Ballard Avenue

The Ballard Avenue Landmark District was created by the Seattle City Council in 1976. Buildings throughout the District embody the distinctive characteristics of modest commercial architecture from the 1890s through the 1940s, creating a sense that the street is almost suspended in time. Visitors to this unique neighborhood will find boutiques, artists studios, and galleries side by side with manufacturers of fishing equipment and even a television studio.


In 1887 Captain William Ballard formed the West Coast Improvement Company to develop the 160 acres on the north shore of Salmon Bay, which were known as Gilman Park. This development, with its easy access to the waters of the bay and Puget Sound, quickly attracted settlers and industry particularly lumbering and fishing. In 1890 the community was linked by rail link with Seattle, the town was incorporated, and its name was changed to Ballard.

Ballard's development was rapid and by 1895 it was home to the world's largest shingle industry. Much of the material used in rebuilding Seattle following the disastrous 1889 fire came from Ballard. By 1904 Ballard's twenty mills reached a combined daily output of three million shingles. Fishing was also important: The Salmon Bay fishing fleet has long called Ballard its home port, and many still regard it as such. Immigrants from Scandanivia staffed much of Ballard's early industry and the area retains much of its Scandanavian heritage. Rapid development was not achieved without cost. A shortage of water (Seattle refused to share its Cedar River supply) as well as problems with sewage and school funding, brought about the annexation of Ballard by Seattle in 1907. At that time, Ballard's population of 10,000 made it the seventh largest city in Washington.

Served by streetcar and interurban trains, the area now comprising the Ballard Avenue Landmark District was Ballard's central business district and main arterial until that role was assumed by Market Street. This effectively arrested time and development at a mid-1940s point on Ballard Avenue and protected its small-town main street qualities. The buildings along Ballard Avenue provide a cross-sectional view of small-town development from the 1890s through the 1940s and retain modifications made in response to changing tastes and styles. The District contains many intact buildings constructed with retail spaces at street level and low-income residences above. Its granite curbs, cut locally, are almost unaltered and, in some locations, still contain hitching rings for horses. Brick paving and the long-disused streetcar right-of-way remain beneath the street's asphalt covering.Community awareness of and concern for these qualities led to the nomination of Ballard Avenue as a preservation district. This action was the culmination of many meetings between the Ballard Avenue Association and staff from the City's Urban Conservation Division. There were extensive public meetings prior to and after the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board's action to designate the District on January 14, 1975.

On April 13, 1976 the City Council created the District by ordinance. Mayor Wes Uhlman signed the ordinance into law at a ceremony in the District, concurrent with a special proclamation of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.

Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board

District Boundary Map

This map shows the boundaries of the Ballard Landmark District:

Ballard Avenue Landmark District

Making Changes in the District

Making Changes to a Building in the Ballard Avenue Landmark District:

What must be reviewed and approved by the Board?

The following changes require that the Board issue a Certificate of Approval before the City will issue any permits:

  • Any change to the outside of any building or structure.
  • Installation of any new sign or change to any existing sign.
  • Installation of a new awning or canopy.
  • Any change to an interior that affects the exterior.
  • New addition, construction, and/or remodel.
  • Any change in a public right-of-way or other public space, including parks and sidewalks.
  • Demolition of any building or structure.
  • Exterior painting

Making changes in Ballard Avenue district

Application for Certificate of Approval

To apply for a Certificate of Approval, please follow the instructions on this form:

District Guidelines, Ordinance, and Standards

National Register Nomination

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the building or business I own located in the Ballard Avenue Landmark District? If so, what does that mean to me?

Check the boundary map to determine whether the building is in the District. If it is, you already know that owning property or a business in the District means it's located on a street that looks and feels different from others. That's because owners have banded together to manage change in the neighborhood in order to maintain its special character. To do this, they have agreed that any change to the exterior of a building or any change that is visible from the exterior of a building must be reviewed and approved by the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board. The installation of new signs, repainting, new construction, remodeling, and demolition are some of the changes that fall under the authority of the Board.

2. How do I get approval to make a change in the use or appearance of my building?

If you plan to make any change that affects the exterior of a structure in the District or is visible from the exterior - including installing new signs, new construction, remodeling or demolition - contact the Board Coordinator at (206) 684-0229 as early as possible so we can recommend next steps. To get your project reviewed and approved by the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board, you need to apply for a Certificate of Approval and attend a Board meeting to present your application.

3. Who is on the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board?

The Board consists of seven citizens who include District property owners, business owners, an architect, and a Ballard historian or person who has demonstrated special interest in the Ballard community. Five of the members are elected by the community to serve two-year terms, two are appointed by the Mayor of Seattle and confirmed by the Seattle City Council to serve two-year terms.

4. When is the election held and who can vote?

Elections for the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board is held each June and all residents, tenants, persons who operate businesses and property owners of the Ballard Avenue Landmark District, of legal voting age, are eligible to participate in the election.

5. I want to put up a new sign. What requirements must it meet?

Sign applications are evaluated according to the proposed sign's overall impact, size, shape, texture, and lighting in relation to use, the building and street where it will be located, and its relationship to other signs and other buildings in the community. The Ballard Avenue Landmark District Guidelines can help you design a sign that is appropriate for the District.

6. How does the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board make decisions?

The Board bases all of its decisions on the standards set forth in three documents - the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Ordinance (SMC 25.16), the Ballard Avenue Landmark District Guidelines, and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. Contact the Board Coordinator at (206) 684-0229 for a paper copy of any of these documents.

7. When is the next District Board meeting and what is on the agenda?

The Board meets on the first Thursday of each month at 9:00 a.m. at the Ballard Neighborhood Service Center, 2305 NW Market Street. Go to Ballard Avenue Landmark District Board Agenda to learn about the next scheduled meeting.