Community Post

Key to Central District street addresses

Last week we were out on a walk when a woman pulled over to ask us for directions. She was in the 500 block of 21st, but was looking for something in the 500 block of 21st East. Luckily after two and a half years of scanner duty, the particulars of street addresses is something we can speak pretty authoritatively on.

Here’s how it works:

  • All direction prefixes and suffixes on addresses change when a street crosses a way, such as Denny Way, Yesler Way, and Broadway
  • The named streets that run east/west become “East” when they cross east of Broadway, such as Cherry becoming East Cherry
  • The north/south streets become suffixed with “South” when they are south of Yesler Way
  • North/south streets become “East” when they cross Denny Way to the north
  • East/west streets that are south of Yesler Way are prefixed with “South”

There’s lots of directions there, so here’s a graphical aid to help sort it out:


Here’s a few concrete examples:

  • The McDonalds at 1300 Madison is west of Broadway
  • The Bank of America at 1300 E. Madison is east of Broadway
  • Garfield High School is at 400 23rd Ave (plain), which is north of Yesler and south of Denny Way
  • The Washington Mutual near Jackson is at 400 23rd Ave S., which south of Yesler
  • The Miller Park Community Center is at 400 19th Ave E., which is north of Denny

And finally, if you’re calling 911 and you live on a street without directions, make it clear to the operator by telling them you live on [street name] “Plain”, such as “23rd Avenue Plain”.

0 thoughts on “Key to Central District street addresses

  1. Thanks for the explanation, Scott. I’ve always wondered why my street didn’t have a direction associated with it. This is helpful!

    But I gotta ask, what were they THINKING when they designed this? Why can’t streets just have one name and not share a name when they aren’t contiguous? I’ve never seen something *designed* by modern humans that’s so unintuitive… and I work in software! ;-)

  2. Excellent key–I never quite understood this in the CD.

    The CD area address scheme is a bit too complex, but not as bad as that area of Seattle where the number street orientation flips from East-to-West (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc as you go West) to West-to-East (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc as you go East).

    I’ve gotten really messed up going to Greenwood and confusing 2nd Ave NW and 2nd Ave NE, which are, iirc, 4 blocks apart. Totally separate, parallel streets, in the same neighborhood, both named 2nd! That’s a sadistic street numbering scheme.

  3. Thanks for the great explanation of some very nonsensical stuff! But I was curious as to why the Google map in the post indicates that E Pike St. is WEST of Broadway, so I took a closer look at the full map and it looks more like Boren and the I5 are the Plain/East boundaries. Perhaps Broadway isn’t actually a ‘way’ after all?

  4. You’re right! It appears that the influence of Broadway as a directional changer ends at Union. Everything south of there obeys the rule, but not anything to the north.

  5. King County has a logical addressing system that Seattle mostly follows. What you describe in Greenwood is because there is what’s called a “zero point” right in there: Palatine Ave N. Palatine divides the west from the not-west. This means that going west from Palatine, avenues start at 1st ave W/NW and get bigger. Then, between Palatine and Sunnyside Ave N, you have the North streets/avenues that are named streets (IE: Linden Ave N, Greenwood Ave N, etc). Then, Sunnyside acts as another zero point for East designators. So, starting at Sunnyside going east, avenues get bigger. There are other zero points that divide the north part and south part of the city.

    Other pointers: avenues run north-south and streets run east-west. Avenues (or, generally N-S ways, roads, lanes, etc.) will have the directional at the end (IE: 17th ave E). Streets (or generally E-W ways, roads, lanes, etc.) will have the directional at the beginning (IE: E Cherry St). What tends to muck us up is that in the center of Seattle, addressing gets creative and breaks a lot of the KC rules.

    One last tip, odd number addresses are always on the south side of streets and the east side of avenues. Even number addresses are always on the north side of streets and the west side of avenues.

    Easy peasy, no?

  6. And other things too. Not only do my packages often go astray (I live on plain and they often go to E) sometimes bigger things get goofed up too. We received gutters that belonged on E’s house…. I came home from work one day and it had been done while we were gone. I might never have noticed, but we’d been doing a fair amount of work and had just finished painting our house and restoring the trim. I did notice right away that there was water all over the front yard, which was odd – but I thought maybe the neighbor kids had been playing with our hose. The big tip off though was that we hadn’t yet refastened the downspouts to the side of the house – we were still figuring out how to get them around the newly restored drip cap. It took a minute to figure out what was different, but there they were all nice and neatly bent around the drip cap and fastened to the house. The company that did it never did contact us…. we figure their embarrassment and worry that we might sue them was pretty big (but they did a good job, so they needn’t have worried so much).

  7. On Sand Point Way it gets interesting as you are driving NE on a diagonal, and cross streets and Avenues with the same numbers in the low 40s.

  8. For example, the last time I looked at the “official” street sign on 17th Avenue (plain) at East Spruce Street it said “17th Ave. E.” (Hope no one is putting too much reliance on the City’s signs.)

  9. Outside of Seattle but the place that pisses me off so much is 124th St. NE and NE 124th St. They actually cross!

  10. Great work Scott, I remember being in grade school and our teacher went over all of this stuff for a whole day. I think she made a great decision because now this whole thing seems really intuitive to me, what’s the confusion folks?

  11. I’ve never gotten so lost as when I found myself at the corner of Blaine St & W Blaine St in Queen Anne.

  12. See the city’s map at Before 1961, the situation we still have in 98122, where avenues have no designation but streets are E, obtained in much of the rest of the city. I could write it out, but a look at the map would be far more effective.

    And as for the street signs, yes, unfortunately, a lot of the new-style ones that have been going up over the last couple of years have been going up with errors.

  13. I run and own Crown Black Car Service here in Seattle, and it’s amazing how many people who call don’t realize how important compass designations are when giving an address. 400 W. Roy, is not 400 Roy. Even though they are very close to each other. It can be frustrating to us when we are are sent to wrong addresses. I put together a little explanation myself a while back on our drivers only blog here;

    Sotirios Rebelos