Street, at the west end of Washington Park Playfield. There follows another one-block segment on the other side of the park, between 31st Avenue E and 32nd Avenue E, and a final segment from 34th Avenue E to 37th Avenue E.

Dillis B. Ward
Dillis B. Ward