MYNORTHWEST NEWS

The Seattle street named for two Roosevelts

Feb 27, 2017, 5:08 AM | Updated: 6:31 am

Roosevelt...

This 1949 view of Roosevelt Way, which was named for two presidents, looks north from just south of NE 45th Street. (Courtesy of City of Seattle Municipal Archives)

(Courtesy of City of Seattle Municipal Archives)

In the 1920s, before Interstate 5, State Route 99 and the Aurora Bridge, traffic in Seattle was all about surface streets. The road known as 10th Avenue NE was the main north-south route north of downtown Seattle. Drivers of all those Model-Ts and other early cars got to 10th Avenue NE by heading north on Eastlake Avenue and then crossing the University Bridge, which had opened to great fanfare in 1919.

Related: The vanishing lanes of Victory Way

The year 1919 was also when popular former president Theodore Roosevelt died in January. Local tributes to Teddy began almost immediately. Ravenna Park was renamed Roosevelt Park in April 1919. The big new high school in the works on NE 65th was named for him sometime that summer.

By the mid 1920s, with the park and especially the school in its midst, the neighborhood came to be informally known as the Roosevelt district. But local merchants wanted to make it more official, and in November 1927 they launched a campaign to rename busy 10th Avenue NE after Teddy. At a late autumn festival, the community celebrated the installation of a new street lighting system, and crafted a simple slogan to promote the renaming effort: “Welcome ‘Roosevelt Way’ Lights.”

The lights were a bright spot in the neighborhood, but for some reason, the street renaming efforts dimmed. And then Teddy took a hit in 1931 when the name of Roosevelt Park was changed back to Ravenna Park.

But politics has a way of serving up unexpected developments.

Fast-forward to May 1933, and the main drag through the Roosevelt district had been bypassed by the Aurora Bridge. But, another Roosevelt – Franklin Delano, Republican Teddy’s Democrat cousin – was in the White House. The local merchants’ association relaunched their campaign to rename 10th Avenue NE.

This time, they collected signatures on a petition asking that the street be renamed for both Roosevelts. It was the darkest years of the Great Depression, and Franklin had defeated Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election. FDR was a pretty popular guy in liberal 1930s Seattle.

In June 1933, the Roosevelt boosters presented their petition to the city’s Board of Public Works. It was signed by 300 people and asked that the street be renamed Roosevelt Way in honor of both presidents. The Seattle Times reported that there was “fairly voluminous protest” against the rechristening, but mainly from business owners along the northern portion of the road. The board sided with the pro-Roosevelt group and forwarded their recommendation to the Seattle City Council.

Later that year, on October 30, 1933, the Seattle City Council voted to make the change. Roosevelt Way, named for a deceased former president and a living, sitting president, was official.

A few weeks later, The Seattle Times weighed in on their editorial pages. The paper in those years was not a big supporter of the 32nd president.

“This change, we assume, must be pleasing to local Democrats of all sorts and shades. At the same time, due to the incidence of somewhat tenuous family ties, it cannot be at all displeasing to Republicans,” the editorial read. “The name of Roosevelt has high standing in both political parties, as indeed it has throughout the world.”

“Even now it is quite certain that those who may traverse our Roosevelt Way in years to come will neither know nor particularly care whether it was named for Teddy or for Frank.”

MyNorthwest News

Image: Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloo...

Associated Press

Unanimous Supreme Court preserves access to widely used abortion medication

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously preserved access to an abortion medication that was used in nearly two-thirds of U.S. procedures.

1 hour ago

starbucks supreme court...

Associated Press

Supreme Court, siding with Starbucks, makes it harder for NLRB to win court orders in labor disputes

The Supreme Court case began in February 2022, when Starbucks fired seven workers who were trying to unionize their Tennessee store.

2 hours ago

seattle FBI...

Frank Sumrall

SWAT arrests armed woman after she barricades herself inside Seattle FBI building

An armed woman barricaded herself in the visitor lobby of the FBI Seattle building in downtown Seattle Wednesday afternoon.

5 hours ago

windshield hammer...

Frank Sumrall

Customer threats cause Seattle barista to smash customer’s windshield with hammer

A barista in South Seattle used a hammer to bash in a customer’s windshield after he allegedly threatened her and the coffee stand's customers.

6 hours ago

uw president cauce...

Frank Sumrall

UW President Ana Mari Cauce to step down after 10 years

UW President Ana Mari Cauce will step down from leading the university once her second five-year term ends in June 2025.

23 hours ago

Image: All lanes on Interstate 5 south in Everett were closed on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. It cause...

Steve Coogan

Shooting caused all lanes on I-5 south in Everett to close Wednesday

The Washington State Patrol is investigating a shooting that occurred late Wednesday morning I-5 south that closed all lanes for drivers.

24 hours ago

The Seattle street named for two Roosevelts