Eighth Avenue

It’s always had a fragmented existence: Eighth Avenue got tangled up in Seattle’s highway construction boom back in the Sixties, and today it threads implausibly first above Freeway Park and then, immediately thereafter, beneath the Washington State Convention Center.  It’s shown below emerging briefly into the sunlight of Pike Street, only to confuse a couple of tourists before diving back under the Grand Hyatt.

The complexities do not end here, because a block further north the avenue enters the Denny Triangle, intersecting at once with both Olive and Howe, streets from two different grid systems.  Then, within the next half mile, Eighth crosses Westlake Avenue at yet another angle and finally pauses at Denny Park, Seattle’s oldest park and the home of the Parks Department administrative offices.

The first part of this stretch seems pretty placid.  The photo below shows a leafy Eighth flowing between the new U.S. District Courthouse, seen on the left beyond the red brick building, and the Seattle Police Department West Precinct, the short, blocky building a block further along on the right.  The bike lane is a nice touch, but cycle track on the adjacent 7th and 9th will carry a lot more traffic. You can see the trees of Denny Park at the end of the street, and Queen Anne Hill beyond.

This part of town has not always been so refined.  In 1975, up there near where Westlake crosses, across from where the police station is now, I worked at a place called Kangaroo Color Labs, in a building that had formerly been a knitting mill.  Denim magnate M. Genauer was next door.  Raff’s Shoes had a big building nearby, and to the south there was a music store, that is, a store that sold sheet music. There was a Chevy dealer there on Westlake, and a couple blocks north a bar called The Joker.

Viewed from the north, the march of progress is even more apparent. In this photo, taken from just south of Denny Way last February, cranes can be seen working in the street. The low building on the left was a Korean restaurant; it’s closed now, but its sign still marks this corner, as it has since the Seventies. The near building under construction on the right, where you can see a reflection of the Space Needle, spans the width of the block stretching over to Seventh Avenue, where Bob Murray’s Dog House stood for decades.

Of course there’s more to Eighth than just the downtown part. North of Denny Park, it’s 8th Avenue North, the street that Glazer’s Camera was on (and is again). Eighth currently fails to cross Mercer, but is reborn at Roy (there’s another big construction project just getting underway there).  When the street reaches Lake Union it turns sharply east to intersect with Westlake yet again, just at the Kenmore Air terminal.

Back where we started, at Freeway Park but facing the other direction, Eighth heads southeast for half a mile, stopping short of Harborview Medical Center. Fantastically, a block marked “8th Avenue” sprouts up again, only to connect 9th Avenue, Fir Street, and S. Washington St in a big arc. Then 8th Avenue S. appears magically on the other side of the freeway, running due south through the International District to the big I-5/I-90 interchange.

By the way, here’s what “my” old block of Eighth looks like today. Our back is to the excellent Bounty Kitchen, and note Seattle’s first Shake Shack at far right.  The Amazon Spheres are a nice addition to the neighborhood.