Pend Oreille Road NE

Like most streets and walkways on the University of Washington campus, Pend Oreille Road NE is named after a Washington county — in this case, Pend Oreille County, which is located in the northeast corner of the state, bordering both Canada and Idaho.

It struck me as I was writing this post that I don’t know the history of how or when this decision was reached. I will look into this — if anyone has any insight, please let me know!

Pend Oreille Road NE is the east entrance to the university campus. It begins at 25th Avenue NE and NE 44th Street by University Village and goes ⅓ of a mile up the hill to E Stevens Way NE between Clark Hall, Communications Building, and Padelford Hall.

NE Radford Drive

It isn’t often that a vintage newspaper article explicitly states the reason behind a new street’s naming, but when it comes to Radford Drive, we’re in luck. On November 30, 1940, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported, under the headline ‘Work started at Sand Point Homes project’, that ground had been broken the day before on a project to house 150 enlisted men, plus their families, from the adjacent Sand Point Naval Air Station. (The project was said to cost $620,000, which is ¾ of the average price of a single home in Seattle today!) Rather amusingly, the air station’s commandant, Captain Ralph Wood, is quoted as saying “the days when the sailor was a bachelor and a derelict have long since passed” as justification for the need for military family housing. The article goes on to say that:

Street entrance to the area will be named Radford Drive in honor of Commander Arthur W. Radford, former commandant of the Sand Point base, who launched the expansion program which has resulted in its present growth.

Arthur W. Radford (1896–1973), who had been appointed commandant in 1939, was promoted to captain in 1942 and to rear admiral in 1943. He became vice admiral in 1945, and was appointed by President Harry S. Truman as vice chief of naval operations in 1948. In 1949, he was made high commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands as well as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and in 1953 he became President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s selection as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He retired from the Navy in 1957.

Admiral Arthur W. Radford
Admiral Arthur W. Radford

Today, the housing complex, redeveloped in 2001, is known as Radford Court, and is owned by the University of Washington, though some units are available to the public. Interestingly, the entrance to the neighborhood from NE 65th Street is signed Radford Drive NE and is on University-owned land, while the publicly owned street is legally NE Radford Drive, but not signed at all — and the addresses for the complex are on 65th Avenue NE (one of the city streets, the other being NE 64th Street, that connects directly to the property).*

* Yes, NE 65th Street and 65th Avenue NE intersect here. Because of how Seattle’s street naming system works, Windermere and Laurelhurst are the site of a number of similar intersections, including those for 60th, 59th, 57th, 55th, 54th, 50th, 47th, 45th, 43rd, 41st, and 40th.

Mary Gates Memorial Drive NE

This street, which runs ⅕ of a mile from the “five corners” intersection with NE 45th Street, NE 45th Place, and Union Bay Place NE in the northwest to NE 41st Street in the southeast, was created in 1911 as an extension of Union Bay Place. It was renamed in 1995 in honor of Mary Maxwell Gates (1929–1994), mother of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and a member of the University of Washington Board of Regents from 1975 to 1993.

The original proposal was to also change the name of NE 41st Street between Union Bay Place NE and Surber Drive NE to NE Mary Gates Memorial Drive, but this was not done. An article in the March 14, 1995, issue of The Seattle Times reports that “City Councilwoman Sue Donaldson said the Laurelhurst Community Club, the university and its neighbors near Union Bay Place Northeast joined yesterday in asking” for the name change, and an article in the September 1995 issue of Columns, then the name of the University of Washington alumni magazine, reports Donaldson as saying “The new name is particularly fitting… because it was the route Gates took from home to campus.”

I have never seen an explanation as to why the proposed name wasn’t simply Mary Gates Drive NE — it is the only “memorial” thoroughfare in town.


I end my piece on Lushootseed-language place names in Seattle, “Native names abide,” thus:

…Let Carkeek remain Carkeek, but know that it was once and is still kʷaatəb, as Montlake is still stəx̌ʷugʷił, the Locks, which lowered x̌ačuʔ and x̌áx̌əʔčuʔ, still xʷiwálqʷ, and University Village still sluʔwił village, and celebrate that wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ now sits where Whitman and Stevens meet.

wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House is “a longhouse-style facility on the [University of Washington] Seattle campus [that] provides a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty and staff, as well as others from various cultures and communities to come together in a welcoming environment to share knowledge.” Its location at the corner of Stevens Way and Whitman Court is significant in that almost all campus roads are named for Washington counties, and these two counties were named after Isaac Stevens and Marcus and Narcissa Whitman:

  • As noted in “Should Seattle rename its streets?” Stevens, governor of Washington Territory, “forced Native American tribes to cede their lands to the federal government.… He also pardoned himself for contempt charges relating to unjust declaration of martial law during the Yakima War, and insisted on the capture of the subsequently executed Chief Leschi of the Nisqually Tribe, even though at that point he had ceased fighting and fled the area.
  • The Whitmans’ story is more complex. The missionary couple were among 13 whites killed by a group of Cayuse Indians in what has become known as the Whitman massacre. A measles epidemic in the mission settlement and a nearby Cayuse village produced a death rate far higher among the Cayuse; Marcus Whitman, who was a also a physician and tried to treat the Cayuse as well as the whites, was accused of poisoning tribe members: “the fact that nearly all of his white patients recovered while his Indian patients died convinced some Cayuses that he was deliberately poisoning Indians in order to give their land to white setters.” Even though this is unlikely, the fact remains that they were missionaries and colonizers, and there have been calls to replace the statue of Marcus that stands in the National Statuary hall.

Now the University of Washington has renamed Whitman Court sluʔwiɫ, after a village that once stood where University Village is today. (sluʔwiɫ means ‘Little Canoe Channel’ in the Lushootseed language.)

Street sign reading sluʔwiɫ on University of Washington campus
sluʔwiɫ street sign at corner of Stevens Way, with Padelford Hall in the distance, February 2021. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2021 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

The UW Board of Regents made this change in May 2018, but the sign only recently made its appearance. I asked the writer of the University of Washington Magazine piece on the name change, Hannelore Sudermann, if she knew whether “the renaming was official — that Whitman Court no longer exists and the street’s name is now sluʔwiɫ – or if it was honorary and the street is still officially Whitman Court,” and she pointed me to the meeting minutes, which read, in part: 

The Board of Regents chooses to honor the Coast Salish peoples of the land on which the University of Washington sits, and indigenous peoples across the State, by renaming Whitman Court sluʔwił.… In the Lushootseed language of the Coast Salish peoples, sluʔwił is the name for the village site closest to the campus, and means ‘Little Canoe Channel.’… It is the Board’s intention to recognize the native place-names of the region and thereby to enrich the historical context of the campus. The Board feels that this naming action is particularly appropriate, given the proximity of Whitman Court to wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ, meaning ‘Intellectual House,’ a multi-service learning and gathering space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty, and staff.

Even though an earlier part of the minutes reads “Regent Rice moved, Regent Ayer seconded, and the Board of Regents approved the honorific renaming of Whitman Court sluʔwił” (italics mine), given the excerpt above and the presence of the sign without any reference to Whitman Court, my interpretation is that honorific here means “in honor of,” in contrast to honorary meaning “symbolic.” 

Street sign on the University of Washington campus reading Little Canoe Channel NE / sluʔwit; ‘t’ appears instead of the correct ‘ɫ’. sluʔwiɫ means ‘little canoe channel’ in Lushootseed. October 27, 2021
New street sign, reading Little Canoe Channel NE / sluʔwit; ‘t’ appears instead of the correct ‘ɫ’. Photograph by Leslie Holmes, October 27, 2021. Copyright © 2021 Leslie Holmes. All rights reserved.

Update as of February 16, 2023: I recently noticed that sluʔwiɫ is appearing on maps (UW, OpenStreetMap) as sluʔwiɫ (Little Canoe Channel NE). Per the UW’s page on McMahon Hall, “Whitman Court NE has been renamed Sluʔwił (Little Canoe Channel NE). Although street signs have changed, you may hear the street referred to by both names as the name change awaits formal state recognition. The name change acknowledges the Duwamish Peoples who continue to fight for federal recognition as a tribe, and who lived and engaged in potlaches, gift-giving festivals of sharing and trading, in the area, until the land was colonized by white settlers.” I will try to find out when and how formal state recognition will come.