Letters to the Editor

Naming the cove

I live on Mercer Island’s North-end cove, on property purchased by my grandparents in 1912. Since then, my family members have called this property home, enjoying and supporting the community life of the Island.

Recently, the name “Riley Cove” was proposed for this body of water. I respect Mr. Riley. He is a longtime neighbor and distinguished veteran. He and other local veterans deserve recognition, and we, as a community, benefit from honoring our veterans, pioneers, and other outstanding citizens. However, I oppose naming this cove for any single individual or family.

If this cove is to be named, several names might meet local and state criteria.

I offer the name “McGilvra Cove” for consideration. Judge John J. McGilvra received appointment by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861 as the United States Attorney for the Territory of Washington. McGilvra owned land on the North end of the Island, named McGilvra’s Island Addition. USGS and other maps from the 1920s to 1940s clearly show McGilvra Dock. The center street (76th Avenue S.E.) on McGilvra’s plot is named Lincoln Street, likely to honor President Lincoln, and the current name of the street end is Lincoln Landing. McGilvra also owned Seattle lakefront property where the public tied up canoes and rowboats between sojourns to the hinterlands of Mercer Island and beyond.

Many residents still living on the North end remember life in this neighborhood 70 or more years ago. Neighbors still living here played sponge tag as kids around McGilvra Dock, at the middle of the curve of the North-end waterfront.

Rather than the name of an individual or a single family, the cove deserves an historic name, one which honors the manner in which water continues to connect neighbors and communities to each other and their shared history.

“McGilvra Cove” is consistent with the guidelines of the Washington State Board on Geographic Names, which provide that names associated with the early history of Washington state, their significance, spelling and flavor, should be retained.

I urge our community to consider many alternatives before endorsing a particular name, and to consider the name “McGilvra Cove” for this North-end cove.

Margaret (Davis) Philbrick

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