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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 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).
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.
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 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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
Today, W Republican Street begins a block west of 4th Avenue W and goes ⅖ of a mile east to Warren Avenue N, where it becomes Seattle Center’s pedestrian August Wilson Way. On the east side of Seattle Center, there is a one-block segment of Republican Street between 4th Avenue N and 5th Avenue N; the street then resumes at Dexter Avenue N at the northbound exit from the State Route 99 Tunnel. From there, it runs ⅔ of a mile east to Eastlake Avenue E, where it is blocked by Interstate 5. Resuming east of I-5 as a stairway at Melrose Avenue E, it becomes a street again after half a block and goes another 1⅕ miles from Bellevue Avenue E to 23rd Avenue E, interrupted only once at 17th Avenue E, which can only be crossed by pedestrians and bicycles. After a substantial gap, E Republican Street begins again at 29th Avenue E and E Arthur Place in Madison Valley, and goes ⅖ east to its end at Lake Washington Boulevard E.
(From 33rd Avenue E to Lake Washington Boulevard E, it forms the northern boundary of the Bush School campus; when I went there in the 1980s and 1990s, people from out of town thought I was joking when I told them I went to Bush School on Republican Street. The school, of course, wasn’t named for a member of the Bush political dynasty, but rather for its founder, Helen Taylor Bush.)
Westlake Avenue once started a couple of blocks to the south, at 4th Avenue and Pike Street, and based on the quarter section map, it appears that its former route through Westlake Park between Pike Street and Pine Street is still public right-of-way as opposed to park land. (The portion between Pine Street and Olive Way was vacated in 1986 to make way for the Westlake Center mall, which opened in 1988, and the portion between Olive Way and Stewart Street was closed in 2010 to allow for the expansion of McGraw Square.)
Westlake was extended south to 4th and Pike from Denny Way in 1902 (one former mayor has called for that extension to be closed to cars); the original Westlake Avenue (now, properly, Westlake Avenue N) was created in 1895 as part of the Great Renaming ordinance, Section 5 of which reads
That the names of Rollin Street, Lake Union Boulevard and Lake Avenue from Depot Street [changed by the same ordinance to Denny Way] to Florentia Street, be and the same are hereby changed to Westlake Avenue.
Rollin Street, the southernmost portion, was named for Rolland Herschel Denny (1851–1939), the youngest member of the Denny Party at just six weeks old. In its honor, an apartment complex that opened at the corner of Westlake and Denny in 2008 is named Rollin Street Flats.
Northlake, Eastlake, Westlake… why no Southlake?
Having covered Northlake, Eastlake, and Westlake so far, one might ask: why is there no Southlake?
There does appear to have been a Southlake Avenue for a time — 1909 to 1924 or so, based on the last mention of it I could find in Seattle newspapers, an article in the August 8, 1924, edition of The Seattle Times on a car crash that had taken place a number of weeks earlier. Now the northern section of Fairview Avenue N, it extended from the intersection of Valley Street northwest to E Galer Street and Eastlake Avenue E, “thus eliminating the present grade on Eastlake for University traffic” in the words of a real estate advertisement in the August 23, 1914, edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But why the Southlake name disappeared seems clear: once it was decided to extend the Fairview name along the shore lands, there was no other appropriate road to carry it. The northern and eastern shores of Lake Union are just shy of 2 miles long each, but since the lake is shaped like a ? (and, surprisingly, like a uterus if Portage Bay is included) there is hardly any southern shore to speak of — only about ¼ mile.
As for the neighborhood name, I’m not sure why South Lake Union came to be used instead of Southlake. Perhaps it’s as simple as the lack of a similarly named street to “anchor” the neighborhood.
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.
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.
More than half of Denny and Hoyt’s Addition is in what is now Fremont, north of the Fremont Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which was not finished until 1917. In a sense, this part of Queen Anne is more Fremont than Queen Anne. In the plat map above, the two are separated by Ross Creek and the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway; the modern quarter section map covering the area shows nicely how the canal sliced through.
Florentia Street begins in the east at 4th Avenue N (the southern end of the Fremont Bridge) and goes ½ a mile west to 3rd Avenue W.