Ballard annexed into Seattle 111 years ago

On May 29, 1907, Ballard officially became part of Seattle.

Ballard was the second-largest city in King County — with about 17,000 residents in 1906 — when troubles over the city’s water supply led to a historic vote to become annexed by the city of Seattle.

“The Ballard water system was no prize,” explains an entry in HistoryLink by Alan J. Stein. “An analysis of the water in 1908 found that it contained a large amount of decomposing organic matter, and that it was potable only if thoroughly boiled.”

On annexation day, Ballard City Hall was draped in black. While city hall is now gone, the bell remains, hanging in the Old Ballard bell tower.

By the way, the annexation vote was somewhat close: 996 in favor to 874 against. That adds up to just 11% of the total population that voted.

(Photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives. Our earlier aerial photo, despite being date-stamped as 1900, was from a later era. Thanks to everyone for pointing this out.)

Hundreds of 1970s Ballard photos added to Seattle Municipal Archives

Update: Um, it seems we’ve crashed the Municipal Archives site with all the traffic. So you may have a little trouble clicking the links below for a bit.

Earlier: If you’re like us, you love Ballard history. So when Seattle City Photo Archivist Julie Irick told us about 738 new Ballard photos from the 1970s — including businesses, houses and landmarks in high resolution — we were thrilled. And it’s all available online.

For example, where’s the photo above? What’s in that building now? Before we give you the answer and share more of our favorite photos, here’s a little background.

The photos are divided into two collections. The first batch of 502 black-and-white photos were taken by volunteers working with the Historic Seattle Preservation and Development Authority “to create a visual inventory of urban design, historical, and architectural elements that give Seattle ‘its unique character and identity,'” Irick explains. Most of the photos are labeled with an address, including quite a few houses — if you’re lucky enough to find your own home.

The second batch of 236 color photos features “clearly identified addresses of homes and businesses captured between 1974 and 1980,” Irick said. It includes photos of Old Ballard, Salmon Bay, the Ballard Locks and even the 5th of May parade from 1975. Some of these photos, thanks to a grant from 4Culture, are included in this online exhibit about the Ship Canal.

Ok, now to a few of our favorites. If you see something of note while browsing the collections, please leave it in comments below.

The image at the top of this story is The International Schooner at 5213 Ballard Avenue NW in 1975. Today it is… The Tractor Tavern.

This is the Starlight Hotel at Ballard Avenue NW & Vernon Place NW, 1975. (And formerly the Scandinavian American Bank/Canal Bank.) Now it’s the Ballard Inn.

The Scandinavian Værsgo restaurant on the corner of NW Market St. and 22nd Ave. NW. in 1975. Today there’s a Starbucks in that spot. (Anyone know what’s on top of the building? Antennas?)

Olsen Furniture at 5354 Ballard Avenue NW, 1975. This is now Ballard Consignment.

E. Obermaier Machine Works at 5307 Ballard Avenue NW, 1975. Now it’s home to Bastille.

Ballard Ave NW and 20th Ave. NW, 1975. This is now Monster Art, Clothing and Gifts (left side).

Ballard Hardware at 5225 Ballard Avenue NW., 1975. It’s still in business today a short distance away. And what’s in the building now? Kings Hardware on the left, Rudy’s Barbershop on the right. And see that sign in the far right of the photo? That’s Hattie’s Hat.

Ballard Elks at 5301 Leary Ave. NW, 1975. They’ve since moved to a new location on Seaview Ave. But what’s in this spot now? The Olympic Athletic Club.

Here’s a fun one: Ballard Celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th, 1975

We’re going to keep adding photos as we find new ones. If you find some gems, please let us know in comments below…

Vintage photo of the Ballard Bridge in 1933

From time to time, we like to share old Ballard photos from the Seattle Municipal Archives.

This is the Ballard Bridge under repair in February of 1933 — 16 years after the completion of the Ballard Locks and 27 years after the quickly-growing town of Ballard was annexed into Seattle.

Note the sign, “Government Locks at Ballard, key to industrial Seattle.”

For even older photos of the Ballard Bridge — which was built in 1915 and 1916 — visit the archives here. (Photo via the Seattle Monorail on Twitter)

Ballard Historical Society event set for this month

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Sunset Hill Community Association (3003 NW 66th St) will host Ballard Historical Society on Wednesday, April 19, for a special event focusing on the role of the Lake Washington Ship Canal over the past century.

Author David B. Williams will inform locals about what drove civic leaders to plan a waterway in a city already surrounded by water.Williams is the author of Waterway, out this year from HistoryLink (other authors include Jennifer Ott and the staff of HistoryLink). Williams is also author of Too High and Too Steep: Reshaping Seattle’s Topography. Learn about this and other titles at his website.

“This is a great event for those who interested in Seattle history and the economic and environmental effects of man-made changes in our region,” says Kris Collins from Ballard Historical Society.

The event will kick of at 7 p.m. and light refreshments will be served. The event is open to the public and donations are welcome to cover the costs of the program.

Throwback Thursday: Winter in Ballard

It seems that the cold weather is now officially upon us, so the My Ballard team wanted to take a look back at some photos of Ballard winters in times gone by.

The photo below features the home of John Nowicki at 6756 22nd Avenue NW taken in 1895 during a heavy fall of snow.


The torn photo below features a Ballard Avenue street scene during the 1916 snow storm. Jeweler’s street clock on left. Trolley. Ballard City Hall and bell tower can be seen in the background.


The below photo features Market St under snow in 1900.


Do you have an amazing photo of Ballard in the winter? Email it to

Photos courtesy of Ballard Historical Society

Throwback Thursday: The “new” Ballard Bridge turns 76

The Ballard Bridge, as we know it today, officially opened on June 8, 1940, so we wanted to celebrate with this week’s Throwback Thursday post.

The first Ballard Bridge, pictured below, opened in December 1917. By 1940, however, the old wooden bridge was considered too dangerous to carry the increased traffic and was replaced by a newer bridge with a higher span.

ballardbridge 1918

The photo below shows the opening day celebrations for the new Ballard Bridge on June 8, 1940.

ballard bridge opening

Photos courtesy of MOHAI.

Mapping Historic Ballard Project celebration set for Saturday


The team at Ballard Historical Society is excited to announce that their Mapping Historic Ballard project is almost complete.

After a citizen-sourced effort to map and survey all the pre-1965 structures north of the commercial district they have found over 2500 structures (out of 7307) with high level historic integrity.

Funds provided by a Small and Simple grant from the Department of Neighborhoods allowed over 70 volunteers to be trained in Geographic Information Science mapping and digital historic research.

The project, Mapping Historic Ballard: Shingletown to Tomorrow, will reveals its findings and celebrate the project at a public event this Saturday, June 4, at Sunset Hill Community Association Clubhouse (3003 NW 66th St) from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.

The event will include an exhibit gallery and a presentation about the process of surveying, selecting and then researching the top 159 homes and buildings.

Refreshments and entertainment will also be provided.

Learn more and RSVP on their Facebook page.

Locals invited to “dig deeper” at Historic Seattle event

Locals are invited to learn more about Ballard’s past at the Digging Deeper event next Saturday, May 7, from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Sunset Hill Community Association (3003 NW 66th St).

The Digging Deeper series is Historic Seattle’s multi-session program designed to provide attendees with behind-the-scenes insight to primary research materials in the many archives and libraries in Seattle and King County. This program helps local residents to explore buildings, architecture, and history.

Attendees will have a chance to learn more about our neighborhood which was in fact its own city between 1890 and 1907. The first settlement was established in Ballard in 1852, the same year settlers arrived in Seattle.

Development then proceeded slowly until railroad entrepreneurs Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (remembered now with the Burke-Gilman Trail) assembled a large tract in 1888 for a new community.

At the event, Ballard Historical Society representatives will discuss their archives and how to access them, Anne Frantilla from the Seattle Municipal Archives will also discuss the Ballard records housed at the Seattle Municipal Archives.

“Learn how Ballard got its name, when/why the railroad came through Ballard, and many more fun facts about this unmistakable Scandinavian community in Seattle,” says Luci Baker Johnson from Historic Seattle.

All are invited to attend the event. Cost is $10 for general public members and $8 for members of Historic Seattle. Registration is available online.

Throwback Thursday: Ballard streets then and now

Our friend Sue over at the Vintage West Woodland blog featured some “then and now” photos of Ballard streets and we wanted to share them with our readers in today’s Throwback Thursday post.

The below photos show a “then and now” view of the area surrounding 1148 NW 54th Street. Originally, Ballard Street Department Barn Number 4 called this address home and can be seen in the below photo, dated 1914.


According to Vintage West Woodland, Street Department Barns were used to house horses, wagons, and tools needed to build the boulevards and byways in our growing city. Piles of muddy planks can be seen in the above photo that may have been pulled from one of Ballard’s muddy lanes.

Sue reports that planked sidewalks and roadways could be seen in our neighborhood until the 1930s, when “large scale paving efforts began in the neighborhood.”

These days, the same address looks wildly different and is home to the back of the recently constructed Koi Apartments (shown in the below photo taken this year).


Thanks again Sue for the photos and the fascinating information.

Throwback Thursday: Then and Now

Today’s Throwback Thursday post, courtesy of our news partners at The Seattle Times, features a glimpse into the past of a home still standing on the corner of 4th Ave NW and NW 60th St.

According to the report, the home was built in the 1890s most likely by carpenter-contractor Rasmus “Robert” Jensen who stands on the front porch in the photo below with his wife, Marie, and their daughter, Anna.


Below you can see Susan Pierce and her son Andy standing in front of the same home today. Pierce and Andy live in the home that stands directly east across Fourth Ave from the former Jensen residence.


Pierce has been documenting the history of the West Woodland area on her blog Vintage West Woodland and via organization’s Facebook page.

Thank you Sue for sharing these photos and information with the My Ballard team. Photos courtesy of MOHAI and The Seattle Times.