Labyrinth of Names


Good Street Suggestions by the Chamber of Commerce.


Objections Raised to Changing Time-Honored Nomenclature.

Mr. Dearborn’s Plan for Numbering Wharves Commended–Streets in New Plats Should Be Made to Conform.

At the meeting of the trustees of the chamber of commerce the appended report from the special committee on renaming streets, consisting of Senator W. R. Forest (chairman), Thomas W. Prosch and J. W. Wiestling, was read and adopted. Chairman Forrest was requested to present it to the city council and to urge the immediate passage of an ordinance to carry the recommendations into effect:

SEATTLE, Dec. 15, 1891.
To the President and Members of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce—GENTLEMEN: Your special committee to whom was referred the proposed plan suggested by Mr. H. H. Dearborn for renaming streets, numbering buildings and designating wharves and piers by numbering or lettering, which plan is now under consideration by the street committee of the house of delegates, beg to report as follows:

We have carefully examined the plan suggested by Mr. Dearborn and find much in it to commend. It is questionable, however, whether it is advisable to undertake the renaming of all the streets in the city, particularly in the older portion, where for many years the names of thoroughfares have remained unchanged and have become a part of the history of the place. It is hardly to be expected that old settlers will see the names of these landmarks, with which all their earlier recollections are associated, changed to new and strange ones without an earnest protest. There is also a certain amount of inconvenience to the public which would result from this change that must be taken into account. On the other hand cursory examination of the map of the city drawn with particular reference to the names and location of the streets, such as is now in use in the post-office, and which was specially designed for the purpose, will convince the most careless observer of the great benefits which must accrue to the dwellers in our city, especially if its growth will be as rapid as we believe and present indications warrant, if the city could be divided into districts and the streets named and buildings numbered in a well-planned and systematic manner.

This work, however, is of such magnitude and of such peculiar character that it ought not, in the opinion of your committee, be undertaken at all unless the city government is willing to expend a considerable sum of money upon it and employ the best talent to be obtained. An entirely new map of the city should be made and many of the streets straightened and extended, but if this work should be done with judgment and by a skillful hand it need not necessarily be extravagantly expensive. Again, the matter of selecting names for streets calls for a particular aptitude for the work and a display of much good taste and judgment.

Your committee have therefore determined to make no recommendations as to the re-naming of streets.

Your committee desire to call your attention, and through this body the attention of this city council to the urgent need of immediate action in the matter of re-naming streets where duplicate names exist and which is already a source of much confusion. Some names have been repeated from three to five times, and in the Pontius and other additions to the city, streets are designated by numbers in utter disregard of the fact that streets in the oldest part of the city have been designated by similar numbers for more than thirty years. Another evil which should be remedied is the possession by a single street of several different names at several different points. For instance, in the Renton addition and the additions immediately adjoining of the streets running north and south, Rose street within a few blocks becomes Black street and Chestnut street is changed to Cedar street. Of the north and south streets, Bancroft changes within a short distance to Talbot street, Hayes to Adams, Gould to Mastick and Choat street within a few blocks becomes Blakeley street, and again within a few blocks changes back to Choat street. These are all straight streets and are cited from among many instances of unnecessary and inexcusable multiplication of names of streets running through different additions. In the southern part of the city, where the streets running north and south are numbered, similar evils exist without any apparent excuse, except that some one platted an addition to the city with direct reference to the number of lots to be gotten out of land and no reference whatever to streets and alleys. As a result, at one point Twenty-second street becomes Twenty-fourth street for a couple of blocks and then once more becomes Twenty-second street. Twenty-sixth street changes its name in a like manner and Twenty-first, Twenty-third and Twenty-fifth streets are duplicated within two blocks of each other. As the city is built up this condition of affairs will lead to greater confusion each year. These evils result wholly from culpable carelessness or utter disregard for the rights of the public by those platting land and the equally culpable carelessness of the authorities who accept and approve such plats.

Your committee therefore recommends that the city council be respectfully urged to scrutinize carefully all plats of additions to the city submitted for approval and accept none until the streets of the proposed new additions are made to connect with and conform in name to those of adjoining plats.

In the matter of numbering buildings the plan suggested by Mr. Dearborn conforms as nearly as practicable to the present system, and, as your committee believes it to be in every way superior to the present system, we respectfully recommend that the city council be requested to adopt and put it in force at as early a date as possible.

The adoption of a systematic plan for designating wharves and piers along our water front meets the hearty approval of your committee and we recommend the plan suggested by Mr. Dearborn, modified, however, to some extent. We would suggest that, commencing at the foot of Yesler avenue, the wharves north from that point be numbered consecutively, allowing one number for each block. Should there be any slips in a wharf they can be sub-numbered or otherwise designates as “slip A, wharf 1,” or in some other convenient form.

South of Yesler avenue and continuing around the harbor rim the wharves and piers to be lettered consecutively, allowing, as above, one letter for each block. Your committee believes that the putting into practical operation of some such plan as suggested will prove of great benefit and convenience to seafaring men and to shippers, as well as to the public at large.