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Ballard Avenue

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.

Historic Districts

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