Ballard city hall

Built in 1899, Ballard's City Hall contained a jail, the fire department, city offices, and community meeting rooms and a ballroom. The building, pictured here in 1902, was torn down in 1965.
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, A. Curtis 00881

Charles F. Treat 1890
T.W. Lake 1891
J.H. Rinehart 1892
A.E. Pretty 1893
Edmund Peters 1894
Matthew Dow 1895
George G. Startup 1896-1899
David McVay 1900
John Johnson 1901
Thomas C. Reed 1902
A.W. Mackie 1903
J.E. Zook 1904-1905
Justus H. Wiley 1906
H.E. Peck 1907


First settled in the 1850s, Ballard grew quickly through the last half of the 19th century. After it became known that the Great Northern Railroad would route its trains into Seattle from the north, the town's land was platted and real estate boomed. Boasting of being "the shingle capital of the world," the Ballard's timber and fishing jobs drew many new residents, including a large number of immigrants from Scandinavia.

As it grew, the town built a post office in 1889, a city hall in 1899, and a Carnegie library in 1904. The first bridge over Salmon Bay was completed in 1889, allowing for improved commerce and communications with Seattle. Streetcars and ferries were also operational by the 1890s, and an amusement park at Golden Gardens brought pleasure seekers out to the Ballard beach.

When the town incorporated in 1890, it had 1,636 residents. By 1900, its 4,568 residents made it the seventh largest city in Washington, and the population continued to boom, growing to 17,000 by the time of annexation in 1907. Growth was quickly overwhelming the city's ability to provide services, and a safe water supply was a continuing problem. In 1902, Ballard made an agreement with Seattle to tap into its water system, and was using more than 5 million gallons a year. This expenditure was adding to the city's debt, and many citizens believed that the city was becoming unable to sustain itself.

More than the other annexed cities, Ballard was divided on the issue of merging with Seattle. Indeed, in the first annexation vote in 1905, the citizens decided to remain independent. However, enough minds were changed 15 months later that annexation won out on the second vote. Ballard citizens showed their mixed feelings about the change by draping their city hall with black crepe and flying the flag at half mast on the day of annexation.

Cow PetitionCow PetitionCow Petition

As Ballard grew and became more urban, conflicts arose regarding livestock. After a law was passed restricting where cattle could graze, town leaders received petitions both asking for the law to be repealed and for it to be strengthened further. One pleads that "many will be obliged to sell their cows which in many cases is over half of their living." Another complains about having "20 or 30 cows herded right in our door yard" and charge that "those herd boys use all kinds of profane and obscene language in the presence of women." Box 4, Folder 28, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives

Health officer's report

Smallpox report
This report by Ballard's health officer gives a snapshot of the city's vital statistics in 1900. Births outnumbered deaths by 4 to 1, and causes of death ranged from heart failure to consumption and typhoid fever. Box 3, Folder 33, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives
Crowded conditions at mill workers' boardinghouses meant that disease could spread quickly. The manager of the Hazelton Rooming House here pleads for assistance in feeding the 20 men in her house that have been quarantined with smallpox. Box 2, Folder 28, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives

 Water Volunteer Ballard Seattle water agreement 
Ballard's citizens tried hard to find solutions to the city's water problem. This writer offers to donate 30 days of labor to help procure a water supply, "wishing Ballard to be independent in her water system as in Everything Else." Box 2, Folder 32, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives

After years of struggling to find a safe water supply, Ballard arranged to purchase water from Seattle. This letter served as a formal request from Ballard's city council to that of Seattle to consider a contract of this nature. Given the request for a 20-year franchise, it seems that the Ballard city council was not considering annexation at this time. Box 1, Folder 35, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives

Street scene Ballard City View
Ballard was a city in its own right before annexation, with many thriving businesses. This photo, taken around 1890, shows a liquor store and restaurant in Ballard's business district. Museum of History & Industry, SHS11816  This 1902 photo, taken from Queen Anne, gives a larger view of early Ballard. The early Ballard Bridge runs across Salmon Bay, lumber mills are in operation, and forested land is still visible just outside of town. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, A. Curtis 00475

Ballard sea serpent

Liquor license
 Golden Gardens has always been a playground for Ballard residents, as well as those from elsewhere in the Seattle area. This group is shown displaying the "Ballard Sea Serpent" on the beach of Shilshole Bay around 1910. Museum of History & Industry, 2001.10.3

 Legend has it Ballard's ordinances decreed that the number of saloons in the city could not exceed the number of churches. The taverns that did exist weren't always to the liking of the town's citizens. One petition requested denial of a liquor license renewal to the Pioneer Saloon, located at First and Shilshole Avenues, saying, "We do not think there is any question but that this saloon has been conducted as a resort for low men and women." Box 4, Folder 27, City of Ballard City Clerk's Files (Record Series 9106-03),
Seattle Municipal Archives

Stimson Mill
Cows grazing
 After Yesler's Mill was burned in the 1889 Seattle fire, the area's timber industry moved north into Ballard. Ballard's lumber mills provided hundreds of jobs, and the Stimson Mill was one of the town's largest. This 1904 photo shows logs being floated to the mill to be cut into lumber. University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, A. Curtis 04259-B

Early Ballard was still had many aspects of rural life, as seen in this circa 1900 photo showing cows grazing near Salmon Bay. Ballard Historical Society, 002/20030010040.jpg