Union Bay Place NE

This street, which runs ⅕ of a mile from 30th Avenue NE in the northwest to the “five corners” intersection with NE 45th Street, NE 45th Place, and Mary Gates Memorial Drive NE, was created in 1907 as part of the Exposition Heights addition. Four years later, the street was extended southeast of NE 45th Street through University of Washington property to NE 41st Street. However, in 1995 that portion was renamed Mary Gates Memorial Drive NE.

As can be seen in the map below, it did once parallel Union Bay; however, when the Montlake Cut of the Lake Washington Ship Canal opened in 1916, the lake and bay dropped by 8.8 feet to match the level of Lake Union and this was no longer waterfront property. The southwest corner of this map is now entirely devoted to commercial and residential use.

Portion of plat map of Exposition Heights showing Union Bay and Union Bay Place
Portion of plat map of Exposition Heights showing Union Bay and Union Bay Place

Union Bay itself was named in 1854 by settler Thomas Mercer, with the idea that it and Lake Union, which he also named, would one day be part of a connection from Lake Washington to Puget Sound. As mentioned above, this did end up happening 62 years later.

University Circle NE

An article in the July 8, 1928, issue of The Seattle Times describes the new subdivision of Hawthorne Hills thus:

The property is situated on a “hogback” between East 55th and East 65th Streets just east of 35th Avenue Northeast.… It is the largest single piece of undeveloped residence property in the city limits.… Because of its proximity to the University of Washington a community center at the highest point on the property has been designated “University Circle.” At this point, 200 feet in diameter, the principal thoroughfares, named after well-known universities and colleges, converge.

University Circle park is ringed by 400-foot-long University Circle NE, which is approximately 125, not 200, feet in diameter. Vassar Avenue NE, Ann Arbor Avenue NE, and Princeton Avenue NE converge on the circle, while Wellesley Way NE, Stanford Avenue NE, Purdue Avenue NE, Pullman Avenue NE, NE Tulane Place, and Oberlin Avenue NE curve through the rest of the neighborhood. (There does not appear to be any organizing concept behind the selection of schools other than the fact they are institutions of higher education. Pullman and Ann Arbor represent state schools; Princeton, Stanford, Purdue, and Tulane private schools; and Vassar and Wellesley women’s colleges; but why these in particular were chosen, I am not sure. Incidentally, Dartmouth, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Columbia, and Amherst were already in use elsewhere.)

Hawthorne Hills sign, detail of photograph of Princeton Avenue Bridge, January 28, 2003.
Hawthorne Hills sign, January 28, 2003. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, identifier 141197

Unfortunately, Hawthorne Hills — named for Hawthorne Kingsbury Dent, founder of what is today Safeco Insurance — was among the subdivisions in Seattle to which the developers attached racially restrictive covenants. In fact, according to the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, “Seattle’s first known racial restrictive covenant was written in 1924 by the Goodwin Company,” which also developed Hawthorne Hills, and

No property in this subdivision could be “sold, conveyed, rented, nor leased, in whole or in part, to any person not of the White race; nor shall any person not of the White race be permitted to occupy any portion of said lot or lots or of any building thereon, except a domestic servant actually employed by a White occupant of such building.”

Two good articles on Hawthorne Hills are “Names in the Neighborhood: From Keith to Hawthorne Hills,” by Valarie Bunn, and “Squatting in Hawthorne Hills,” by Zach van Schouwen.

Vashon Place SW

This street — just about 350 feet long, like its neighbor Blake Place SW — connects SW Othello Street to Fauntleroy Way SW just north of Solstice Park. Created as part of the Lincoln Home Addition in 1907 by builder Albert Eugene Felmley and his wife, Mabel L. Felmley, it is named after Vashon Island, located 4 miles to the southwest, across Puget Sound. The island itself was named for Royal Navy Admiral James Vashon by his friend, Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver, in 1792.

Two other streets in the Lincoln Home Addition are named for Puget Sound islands: the already-mentioned Blake Place SW, and Bainbridge Place SW.

Aerial view of Vashon Island from the northwest
Aerial view of Vashon and Maury Islands from the northwest. Photograph by Flickr user Travis, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic

Blake Place SW

This 350-foot-long street connects SW Othello Street to SW Fontanelle Street just north of Solstice Park. It was created as part of the Lincoln Home Addition in 1907 by builder Albert Eugene Felmley and his wife, Mabel L. Felmley, and is named after Blake Island, located 4⅖ miles to the west, across Puget Sound. The island itself was named for U.S. Navy Commodore George Smith Blake, then head of the United States Coast Survey, by Charles Wilkes in 1841.

Two other streets in the Lincoln Home Addition are named for Puget Sound islands: Bainbridge Place SW and Vashon Place SW.

Aerial view of Blake Island from the east
Aerial view of Blake Island from the east (West Seattle in foreground). Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Bainbridge Place SW

This short street — not quite 275 feet long — connects SW Othello Street to Fauntleroy Way SW just north of Lincoln and Solstice Parks. Created as part of the Lincoln Home Addition in 1907 by builder Albert Eugene Felmley and his wife, Mabel L. Felmley, it is named after Bainbridge Island, located 5¼ miles to the northwest, across Puget Sound. The island itself was named for U.S. Navy Commodore William Bainbridge, commander of the USS Constitution, by Charles Wilkes in 1841.

Two other streets in the Lincoln Home Addition are named for Puget Sound islands: Blake Place SW and Vashon Place SW.

 

Aerial view of Bainbridge Island from the southeast
Aerial view of Bainbridge Island from the southeast. Photograph by Dicklyon, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

University Street

University Street was established as part of the Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny on November 16, 1861. It was named for the Territorial University of Washington, which had opened 12 days earlier on a 10-acre site atop “Denny’s Knoll.”

Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny, November 16, 1861
Plat of an Addition to the Town of Seattle as Laid Out by A.A. Denny, November 16, 1861
Territorial University on opening day, showing south and west sides of main building, November 4, 1861
Territorial University of Washington on opening day, November 4, 1861

Even though the University of Washington moved to its current location on Portage and Union Bays in 1895, the name was not changed. Nor did the university relinquish the land, though not for lack of trying. This turns out to have been fortunate. The UW owns the Metropolitan Tract to this day, and it earned $25 million in rent on the property during fiscal year 2020 alone.

The street, which originally ran from Front Street (now 1st Avenue) to the university campus, just northeast of 3rd Avenue, today begins at Alaskan Way on the Elliott Bay waterfront, and makes it just one block, to Western Avenue, before it becomes the Harbor Steps. From 1st Avenue, it’s about a third of a mile to 7th Avenue, where University Street is blocked by Interstate 5. It resumes at 9th Avenue and goes for another third of a mile to Boylston Avenue.

Portion of King County quarter section maps covering Metropolitan Tract
Portion of King County quarter section maps covering Metropolitan Tract

Incidentally, you’ll notice in the map above that 4th and 5th Avenues between Seneca and Union Streets, as well as University Street between 4th and 5th Avenues, plus half a block on either end, are marked private way subject to public use — long term grant of use for street purposes. This fact — that the University of Washington still owns all the land within the Metropolitan Tract and never formally dedicated those streets to the public — was something I never knew until I started taking close looks at King County’s quarter section maps as part of my local history research. It might seem an academic distinction, but as The Seattle Times reported in 2015, there are very real financial consequences.

In 2008… the UW wanted the city to interpret the tract as one undivided lot, streets and all. That novel argument would benefit the UW in calculating the development footprint, or base.… The bigger the base, the logic went, the more square footage a developer could build before triggering affordable-housing fees under the city’s formula.… The university held a heavy hammer in negotiations. Because the UW owned development rights for the land under Fifth Avenue and University Street, it could make the city compensate it, one way or another, for using those streets.

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