Our most memorable stories on My Ballard’s 10th anniversary

A decade ago, we were new to the neighborhood and inspired by the West Seattle Blog and Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. So we decided to start a blog for Ballard, called ourselves the “Geeky Swedes” and published our first post on Dec. 11, 2007.

Little did we know that Ballard was in the early stages of tremendous change. Once a quiet Scandinavian fishing neighborhood — the brunt of good-natured jokes on Almost Live — Ballard was evolving into one of Seattle’s hottest hangouts, attracting many of the city’s best restaurants, bars and shops. Then the apartment and condo complexes began to appear, fueling higher property prices and displacing some of our neighborhood’s history.

Fight to save Denny’s

Our first big neighborhood story turned out to be the fight over the Denny’s restaurant at 15th and Market. Originally called Manning’s, it was a popular neighborhood cafe sporting a unique architectural style called “Googie.” When new owners began to pursue plans to build a condo complex on the property, neighbors rallied about efforts to designate the 44-year-old building as a historic landmark — and they won. Temporarily.

While the decaying Denny’s sat surrounded by chain link fence, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board agreed to meet again. In a stunning reversal, the board voted that the building’s new landmark status would result in unreasonable financial hardship on the owner. And therefore, the newly-designated landmark could be torn down.

On June 24th, 2008, the Denny’s was demolished.

The end of Sunset Bowl

For outsiders who couldn’t understand why a neighborhood would rally around a Denny’s, they were equally perplexed by Ballard’s affinity with Sunset Bowl, an old, dank bowling alley. But similar to Denny’s, Sunset Bowl was an old neighborhood hangout, a collection of Ballard memories accumulated over the decades.

Advocates attempted to designate the colorful building as a landmark, but failed. They also failed to convince the new owners to build a new bowling alley inside the walls of their planned apartment complex.

On January 20th, 2008 — after a final farewell from a group of former employees — Sunset Bowl was devoured by the metal jaws of change.

Edith Macefield’s last stand

It’s hard to determine exactly when “Old Ballard” and “New Ballard” became part of the neighborhood lexicon; two cultures with opposing views of growth. But we can certainly agree on the face of Old Ballard, forever etched in our neighborhood’s history: Edith Macefield.

Over a year before we launched My Ballard, developers offered Edith $1 million for her small, plain house on NW 46th. St. She had lived in the same home for over half a century, and at 84 years old, she didn’t want to move. So she stood her ground.

Our first stories showed the Ballard Blocks complex slowly rising around her, dump trucks rattling up and down the road. Then on June 17, 2008, Edith Macefield passed away. Her battle was over, but her story was just beginning.

About a year later, Disney released the movie “Up”, which appeared to be inspired by Edith’s stand. The home, fully encapsulated by Ballard Blocks, drew national news coverage and visitors from around the world. Some people who called themselves “Edith Macefield’s Army” even got tattoos of her home. Edith became an inspiration for many.

Her home is still there, but as we’ll update in an upcoming story, the long-running fight to save it may be ending soon.

Black bear runs through Ballard

We’re used to raccoons and the occasional coyote, but when a bear decided to run through the neighborhood on the night of May 18, 2009, it got everyone’s attention.

With My Ballard’s Silver listening to the scanner, we set out to find the black bear, parking next to several police cars in Crown Hill. After a few minutes of walking around, I remember one of the cops telling me, “You should probably get back inside your car.”

But the bear was well ahead of us, heading north in a hurry. While we were unable to snap a photo, Silver’s scanner reports helped create a map that tracked the animal’s likely route from Discovery Park, traversing Ballard, Crown Hill and ultimately heading as far north as Everett.

Greenwood arson fires

An arsonist set 10 fires in Greenwood (map) over several months in 2009. If you lived near Greenwood, you may remember waking to overnight sirens, worrying about the possibility of another fire.

We were helping our sister blog, PhinneyWood, cover the story. We awoke to sirens in the early morning of October 23rd, and covered a massive 3-alarm blaze along 85th that destroyed several businesses. Then again on Nov. 5th, sirens called us to another fire on 85th. As I was snapping photos, I heard a new call broadcast on the firefighters’ radios around me. It was for a new fire on Greenwood Ave., just a few blocks away.

I still remember the looks on the firefighters’ faces and the unsettling feeling that an arsonist was at work right down the street. I also remember locking my keys inside my car — with the engine running — after I pulled up in front of Rosewood Guitar, flames shooting from the roof.

A man was arrested several days later, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Meanwhile, PhinneyWood went on to win a national Society of Professional Journalists award for deadline reporting of the story.

Ballard helps a woman in need

This is our favorite story. It began with a post in the My Ballard forum from a woman selling some of her belongings to raise money for rent. “It really is tough being unemployed,” she wrote under the forum handle Luckerbee.

That was on Thursday night. On Friday evening, a few dozen Ballardites gathered in an impromptu meetup at Golden Gardens organized on the forum. They passed around a donation bucket for Lurkerbee which read, “Ballardites helping Ballardites.” Then on Saturday morning, they held a yard sale, ultimately raising $900.

“I will never forget it. Never in a million years did I anticipate this,” Luckerbee wrote.

The My Ballard forum thrived over the years, helping My Ballard win a national Online Journalism Award for community collaboration in 2009.

And many more

Out of the 10,454 blog posts we’ve published over the last decade, there are many more memorable stories from the neighborhood: the Syttende Mai parade, the closure of Olsen’s Scandinavian Seafood, SeafoodFest’s salmon feed and lutefisk eating contest… and many more.

While the neighborhood has changed more than we ever anticipated, the Ballard spirit lives on. We’d like to thank all of our readers and advertisers over the years for your support.

What are your most memorable neighborhood news stories?

5 comments on “Our most memorable stories on My Ballard’s 10th anniversary”

  1. WHAT?? Not a mention of the night the BEAR ran through Ballard??

    You guys also helped raise money for the family whose house on 65th burned.

  2. Please publish the story about Edith’s house soon. If the future of her house looks anything like other landmarks in the Seattle area, there’s a good chance it’ll disappear quickly under the cover of darkness.

  3. Calling Sunset Bowl an “old dank bowling alley” seems a little harsh – especially given that it was replaced by what is arguably the ugliest building in (new) Ballard. It was a bowling alley – what do you expect?

  4. The owner of Sunset Bowl came to my store to ship the legal paperwork finalizing the deal. The stack of paper was at least 4 inches thick. I let him know I was sad to see the place go but he seemed pretty pleased with the outcome.
    I was also at the Golden Gardens meetup and with the Geeky Swedes permission, provided a banner for the occasion which they now probably have stuffed somewhere in their basement.
    I lent my petty cash box to the organizers of the yard sale for Luckerbee so they could deal with making change & keep accounts more easily.
    IIRC, the first gathering of MyBallard participants was instigated by a fellow whose initials are JP and was held at Mike’s Chile. It was a fun & fascinating night & great to see & talk to faces previously only attached to user names and icons.
    That initial get-together broke the ice for all of the future events we had back in the heyday.
    Thanks, JP.

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