Monthly Archives: September 2022

Broad Street


In this part of Seattle, thanks to a disagreement between early settlers, streets run southwest-to-northeast. Broad Street is the only one that ever broke through the east-west grid north of Denny Way, running diagonally from salt water clear to Lake Union.  The picture above shows beginning of Broad Street’s climb up the hill from the north end of Alaskan Way, the former Railroad Avenue.

For the last half of the 20th Century and beyond, Aurora Avenue made north-south travel easy north of Denny, but east-west traffic nearly impossible.  Broad Street crossed under Aurora though, at about the same place as Mercer but in its own idiosyncratic direction. Drivers coming from the freeway could choose to pass to the north of Seattle Center or to the southeast on Broad Street.

Following the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake, big changes came to Aurora Avenue. Then after Amazon’s conquest of South Lake Union, something had to be done about Mercer.  During the last couple of decades Broad Street lost its importance and then, suddenly, about half of its length.  From the west it doesn’t really cross Fifth Avenue any more, though it does get a street sign on the far side. Its old alignment there is now a skate park:

The park is here because the new hockey arena claimed the former location, a quarter mile west.

Bits and pieces of vacated Broad Street appear among newer construction projects.

The photo above shows a scrap of old roadway, now an experiment in urban habitat, next to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Discovery Center.  The view below looks across the new tunnel entrance, back toward the skate park.

Further east, hints of the old Broad Street show up within parcels that are being developed.   But here’s an interesting thing:  the block that always connected Valley Street to Roy Street, right at Westlake, the part that lies in shadow in the picture below, is signed “Roy St.” on the pole; but if you view it on Google Maps at just the right magnification , it is still labeled “Broad St.”