S Jackson Street

Jackson Street was another one of the first streets platted in Seattle by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard in May 1853. It, like King, Lane, and Weller Streets, was named after a prominent Democratic politician — in this case Andrew Jackson, president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Because of his history as a slaveholder and a proponent of Indian removal, there have been calls to at least symbolically change the street’s namesake to another Jackson, if not change the name outright.

S Jackson Street begins today at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and has an uninterrupted 2-mile run as an arterial to 31st Avenue S in Leschi. On the other side of Frink Park, it makes its way the few remaining blocks to Lake Washington as a minor arterial, then a staircase, then a minor street, and finally a shoreline street end, part of the String of Pearls.

Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street
Bilingual (Japanese and English) street sign at corner of 6th Avenue S and S Jackson Street. Photograph by Stephen Fesler, The Urbanist, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

S Washington Street

Washington Street was one of Seattle’s first streets, platted on May 23, 1853 by David Swinson “Doc” Maynard and named after President George Washington. Its initial segment begins at Alaskan Way S on the Elliott Bay waterfront and ends half a mile to the east at Kobe Terrace Park. East of Interstate 5 it exists in a number of segments interrupted by schools and parks and finally ends at S Frink Place and Frink Park.

Washington Street Boat Landing, September 2007, by Joe Mabel
Washington Street Public Boat Landing, September 2007. Photograph by Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

James Street

James Street, one of the first streets platted in Seattle on May 23, 1853, was named by Arthur Armstrong Denny after his younger brother, James Marion Denny (1824–1854). Histories of Seattle report that James was too sick to leave Oregon and come to Puget Sound with the Denny Party and, indeed, he died in the town of Sublimity, Oregon, just a year after the street was named for him. Nothing I have found reports an actual cause of death. Marion Street is also named after this brother.

James Street runs ¾ of a mile from Yesler Way just east of 1st Avenue to an alley just east of Broadway. It appears east of there in a few short stretches and finally as a stairway from 38th Avenue to Lake Washington Boulevard at Madrona Park.

Seattle’s first streets

The Denny Party landed at Alki Beach on November 13, 1851, and moved to dzidzəlalič  (today known as Pioneer Square) in the spring of 1852. The name “Seattle,” according to local historian Rob Ketcherside, first appeared in print that October. But it wasn’t until May 23, 1853, that David Swinson Maynard, Carson Dobbins Boren, and Arthur Armstrong Denny filed the first plats of the Town of Seattle — thereby creating its first official streets.

Boren and Denny famously aligned their streets with the Elliott Bay shoreline (32° west of north, or very close to northwest by north), while Maynard aligned his with the cardinal directions.

Plat of the Town of Seattle, May 23, 1853, by Carson Dobbins Boren and Arthur Armstrong Denny
Plat of the Town of Seattle, May 23, 1853, by Carson Dobbins Boren and Arthur Armstrong Denny
Plat of the Town of Seattle, King County, Washington Territory, May 23, 1853, by David Swinson Maynard
Plat of the Town of Seattle, King County, Washington Territory, May 23, 1853, by David Swinson Maynard

Mill Street, which divided the two plats, was renamed Yesler Avenue in 1888, and Yesler Way — its current name — seven years later. Front Street became 1st Avenue and Commercial Street became 1st Avenue S as part of that same “Great Renaming” ordinance of 1895. Streets that were named in these first plats that have kept their names till today include:

Boren and Denny

  • James Street — after James Marion Denny, younger brother of A.A. Denny
  • Cherry Street — after Cherry Grove, Illinois, where the Denny Party’s journey to Seattle began
  • Columbia Street
  • Marion Street — also after James Marion Denny
  • Madison Street — after President James Madison
  • Spring Street — after the springs along Elliott Bay

Maynard

  • Washington Street — after President George Washington
  • Main Street
  • Jackson Street — after President Andrew Jackson
  • King Street — after Vice President William Rufus DeVane King
  • Weller Street — after John B. Weller, senator from California, later governor of California
  • Lane Street — after Joseph Lane, governor of Oregon Territory, later Southern Democratic candidate for vice president in the 1860 election