Ballard bell rings to celebrate 97th birthday

Just after 2 p.m., the bell tower in Old Ballard chimed for one of the few times in two decades. The 1600-pound bell rang two short times to to commemorate a special occasion: the 97th birthday of Bertha Davis, a retired elementary school teacher who taught for 50 years at Ballard’s Webster School.

“It was a wonderful thing to hear the bell again,” said Bertha, surrounded by friends and family at the Ballard Landmark. Bertha and the late State Senator Ted Peterson were among a group of Ballard residents who helped bring the bell back to the neighborhood in the late 1980s. After it was vandalized a short time later, the ringing stopped. For years, Bertha has dreamed of bringing it back to the neighborhood. “That’s the spirit of Ballard,” she says.

Bertha and Ballard Historical Society have launched a fundraising campaign to install an automated mechanism that could be programmed to ring the bell at designated times — one suggestion is noon and 6 p.m. every day — as well as for special neighborhood events like Syttende Mai and Seafood Fest. “Everybody is on board to have that bell ring again,” says Peggy Sturdivant with the Ballard Historical Society. “The rallying point was, let’s do it for Bertha’s birthday! She’ll be 97 on Tuesday, so we decided, let it ring!”

Supporters have raised $18,000 and applied for a Small and Simple neighborhood grant with the city. They’re aiming to have everything in place by this summer. “It sounds great, it won’t be an annoyance,” Sturdivant says. “We think it will be a deterrent for the people who sometimes ring it after they leave bars. Automating it will prevent it from being vandalized.”

One hundred people packed into the Ballard Landmark lobby for Bertha’s birthday, eating cupcakes and singing a song for the occasion, “If I had a bell, I’d ring it on Ballard Avenue, I’d ring it every evening, all over this town…”

“Look at the all people who turned out, my goodness, I’m overwhelmed. It’s just wonderful,” Bertha says with a big grin. “Ballard’s spirit is here, we’ve got it!”

15 comments on “Ballard bell rings to celebrate 97th birthday”

  1. I didn’t hear it, but think automating it is a great idea! Maybe someone could set up a page for it on Kickstarter, to easily get support from the public.

  2. Too bad Ballard is completely RUINED by all the tree hugging condo owners who’ve overpopulated the community I grew up in. All the GREAT places I frequented as a youth are gone, and replaced by (you guesed it) CONDOS, or COFFEE SHOPS! Kudos on the bell, too bad it’s not in the place that USED to be Ballard~

  3. How do hug a tree within a condo?

    I thought it was all the Ballard old-timers who insist everyone must have four unattached walls and a pretty little yard.

  4. Well he’s right: the condo blight has certainly ruined a once nice neighborhood. Ballard sucks now. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the silly bell.

    I don’t really care much either way about the bell. Automating it to ring once or twice a day isn’t going to do anything to make Ballard a better place – this is just typical Seattle nonsense that makes people feel good while things go to hell.

    If they want to make this nice old lady feel good, hooray. But don’t spend any public dollars on it. Raise the money voluntarily, it’s not something that city grants should go towards. There are far more urgent needs.

  5. It is not a ‘sillybell’ you fool ass, its part of Ballard history & if we can get even a little money from the city toward automating it, great. The city pisses enough of our money away on nothing, look at the fortune they are wasting of the ‘rain gardens’ in our Sunset Hill neighborhood.

  6. Where is Mrs. Davis living? She taught me at Webster… she was the best teacher she even invited me to her house. She will not remember me but I’d like to say hi for old times sake. Is she in a home? Where is she? — Jim

  7. Well the city certainly does piss away way too much money on stupid things like those rain gardens – totally agree with you there. But I don’t see why city dollars should be spent to ring the damn bell.

    Now, if the city could put up some loudspeakers and pipe out some nauseating muzak throughout central Ballard – Zamfir Plays Show Tunes or something – that might drive out some of the bums and the bar crowd, well, that’s something I’d like to see our tax dollars spent on, because that could actually improve the neighborhood. But a bell that rings once or twice a day? Nah.

  8. Okay, point taken. Private money. I apologize about calling you a fool ass. I do think it would be nice to have the original bell working again. At least something of old Ballard to keep going since the ‘new’ types around here have managed to move in change so much with the trendy crap like they did in fremont.

  9. She lives at the retirement home where the old Wilson Ford used to be. PS She will probably remember you, her memory is fantastic!

  10. Mrs. Davis was our sub teacher at Adams, too, after she retired from Webster. Love her! One of her granddaughters is now a teacher at Ballard High. Mrs. Davis, you have done our community right in so many ways! Happy Birthday!

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