Writing the Ways of Seattle Streets

The Seattle street system provides endless opportunities for puzzling over the “whys” of street names, as it can be difficult to find out who a street is named for.  One north Seattle street is clear in its tribute to Roosevelt — but which Roosevelt???  There were two, Teddy and Franklin, who each served as president of the United States.

Teddy Roosevelt cartoon portraying him as an outdoorsman activist

A new blog by Benjamin Donguk Lukoff called Writes of Way explores the stories of Seattle street names.  Here is Mr. Lukoff’s story of Roosevelt Way NE:

“This street runs nearly six miles from the north end of the University Bridge (at Eastlake Avenue NE and NE Campus Parkway) to Aurora Avenue North, just shy of the Seattle city limits at North 145th Street.

Roosevelt Way runs north–south for most of its length, but starting at NE 125th Street, its last 1½ miles cut a northwest–southeast diagonal across the street grid, making it Roosevelt Way North once it crosses 1st Avenue NE between N 133rd and N 135th Streets.

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Sorting Out Seattle Street Names

In Seattle’s early years, 1851  to 1889, owners of property could lay out a plan for streets and give them any names they chose.  But as the city grew, segments of a street would often have several different names as the street passed through these individually-laid-out plats of property.

Seattle rebuilt its downtown area after the Great Fire of June 6, 1889.

The Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889 burned a large section of the downtown core but instead of destroying the city, the Fire led to a rebirth of Seattle with explosive population growth.   The population jumped tenfold to about 43,000 people in Seattle as of 1890, and doubled again by the year 1900 to more than 80,000 people.  (Source:  Seattle Municipal Archives Quick Information population statistics).

Within three years of the Fire, four hundred new subdivisions were filed with King County, mainly in or near the Seattle City Limits.  Each subdivision had a layout of streets with lots for houses or commercial buildings, and property owners continued to give the streets in their plats, any name that they chose.  This resulted in a tangle of street names which were often repeated in different areas of the city.  Finally in 1895 City Engineer R.H. Thomson began renaming Seattle streets via City ordinances.  The street-renaming project also decreed that streets would be east-west and those that were north-south would be called avenues.

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South of the Bridge in Fremont

From the earliest years of white settlers’ arrival in Seattle in the 1850s, land speculators and businessmen were attracted to what is now the Fremont neighborhood at the northwest corner of Lake Union.  A big advantage of the site was a stream which early settlers called The Outlet, flowing westward toward Puget Sound.  Men such as homestead claimant William Strickler hoped to use water-power to float logs on the stream, out to the Sound and toward Yesler’s Mill on the downtown Seattle waterfront.

The Fremont neighborhood in Seattle is located at the northwest corner of Lake Union. Map courtesy of HistoryLink.

Thomas Mercer suggested the name “Lake Union” at the Seattle settlers’ Fourth of July picnic on the southern shore of the lake in 1854, at where Lake Union Park is now.  The “union” name was proposed because Seattle’s ambitious settlers saw that it would be possible to unite three bodies of water via a canal system.

A canal could connect from Lake Washington (on Seattle’s eastern border) through Lake Union and on westward to Puget Sound.  For this reason The Outlet at Lake Union’s northwest corner was already identified at this early date as part of the ideal route of the envisioned ship canal.

Little did Seattle’s settlers know that the ship canal idea would not come to fruition for more than sixty years, completed in 1917.  In the meantime, in 1887 businessman Thomas Burke and his associate Daniel Gilman set up a railroad which travelled east-west across Seattle’s midpoint.  That route is today the Burke-Gilman Trail which is on the north side of the ship canal and passes through Fremont.

In 1894 Ross and Fremont were shown as place names with railroad stops. The ship canal had not yet been built but there was a creek called The Outlet from Lake Union, flowing westward.  Dots on the map represent population.

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The Great Backyard Bird Count 2021

Watching birds is a safe and enjoyable activity we can do even during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 Great Backyard Bird Count will be held February 12 to 15, 2021.

Black-capped chickadee in Redmond, WA, photo by Jacob McGinnis.

The GBBC is an opportunity to enjoy nature while contributing to the scientific tracking of birds and their environment.

For the GBBC you can watch birds anywhere, even by looking out your window.  Watch birds for at least fifteen minutes or more over the four days of the count, February 12 to 15, 2021.

Visit the website of the Great Backyard Bird Count 2021 to learn more about how to participate, how to get help with identification of birds, and how to submit your bird counts.

How is the information from the GBBC used?

Downy woodpeckers in winter, Washington State.

The information from GBBC participants, combined with other surveys, helps scientists track the patterns of movement of species, how a species’ range may be expanding or shrinking, and learn how birds are affected by environmental changes.

Why is the count in February?

The Great Backyard Bird Count is held in the USA and Canada each February to create a snapshot of the distribution of birds just before spring migrations begin in March.  Scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, Birds Canada and others will combine the GBBC information with data from surveys conducted at different times of the year.

Watching birds is an activity you can do from your window.

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Art on 34th in the Fremont Neighborhood of Seattle

The highly walkable Fremont neighborhood of Seattle has many artworks in easily observable outdoor settings.

Some of the best-known artworks are the statue of Lenin located just west of Fremont Avenue, and the Fremont Troll on North 36th Street underneath the Aurora Bridge.

The Fremont Troll is such a popular attraction that the City of Seattle re-named the segment of street under the bridge “Troll Avenue” to make it easier to find.

Walking along North 34th Street which parallels the ship canal, we can see three-dimensional art pieces, sculpture, mosaics, planters and landscaping which tell the stories of history and events in Seattle.

This article will highlight only the artworks along North 34th Street from the intersection of Fremont Avenue, eastward two blocks to the corner of 34th & Stone Way.

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Candy Cane Lane in December 2020

Candy Cane Lane is a holiday tradition in northeast Seattle, a celebration of lights, decorations and color.  Candy Cane Lane is a cluster of houses on Park Road NE just off of Ravenna Blvd NE, where residents coordinate this event every December.

Candy Cane Lane

The event begins on Saturday night, December 5, 2020 at 4 PM and is open every night through January 1, 2021.  For more info check the Facebook page of Candy Cane Lane.

Drive-through is one-way, starting at the west entrance.  Pedestrians are welcome to follow the same one-way route as cars.  All Washington State Covid mandates are to be followed; masks and social distancing required.

At Candy Cane Lane, donations are being accepted to a food drive to University Food Bank and Warm Accessory Drive.  The donation bins are located towards the end of the street.

To find Candy Cane Lane:  From the intersection of 25th Ave NE & NE 55th Street, go west on NE 55th.  Keep to the right and follow the curve of the road around the edge of Ravenna Park.  Follow Ravenna Blvd one more block and turn right into Park Road NE which is the entrance to Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane in northeast Seattle

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Street Clocks in Seattle

Benton’s Jewelers street clock was located at 3216 NE 45th Street just east of the Union Bay Place intersection.

In May 2020 a street clock called Benton’s Jewelers was removed from its location, packed and sent for restoration.

The clock at 3216 NE 45th Street was located east of the University Village shopping center and east of the five-way Union Bay Place NE intersection.  The clock had originally been on the sidewalk in front of Benton’s Jewelers on University Way NE, and moved with the company to the Union Bay Place location in 1986.  This was the only remaining street clock originally associated with a jewelry store in northeast Seattle.

In May 2020 the Benton’s Jewelers street clock was removed by a professional clock restoration service.  The clock-servicing company will give the Benton’s Jewelers clock a needed rehabilitation and will bring the clock back into to working order again.

Benton’s Jewelers street clock. The buildings in the background are gone now.

The Benton’s Jewelers clock was removed for safety reasons because the clock is now in a construction zone.  The new owners of the clock received approval from the Seattle Landmarks Board to store the clock and bring it back to its location when construction of a new building on the site is completed.

The journey of the Benton’s Jewelers street clock represents the changes in the Seattle business environment over the past one hundred years.  In the 1920s street clocks were a signal of jewelry stores which also did watch repair, most prominently in downtown Seattle.

Business pressures as well as changes in the built environment caused Seattle street clocks to move from one location to another along with the owners, then fall into disuse when businesses closed.  Benton’s Jewelers closed in 2008, just short of the hundredth anniversary of the company.  The Benton family retained ownership of the clock until purchase of it by the company which is redeveloping the entire block just east of Union Bay Place NE.

In May 2020 the Benton’s Jewelers street clock was removed for restoration. Photo courtesy of the Laurelhurst Blog.

The Benton’s Jewelers street clock is in a block of now-demolished small buildings, including a beloved Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at the point of the triangular-shaped block at the intersection of Union Bay Place NE.  The new owner of the block will build a type of business new to the neighborhood, a large senior-care residence.

Since Seattle street clocks are protected under a historic landmarking ordinance, the owner applied to the Seattle Landmarks Board for approval to remove, restore, and re-set the Benton’s Jewelers clock in place when the new building is finished in the year 2022.

Part of the historic landmarking ordinance for Seattle’s street clocks is the requirement that clocks be placed in public view.  At the new senior residence at Union Bay Place NE, there are plans to set the street clock in the outdoor courtyard entryway of the building.

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Autumn Season 2020 in Wedgwood

Autumn 2020 in Wedgwood in northeast Seattle is bright with colorful trees. The arterial 35th Ave NE is lined with flame ash trees from the center of the neighborhood at NE 85th Street, northward to where 35th Ave NE merges with Lake City Way NE at NE 137th Street.

Looking southward along 35th Ave NE, we see Fiddler’s Inn at the corner of NE 94th Street and the flame ash trees which line the arterial. At right is Wedgwood’s Fire Station 40. Photo by Valarie.
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The Rosaia Family in Wedgwood

Immigrants are the lifeblood of America, bringing energy, enthusiasm and enterprise to their adopted land.  On this blog I have highlighted some stories of immigrants who settled in Wedgwood in northeast Seattle and who became active participants in the neighborhood.  This blog post will tell about the Italian-American family who founded Rosaia Brothers Florists in Seattle.

Ray Giusti & his wife Laura Rosaia were first-generation Italian-Americans and in the 1920s they were the first Rosaia family members to move to Wedgwood.  They joined the neighborhood’s log cabin Catholic chapel.  By the 1950s Ray & Laura had seen their parish grow into the present Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.  By the 1950s Laura’s siblings had also become residents of Wedgwood.

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Van Doren in Washington Territory

When we think of the pioneer white settlers of Washington Territory, we are referring to those who came before statehood in 1889.  We assume that these adventurers were young single men out to make their fortune or young families seeking land claims and the opportunity to grow with the Territory.

Van Doren’s Landing at a bend in the Green River at Kent, Washington.

There are some notable exceptions to the typical “young pioneers” storyline.  Some men and women age 50+ were bold and energetic enough to start new lives on the frontier of the Pacific Northwest.  One of these exceptional older adventurers was Cornelius Marshall Van Doren who was 56 years old when he arrived in the Territory in 1871, along with his wife Delia, age 54.

The Van Dorens traveled with two adult children, son G.M. and his wife Amanda, and the Van Doren’s daughter Louisa and Louisa’s husband George W. Ward, age 33.  The three couples left what appeared to be prosperous and settled lives in Illinois, and they traded this in for the adventure of new lands and unknown challenges.

This blog article will outline the activities of C.M. Van Doren when he became an active community member in Kent, Washington, about sixteen miles southeast of Seattle.  At the end of this article we will briefly note his land claims which included part of what is now the Lake City neighborhood in northeast Seattle.  We don’t know why Van Doren bought this northeast Seattle property in 1871; perhaps he simply held it as an investment like a savings account, which he hoped would grow in value.

The origins of Lake City in Seattle go back to this 1871 land claim of Van Doren’s, but it would be many more years before a community grew up in remote northeast Seattle.

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