SW Bronson Way

This West Seattle street was created in 1900 as part of the Replat of the West Seattle Land & Improvement Co’s. Third Plat. Originally Beach Way, it was renamed Bronson Way in 1907, when Seattle annexed West Seattle. Given that Ira Hull Bronson (1868–1930) was attorney for and vice president of the WSL&IC, it seems a fair assumption that it was named for him.

Ira Bronson, from his June 17, 1930, obituary in The Seattle Times
Ira Bronson, from his June 17, 1930, obituary in The Seattle Times. He had died the day before.

Bronson, a former president of the American Bar Association, was described in the June 18, 1930, issue of The Seattle Times as a “pioneer Seattle attorney and leader in admiralty circles… [who] was one of the founders of the Inland Navigation Company, which later became the Puget Sound Navigation Company.” (The PSNC’s domestic ferry routes were bought by the state in 1951, forming Washington State Ferries, and most of its Canadian routes became part of the new BC Ferries system in 1961. The firm, now known as the Black Ball Ferry Line, now runs one boat, the MV Coho, between Port Angeles and Victoria. Through a series of mergers, Bronson’s law firm is now Stoel Rives.)

Though the right-of-way begins further inland, SW Bronson Way only physically exists between Harbor Avenue SW and Elliott Bay. About 180 feet long, it is nearly 90 feet wide (quite a length-to-width ratio!) and essentially serves as a public parking lot. It is a shoreline street end, platted into the water, and features an unobstructed view of the city across the bay.

Rob Mattson Way

This is the first honorary renaming we‘re covering on Writes of Way. It was named for the former “Mayor of Ballard,” Rob Mattson (1949–2018), the year after his death.

Honorary renamings differ from straight renamings in that:

  • They are done via resolution rather than ordinance
  • They do not replace the original street name in official records and addresses
  • They appear on brown, rather than green, signs

Speaking of signs, there appears to be some variation in their design; compare that of Rob Mattson Way, below, to that of Gerard Schwarz Place.

Rob Mattson Way covers 22nd Avenue NW between NW 56th Street and NW 57th Street.

Sign at corner of NW 56th Street and 22nd Avenue NW (Rob Mattson Way), November 10, 2020
Sign at corner of NW 56th Street and 22nd Avenue NW (Rob Mattson Way), November 10, 2020. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2020 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Airport Way S

Airport Way S does not, as one might expect, go from the city to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (known to locals as Sea–Tac), but rather to King County International Airport (better known as Boeing Field). It got its current name in 1931 at the request of the Georgetown-South Seattle Improvement Club, which, according to an article in the April 12 issue of The Seattle Times,

…asked the City Council to merge portions of Seattle Boulevard, Eighth and Ninth Avenues South and Duwamish Avenue, leading from the central business area to Boeing Field, into a new highway, to be known as Airport Way.… [They contended] that strangers are confused in efforts to find the airport by lack of any specifically designated street leading to it.

Seattle Boulevard originated as

The Beach or River Road… [which] skirted the shore of the bay at the foot of the high Beacon Hill bluff, east of what is now Airport Way, and ran south along the Duwamish.… Built in the early fifties, [it] was a hard road to keep in good condition.… In 1886, a road was built on piling over the mud flats a little west of the Beach Road to avoid the slides and floods. This street became known as the Grant Street Bridge.

Sophie Frye Bass, Pig-Tail Days in Old Seattle

I elaborate in Diagonal Avenue S that

Essentially, there were a series of roads following the semicircular curve of Elliott Bay from Downtown to the Duwamish River before the tideflats were filled in: first Beach Road (or River Road), then the Grant Street Bridge, which in turn became Seattle Boulevard once the fill was complete. Sometime before 1918… the portion of Seattle Boulevard that ran northeast–southwest (the southern third of the semicircle) was renamed Diagonal Avenue. (In 1931, the rest of Seattle Boulevard was renamed Airport Way.)

View from Beacon Hill looking northwest over Grant Street Bridge and Elliott Bay tideflats, circa 1900
This photograph, taken circa 1900 by Anders Beer Wilse, looks northwest from Beacon Hill over the Grant Street Bridge and the Elliott Bay tideflats. At upper left is West Seattle; at upper right is Magnolia. From this perspective, Downtown Seattle appears just below Magnolia. Bainbridge Island is in the distance across Puget Sound.

Once Sea–Tac fully opened in 1949, Airport Way S no longer led to the region’s primary airport, which was more directly reached via U.S. 99, but no further name changes took place.

Today, Airport Way S begins at Seattle Boulevard S and 6th Avenue S and goes 6⅗ miles southeast, then south, then southeast again, ending at Boeing Access Road. Its lower 2½ miles parallel the eastern boundary of Boeing Field.

Boeing Field aerial
Aerial of Boeing Field, looking northwest, December 2014. In the foreground is Interstate 5; just to the west are the BNSF Railway tracks, then Airport Way S, then Perimeter Road S. Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user Bernstea, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Bernie Whitebear Way

This Discovery Park road was named for Bernie Whitebear (1937–2000), a Native American activist who co-founded the Seattle Indian Health Board, the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, and the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Originally part of Illinois Avenue, this portion of the street was renamed for Whitebear in 2011. (Like all streets in Discovery Park except for 45th Avenue W, Bernie Whitebear Way has no directional designation.)

Today, Bernie Whitebear Way begins at Texas Way and Illinois Avenue and goes ½ a mile northwest, then west, to Daybreak Star.

Bernie Whitebear and Senator Henry Jackson
Bernie Whitebear speaking to Senator Henry M. Jackson during the Daybreak Star lease signing ceremony, November 14, 1971. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 193058
Signs at corner of Texas Way and Bernie Whitebear Way, October 30, 2011
Signs at corner of Texas Way and Bernie Whitebear Way, October 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Texas Way

As I note in Illinois Avenue, most streets in Fort Lawton (1900−2011), which became Discovery Park, were named after states, and this one is no exception. According to this map, the southernmost part of what is now Texas Way was originally Indiana Avenue and Delaware Avenue — the three were consolidated some time before 1967, when this map was made by the Fort Lawton Office of the Post Engineer. (As with Illinois Avenue and every other street in Discovery Park except for 45th Avenue W, Texas Way has never carried a directional designation.)

Street sign at corner of Texas Way and Discovery Park Boulevard, October 30, 2011
Street sign at corner of Texas Way and Discovery Park Boulevard, October 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Today, Texas Way begins as a pathway south of the Discovery Park playground and goes ¼ of a mile east, then north, to 36th Avenue W just south of its intersection with Discovery Park Boulevard and W Government Way. It resumes as a paved road just to the north at Discovery Park Boulevard and goes just over ⅔ of a mile north, then northwest, to Illinois Avenue at the entrance to the park’s North Parking Lot. Here, it once again becomes a pathway and continues another ¾ of a mile northwest, then south, to rejoin Discovery Park Boulevard just west of the Utah Wetlands.

Signs at corner of Texas Way and Bernie Whitebear Way, October 30, 2011
Signs at corner of Texas Way and Bernie Whitebear Way, October 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Pinehurst Way NE

This street was established in 1926 as part of the plat of Pinehurst. Originally beginning at 15th Avenue NE and NE 117th Street and going northeast to 17th Avenue NE between NE 123rd Street and NE 125th Street, it was subsequently extended to connect the 15th Avenue NE and Roosevelt Way NE arterials.

Today, Pinehurst Way NE begins at Roosevelt Way NE and NE 113th Street, and goes ⅔ of a mile northeast to 17th Avenue NE and NE 124th Street.

Ad for Pinehurst, The Seattle Times, October 3, 1926
Ad for Pinehurst, The Seattle Times, October 3, 1926

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.

College Way N

This street was named in 1971 as part of a project to connect Meridian Avenue N at N 103rd Street to Burke Avenue N at N 100th Street; the newly constructed street took the name, as did Burke Avenue south to N 92nd Street. For its entire ½-mile length, College Way N is the western boundary of the campus of North Seattle College, known at its 1970 founding as North Seattle Community College.

Entrance to North Seattle Community College
Entrance to North Seattle Community College, as it was then called, February 7, 2013. Photograph by Wikimedia Commons user Iain Laurence, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Aerial view of North Seattle College campus
Aerial view of North Seattle College campus, September 16, 2018. Licton Springs Park is in the foreground; North Seattle College is above (east), and Northgate Station and Thornton Place are across Interstate 5. Photograph by Flickr user Atomic Taco, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Keen Way N

This street originates in the 1924 plat of Winona Park, an Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by George Emerson Morford (1890–1946) and his wife, Gertrude Alice Keen Morford (1892–1954). According to Florence Helliesen of the Queen Anne Historical Society, George was president of the F.W. Keen Company, a real estate firm owned by his father-in-law, Frederick Walter Keen (1855–1929). The Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project writes:

Two real estate firms, F.W. Keen Company and J.L. Grandey, Inc., organized most of the racial restrictive covenants for Queen Anne from 1928 to 1931… specifying that “No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property, or any building thereon; except domestic servants may actually and in good faith be employed by white occupants of such premises.”

In addition to being president of F.W. Keen, George Morford was vice president of J.L. Grandey.

Which Keen was honored by Keen Way N — Gertrude Alice Keen Morford, Frederick Walter Keen, or the F.W. Keen Company — isn’t clear; if it was for George Morford’s wife, that would put Keen Way in the same category as Perkins Lane W and Thorndyke Avenue W.

Keen Way N begins at Aurora Avenue N between W Green Lake Drive N and Winona Avenue N and goes ⅕ of a mile northeast to N 76th Street.

Frederick Walter Keen, from his Seattle Times obituary, August 14, 1929
Frederick Walter Keen, from his Seattle Times obituary, August 14, 1929. I was unable to locate a photograph of his daughter, Gertrude.

NE Northgate Way

This street was named in 1968 for Northgate Station, which opened in 1950 as the Northgate Center shopping mall. According to HistoryLink.org, it was “the country’s first regional shopping center to be defined as a ‘mall’ (although there were at least three predecessor shopping centers).” Newspaper archives show that it became known early on as Northgate Mall, and that became its official name in 1974. As of this writing, the property is in the midst of a massive redevelopment project that began in 2019.

Prior to 1968, Northgate Way was known as (from west to east) N 105th Street, Mineral Springs Way N, N 110th Street, NE 110th Street, and Chelsea Place NE. Today, it begins at N 105th Street and Aurora Avenue N and goes 2⅕ miles east to NE 113th Street and Lake City Way NE.

The Northgate name itself has been attributed to Ben Erlichman. Feliks Banel writes:

Digging into the newspaper archives, The Seattle Times of February 22, 1948, published a big spread on the plans for the shopping center. The story quoted one of the developers, a local investor named Ben Ehrlichman (the uncle of future Watergate figure John Ehrlichman). “The name Northgate was chosen, Ehrlichman [told The Seattle Times], because the development ‘will be the most important northerly business district serving Seattle and vicinity and the gateway to metropolitan Seattle.’” Though a 30th anniversary story in the same paper in 1980 credited Ehrlichman for coming up with the name — based on the 1948 story — we may never know for certain whose idea it was.

Aerial of Northgate, September 2018, from https://flickr.com/photos/25443792@N05/43844953055
Aerial of Northgate, September 2018, looking northeast. Interstate 5 cuts across the photo from bottom right to upper left. To its west is North Seattle College; to its east is Northgate Station, the Thornton Place complex, the Northgate Transit Center, and the Northgate commercial district. The elevated tracks of Sound Transit’s Line 1 light rail can be seen just east of the freeway. The Lake City commercial district is visible to the northeast of the mall; the greenbelt closer to the mall is one of the forks of Thornton Creek. Photograph by Flickr user Atomic Taco, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Alaskan Way

Alaskan Way was originally Railroad Avenue. Jennifer Ott writes for HistoryLink.org:

On the central waterfront a web of railroads grew out from the shore in the 1880s and 1890s as various railroads, including the Columbia & Puget Sound, the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern, and the Northern Pacific jockeyed for space at the foot of the bluffs that ended at the beach, where Western Avenue is today. In January 1887 the City Council passed an ordinance establishing Railroad Avenue, a street created, according to historian Kurt Armbruster, to provide space for the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern franchise to the west of the Northern Pacific’s franchise along the shoreline.

Railroad Avenue looking south from between Madison and Marion Streets, circa 1898
Railroad Avenue looking south from between Madison and Marion Streets, circa 1898

When the tidelands were platted in 1895, Railroad Avenue extended to Harbor Island and West Seattle, but:

  • Sometime between 1912 and 1920 the Harbor Island portion was renamed W Florida Street (SW Florida Street today).
  • In 1907, the West Seattle portion was renamed Alki Avenue.
    • Sometime between 1912 and 1920 the West Seattle portion southeast of Duwamish Head was given its current name, Harbor Avenue.

In an article for Crosscut, Knute Berger explains why a new name was wanted for the remainder:

Seattle’s waterfront was unpaved — a beat-up plank road ran its length. There was no modern seawall — the street was built over the water. Train tracks were everywhere.… But the waterfront was undergoing a massive renovation. A seawall was being constructed, the shoreline filled in, the road made into a wide, paved boulevard.…

According to Berger and Ott’s articles, names that were proposed but were ultimately rejected included Anchors Way, Artery Way, Battery Way, Bois Boolong, Bread Street, Cargo Way, Chief Seattle Avenue, Cosmos Quay, Dock Street, Export Way, Fleet Way, Gateway Avenue, Golden West Way, Hiak Avenue, Klatawa Avenue, Maritime Avenue, Metropolis Avenue, Olympian Way, Pacific Way, Pier Avenue, Port Strand, Port Way, Port-Haven Drive, Potlatch Avenue, Puget Avenue, Puget Dyke, Puget Portal, Queen City Way, Roadstead Way, Salt Spray Way, Salt Water Avenue, Seawall Avenue, Seven Seas Road, Skookum Way, Steamship Way, Sunset Avenue, Terminal Avenue, Terrebampo Way, The Battery, The Esplanade, Transit Row, Voyage Way, Welcome Way, and Worldways Road. (Those in italics apparently came under serious consideration.)

So how did we end up with Alaskan Way? And why Alaskan instead of Alaska (the already existing S Alaska Street could have been renamed)?

Alaskan Way, July 1939
Alaskan Way between Marion and Madison Streets, Canadian National Dock at left, July 1939. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 77093

The May 19, 1932, issue of The Seattle Times reports that the Seattle Maritime Association had run a renaming contest which received “more than one thousand letters… some of them contained scores of suggestions.” 4,868 names (including duplications) were received, and the judges selected four finalists, in order of preference: Puget Portal (one submission), Klatawa Avenue (one submission, from Chinook Jargon word meaning ‘to go, to travel’), Hiak Avenue (one submission, from Chinook Jargon word meaning ‘lively, quick and fast’), and Maritime Avenue (49 submissions [Maritime Way received 99 submissions but was not chosen]). The next day, the Times reported that the judges had chosen Maritime Avenue, and awarded the $20 prize to a Mr. B.I. Schwartz, the first to have suggested the name.

Alaskan Way Viaduct, July 1952
Alaskan Way Viaduct, July 1952, the year before it opened. The double-decker freeway paralleled Alaskan Way as far north as Union Street, where it diverged from the alignment on its approach to Elliott Avenue and the Battery Street Tunnel. Bell Street Pier, with the large Port of Seattle sign, is at left. The Bell Street Overpass can be seen behind the ‘P’ in ‘Port’. The bridge at the southern end of the pier is the Lenora Street Viaduct. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 43586

However, that July, a George D. Root proposed the name Cosmos Quay. At first, it was met with indifference, and then it seems the entire renaming project was put on the back burner until construction progressed. Somehow, when he restarted his campaign in 1934, Cosmos Quay became a leading candidate, and it was approved unanimously by the city council on January 14, 1935. An ordinance began to be drafted. But, as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer noted the next day, this was only because one councilmember, Frank J. Laube, had been absent… and he was adamantly opposed.

He wasn’t the only one. The Seattle Times published an editorial on January 20 headlined ‘City Locksmith Needed for Pronunciation Key’, which proclaimed that “to burden the waterfront stretch with a name that could be used and understood only through long courses in cosmogony, cosmology, etymology, and articulation would be a sad piece of nonsense for which there is no excuse.” The next day the Times reported that David Levine, city council president, said Cosmos Quay “no longer sounds so good to him. Many citizens have complained its meaning, as well as its pronunciation, mystifies them.” On February 4, according to the P-I, the council killed the ordinance and decided to leave Railroad Avenue as it was.

Alaskan Way Viaduct, February 2018
Alaskan Way Viaduct, February 2018. It closed permanently in January 2019; the replacement tunnel opened the next month. and demolition was complete by November of the same year. Photograph by Flickr user Washington State Department of Transportation, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

When the new street opened in 1936, the question of renaming came up again. Mayor John F. Dore appointed a committee that chose The Pierway, a suggestion that won a W.C. Denison, Jr., a prize of $50 from the mayor’s own pocket, but the final decision lay with the city council, which was not enthused. Pacific Way emerged as their favorite, according to a Seattle Times article on July 2, 1936, though a July 6 article in the same paper “the public apparently was not in accord with the idea.” On July 7, the Times reported that even though “at least seven votes [were] lined up in advance for the adoption of ‘Pacific Way’… with Council President Austin E. Griffiths contending for ‘Cosmos Quay’ or ‘Cosmos Way’,” an ordinance renaming Railroad Avenue “Alaskan Way” passed unanimously.

Alaska Way had been proposed in 1932 by the Puget Sound Travel Directors, according to an article in the April 13 issue of The Seattle Times. (As an aside, it was also proposed in 1931 by attorney John S. Robinson as an alternate name for Aurora Avenue N and the Aurora Bridge, according to a Times article on June 19.) It was also an entry in the Seattle Maritime Association’s aforementioned naming contest, submitted by Fred E. Pauli, manager of the Alaska Division of the Washington Creamery Company, according to a Times article on April 10, 1932. Then, in 1935, after Cosmos Quay had been rejected by the city council, the Alaska Yukon Pioneers endorsed Alaska Way (The Seattle Times, March 5), followed by the Whittier Heights Improvement Club (Times, March 7) and the Junior Alaska-Yukon Pioneers (Times, July 25). When renaming became a distinct possibility once again in 1936, as discussed above, the Alaska Yukon Pioneers passed a resolution in favor of Alaska Way (Times, July 4): “…It was here that the gold rush activity actually took place… put Seattle on the map and directly made possible the magnificent improvement now about completed.”

Alaskan Way south from Bell Street
Alaskan Way looking south from the Bell Street pedestrian bridge, August 2011. The Alaskan Way Viaduct is barely visible at center; the Seattle Aquarium is at center right. Photograph by Orange Suede Sofa, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

It came down to one councilmember, apparently. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on July 7 that, the previous day, Robert H. Harlin proposed that the already-prepared ordinance renaming Railroad Avenue “Pacific Way” be amended to read “Alaskan Way” instead:

Councilman Robert H. Harlin, who offered the motion for adoption of “Alaskan Way,” said he preferred it to “Alaska Way” because it “recognizes the human element, honoring the men and women who pioneered the territory.” Although a majority of the council had informally agreed to support the name “Pacific Way,” sentiment crystallized rapidly in favor of “Alaskan Way” after Harlin’s statement.

Alaskan Way, March 2021
Alaskan Way from the Pike Place Market’s MarketFront, March 2021. Construction of the street that supposedly will not be called Elliott Way is visible at center right. The Seattle Great Wheel can be seen above the Seattle Aquarium. Photograph by Flickr user Scott Smithson, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

Today, Alaskan Way S begins at the north end of E Marginal Way S, at the entrance to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 30, and goes 2⅓ miles north, then northwest, to Broad Street, having become Alaskan Way on crossing Yesler Way. This is the Alaskan Way most people think of.

But, as they say, wait — there’s more! The right-of-way continues for another 1¾ miles, ending at W Garfield Street under the Magnolia Bridge, at the entrance to the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 91. From the Olympic Sculpture Park, which begins at Broad Street, to Myrtle Edwards Park, the right-of-way is taken up by park land and the tracks of the BNSF Railway — successor to the Columbia & Puget Sound; the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern; and the Northern Pacific, the railroads for which Railroad Avenue was originally built. Northwest of Myrtle Edwards, it’s entirely taken up by the tracks that run alongside Centennial Park. It isn’t until W Galer Street that there’s a city street in the right-of-way again, and Alaskan Way W only goes about ⅙ of a mile northwest from there to W Garfield Street. Even less than that is signed Alaskan Way, as the city has put up a sign for Expedia Group Way W where the W Galer Street flyover “touches down.” However, even though southeast of Galer the roadway runs first on Expedia property, then Port of Seattle property, the city appears to still consider it Alaskan Way W between the Expedia campus entrance and the north end of Centennial Park — a distance of just over ⅓ of a mile.

S Industrial Way

In 1930, Seattle City Light acquired a number of transmission line rights-of-way. The one immediately concerning us approaches the utility’s South Service Center from the southeast. East of Interstate 5, the Chief Sealth Trail runs along the right-of-way from Beacon Hill to Kubota Garden. West of the freeway, a road was built in the late 1960s as part of the South Seattle Redevelopment Project, or South Seattle Industrial Park, as it came to be known. This street was designated Industrial Way in 1969, and runs from Airport Way S in the southeast to 4th Avenue S and Diagonal Avenue S in the northwest, a distance of about ⅓ of a mile.

Aerial view of Industrial District with S Industrial Way at center right
Aerial view of Industrial District, May 2009. S Industrial Way is the boulevard with the grassy median at center right, leading to the City Light South Service Center. The diagonal street at its end is, appropriately, Diagonal Avenue S, and the arterial it stops at is 4th Avenue S. The Union Pacific Railroad’s Argo Yard is in the upper-left-hand corner, and Airport Way S and Interstate 5 run along the bottom. Photograph by Flickr user J Brew, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

Viewmont Way W

This street was created in 1915 as part of the plat of Carleton Park, a replat of much of southwest Magnolia (basically a triangle formed by W Raye Street, 34th Avenue W, and Magnolia Boulevard W). Arthur A. Phinney (1885–1941) led the project, named after his father, Guy Carleton Phinney (1851–1893) (Phinney Avenue N, Phinney Ridge). As The Seattle Times reported:

The old plat was executed thirty years ago without regard to the preservation of the naturally beautiful contour of the land.… In the new plat the streets and boulevards curve and swing about the bases of elevated portions, escaping the deep cuts and heavy fills that would be necessary in conforming to the strict, rectangular plans of the old plat, and affording a scenic frontage for every building lot in the addition.… This entire district commands an unobstructible view of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, the state university, Laurelhurst, Denny-Fuhrman addition, the entire waterfront and manufacturing district of Seattle, St. James Cathedral, 42-story L.C. Smith Building, Alaska Building, majestic Mt. Rainier, and about every other phase of natural scenery that has made Seattle attractive as a place of habitation.

Article on Carleton Park, Seattle Times, April 25, 1915
Article on Carleton Park, Seattle Times, April 25, 1915

Viewmont Way was obviously named after its view of the mountains, and is of a piece with other Carleton Park streets like Montavista Place, Westmont Way, Eastmont Way, Altavista Place, and the like.

Viewmont Way W begins at the intersection of 34th Avenue W, W Lynn Street, and Montvale Place W in Magnolia Village, and goes ¼ mile southwest to Constance Drive W, where it becomes W Viewmont Way W. The name initially continued about the same distance northwestwards, where the street became 41st Avenue W, but this portion and the rest of 41st Avenue as far north as Fort Lawton (now Discovery Park) were apparently changed at some point to W Viewmont Way. In 1961, the streets became Viewmont Way W and W Viewmont Way W.

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.

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.

Yesler Way

This street is named after Henry Leiter Yesler (1810–1892). Originally from Leitersburg, Maryland, which was founded by his great-grandfather, and living in Massillon, Ohio, before coming west, he moved to Seattle from Portland, Oregon, in 1852. As John Caldbick writes for HistoryLink.org:

…[Yesler] quickly established himself as the most important resident of the rain-swept little spot that would soon become Seattle. He had the first steam-powered sawmill on Puget Sound up and running within months, and for several years he employed almost every male settler in Seattle and a considerable number of Native Americans. His mill was early Seattle’s only industry, and without it the town’s development would have been greatly delayed.

Carson Dobbins Boren and David Swinson “Doc” Maynard had already claimed land on Elliott Bay either side of what is today Pioneer Square, but they gave him part of their claims so he could access the water from the claim he made farther up First Hill. Yesler’s mill was built at the foot of what is now Yesler Way but was originally Mill Street, also known as Skid Road — and yes, Seattle may be where the term originated, referring to a neighborhood largely inhabited by the “down and out.”

Yesler was also King County auditor in 1852, and Seattle mayor from 1874 to 1875 and 1885 to 1886.

Yesler had two children: a son, Henry George Yesler (1845–1859), by his wife, Sarah Burgert Yesler (1822–1887); and a daughter, Julia Benson Intermela (1855–1907). Her mother wasn’t Sarah, who didn’t come to Seattle until 1858, but rather a Duwamish woman named Susan, daughter of Salmon Bay Curley (Su-quardle), who had worked at Yesler’s mill. When Sarah finally joined her husband, he sent Susan and Julia to live with Jeremiah S. Benson, a cook at the mill. In the 1870 territorial census, Julia is listed as living with the Bensons, but the next year she is listed as a HB (“half-breed”) house servant for the Yeslers. Unlike Rebecca Lena Graham, who successfully sued the relatives of Franklin Matthias to be recognized as his rightful heir, Julia inherited nothing when her father died in 1892. Even so,

…The settlement of Henry Yesler’s estate was an imbroglio of epic proportions. It pitted Minnie Gagle Yesler [a younger cousin whom he married a few years before his death] and her mother against James Lowman [his nephew] and municipal authorities, who believed that Yesler had made a will that left most of his fortune, by then worth more than $1,000,000, to the city, hoping thereby to cement his reputation as the “Father of Seattle.”

Yesler is also quoted as anticipating “Strange Fruit” by 55 years… though it’s by no means a sentiment Abel Meeropol or Billie Holiday would have shared. In January 1882, a mob lynched James Sullivan, William Howard, and Benjamin Paynes between two of his maple trees. Harper’s Weekly reported Yesler’s reaction: “That was the first fruit them trees ever bore, but it was the finest.”

Henry L. Yesler
Henry L. Yesler. Courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Identifier 12257

Yesler Way begins on the Elliott Bay waterfront at Alaskan Way and goes 2⅙ miles east to Leschi Park, just past 32nd Avenue. It also appears just west of Lake Washington Boulevard, where it goes about 200 feet west and essentially serves as a driveway for a couple of houses.

Yesler Way, which becomes E Yesler Way east of Broadway, also divides three of the city’s directional designation zones from each other. South of Yesler, east–west streets carry the S prefix and north–south avenues carry the suffix S. North of Yesler, north–south avenues carry no suffix; east–west streets carry the E prefix east of Broadway and no prefix west of Broadway.

Street sign at corner of Yesler Way and Broadway, August 25, 2009
Street signs at corner of Yesler Way and Broadway, August 25, 2009. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

Goodwin Way NE

This street, originally named Columbian Way in the 1920 plat of Victory Heights, was given its current name sometime during or before 1936, the first time I find it mentioned in the archives of The Seattle Times. I presume this was to avoid confusion with the Columbian Way in South Seattle, even though Victory Heights wasn’t annexed to Seattle until 1953.

The plat was filed by the Goodwin Real Estate Company and the Squire Investment Company. The Goodwin Real Estate Company at that time had Ervin Shirley Goodwin (1869–1937) as its president and his nephew, Arthur Eliot Goodwin (1887–1960), as its secretary. (Ervin and his brothers were instrumental in the development of Pike Place Market.) I presume the renaming was to honor Erwin rather than Arthur, though explicit explanations are rarely given for street naming. It may very well have been to honor the company. (Incidentally, Erwin’s wife, Eda, was a founder of the Seattle Fruit and Flower Mission in 1907; this organization became the Seattle Milk Fund in 1935 and Goodwin Connections in 2019.)

E.S. Goodwin
Ervin Shirley Goodwin

Unfortunately, in addition to being major developers (in addition to Victory Heights, they were behind Lakeridge, Hawthorne Hills, and subdivisions in Northgate, Lake City, and Windermere), the Goodwin Real Estate Company were pioneers in imposing racial restrictive covenants on their developments. As the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project writes,

Seattle’s first known racial restrictive covenant was written in 1924 by the Goodwin Company and applied to three tracts of land and one block of the company’s development in the Victory Heights neighborhood in north Seattle.

It read:

Said tract shall not be sold, leased, or rented to any person or persons other than of Caucasian race nor shall any person or persons other than of Caucasian race use or occupy said tract.

Goodwin Way NE begins at 19th Avenue NE just north of NE Northgate Way and goes ¼ mile northwest to 15th Avenue NE between NE 113th Street and NE 115th Street.

Stone Way N

This street is named for Corliss P. Stone (1838–1906), a member of the Seattle City Council from 1869 to 1872 and mayor of Seattle from 1872 to 1873, who was involved in the development of Fremont and Wallingford. The standard story is that he embezzled $15,000 from his real estate development firm and abandoned his office — and the state — but the truth of the matter is unclear. He returned at some point to Seattle and helped found the Seattle Chamber of Commerce in 1882. His name also appears on Corliss Avenue N.

Corliss P. Stone
Corliss P. Stone

Stone Way N begins on the north shore of Lake Union at N Northlake Way and Waterway 22, and goes 1⅕ miles north to N 50th Street and Green Lake Way N. It forms an unofficial boundary between the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods.

Signs at corner of Burke-Gilman Trail and Stone Way N, August 24, 2009
Signs at corner of Burke-Gilman Trail and Stone Way N, just south of N 34th Street and north of N Northlake Way, August 24, 2009. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2009 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.

NE Northlake Way

As explained in NE Boat Street, NE Northlake Way was originally Lake Avenue in the 1890 Brooklyn Addition to Seattle, so named because it ran along the northern shore of Lake Union. I couldn’t find an ordinance changing its name from Lake Avenue (used elsewhere, notably for what are now Westlake Avenue and Fremont Avenue N and for part of Eastlake Avenue E) to Northlake Avenue, but the latter name begins to appear in local newspapers in 1901. (Complicating matters slightly, the street appears as North Lake Avenue in the state’s 1907 plat of Lake Union Shore Lands.) Northlake Avenue began being referred to as Northlake Way in 1935, and this was made official in 1956.

Today, NE Northlake Way begins at the west end of NE Pacific Street under the University Bridge at Eastlake Place NE, and continues 1½ miles west to just shy of the Aurora Bridge, where it becomes a private road through formerly industrial land developed by the Fremont Dock Company into a business park. (The Puget Sound Business Journal and The Seattle Times have good articles on how over the years Suzie Burke transformed her father’s Burke Millwork Co., which opened in 1939, into what is today home to local offices for Google and Adobe and corporate headquarters for Tableau and Brooks Sports, among other tenants.) This private roadway continues for ⅖ of a mile beyond the end of the public right-of-way to the intersection of N Canal Street, N 34th Street, and Phinney Avenue N.

NE Northlake Way once began ⅖ of a mile further east, at NE Columbia Road on the University of Washington South Campus, but this stretch was changed to NE Boat Street in 1962, not without some controversy.

W Government Way

In 1897 a number of Magnolia landowners deeded to the federal government land for “a government roadway leading from the east boundary of the military reservation of Fort Lawton,” which was to open in 1900, to a wharf at what is now 27th Avenue W and W Commodore Way. At some point between then and 1907, when it appears in in the plat of Lawton Heights, an Addition to the City of Seattle, filed by Anna S. Brygger (see Brygger Drive W and NW Brygger Place), it became known as Government Way. (There are similarly named streets in Spokane leading to the former Fort George Wright and in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, leading to the former Fort Sherman.)  

The street was initially known as Government Way only from 32nd Avenue W to the east gate of the fort at 36th Avenue W (now the main entrance to Discovery Park), but in 1961 the name was extended to cover 32nd Avenue W north to W Fort Street as well as W Fort Street east to Gilman Avenue W, so today its length is about ½ a mile in total.

Street sign at the corner of W Government Way, 36th Avenue W, and Discovery Park Boulevard, October 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.
Street sign at the corner of W Government Way, 36th Avenue W, and Discovery Park Boulevard, October 30, 2011. Photograph by Benjamin Lukoff. Copyright © 2011 Benjamin Lukoff. All rights reserved.