Ballardite photographs tile street markers

One Ballardite is on a mission to document all the tile street names embedded along some of Ballard’s roads.

“Since I moved into Ballard in September 08,” Luke emailed, “I’ve been photographing the old street signs embedded into the sidewalks. Most are on 20th and 24th Avenues, but I’ve found a few outliers here and there.” His friend made up a Google Map of where the signs are.

View Old Ballard Street Markers in a larger map

This was a topic that came up in our forum a few months ago. Long Timer filled in the story as to where some of these tiles came from.

I am proud to say I wrote the application for the ‘Neighborhood Matching Fund’ grant that co-funded the project that made and installed new tiles down 24th. Benson Shaw, a Ballard artist, spearheaded the creative portion. Neighbors and Cub Scouts worked together on 3 different weekends to create and install the mosaics. The new mosaic names were based on the 100 yr old street tiles that can be found in several spots in Sunset Hill and Ballard between 20th & 15th. I think we did the project around 1988 or 89.

It was a wonderful project to be involved in. I still smile whenever I walk over them. It shows what good can be done in our neighborhood when we band together as neighbors.

In the meantime, Luke continues his journey around Ballard to photograph the tiles. “I keep thinking that I’ve taken pictures of them all, but keep seeing them as my wife and I walk around the neighborhood,” he says. If you know of any signs not on the map, list them in comments. Luke will add them to his collection.

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

36 thoughts to “Ballardite photographs tile street markers”

  1. Great story, and great project! The big map w/the list of street names and links to the photos is a nice reference for those of us who see the tiles but don't know the old names and were curious.

  2. What a great way to capture a small part of Ballard's history. Having lived in Ballard most of my life, I love it here. It's great to see the community come together and integrate parts of life, home, business and the neighborhood.

    Projects like these are part of what make Ballard most unique – the people.

  3. This is fun:
    with a recent version of Google Earth, look for the Rumsey Historical Maps layer (under Gallery in my install). When enabled, click on the colorful compass rose downtown. The instructions that then appear tell you to click on the map thumbnail to put an 1890 map overlay on the current city. you can enable or disable it then from Places>Temporary Places.

    If that sounds like a pain, you can read about this map before you invest the time:

  4. Wow. I was just walking down 20th on Sunday, something I do frequently. I always knew the tiles were there, but I never took the time to read them. Then I looked down at them this sunday and realized that the street names didn't match. Haha.

  5. Hey, hey all, and thanks to Long Timer for history of 24th ave tiles. I don't have permission to use others' full names, but I will identify myself as Benson Shaw. Here is some filler info. Others are welcome to correct or add to my comments:

    In 1994 and 95, the Central Ballard Community Council decided that we could do something fun and constructive in addition to our traditional role of land use whining. Taking a hint from the ReTree Ballard group, we thought up a Retile Ballard scheme. Maybe we should have stayed with that moniker, but the name on our grant was Ballard Street Name Mosaic Project. I think the idea was mainly James H, but Gene B, myself, J.H. ,Stan M. and the rest of the council were certainly supportive and involved from the start. Also, hats off to Rob Matson from the Neighborhood office who hosted our meetings and advised on how to shepherd such a project. I thought I wrote the grant, but that's not important. I at least remember slaving over the forms and text, presenting (with Old Timer?) it to the various Dept of Neighborhood reviews, collecting the community matching pledges,etc. We all worked hard and the CBCC finally received (our first?) Small and Simple grant for a relatively small amount of money, 2K? 6K? Lots of folks in the neighborhood helped with pledges and time in the workshops. I don't remember Cub Scout participation although they might have played a part as well. The girl scouts made our cartoons (layout drawings on mylar) for the tiles during a workshop at the Ballard CC. As Old Timer says, we held a couple community workshops at the Loyal Heights CC to make the mosaics. We also held several weekend work sessions along 24th to hog out the sidewalks with diamond saws and cold chisels. Local businesses let us plug into their electricity and use their water connections. Rick Larson, a Ballard tile contractor, and I set and grouted the mosaics. Rick and I received some small pay, too – $600 each I think. Here is a link to more detail and photos of the process on my website. Click the images for more info:

    A CBCC member from that time, Stan M. has done some further research which suggests that the tiles may have been placed only along the street car lines rather than blanketed throughout the neighborhood. During our project research, several long time residents said that the mosaics were everywhere in the neighborhood. Anybody out there have any documentation? These are not only found in Ballard. I have seen the blue and white tiles in other Seattle neighborhoods, which makes me think that they were either sold by some concrete contractor as urban amenity, sort of like aluminum siding, or perhaps were purchased/installed by some transit agency or other public entity. The Ballard Historical Society has expressed some interest in expanding the mosaics to other areas of Ballard. I think we should consider a new motif or something different which marks our time. But that's another story.


  6. There are also some old bronze letters embedded into the sidewalks along Ballard Ave that spell out the street names. The intersection of Ballard & Ione has a well preserved example. I realize this is a different thing, but I'm just sayin'…

  7. 58th Street was known as Time St. and I've seen both the brass and tile names on the sidewalks along this street. Can't remember intersecting streets.

  8. Very cool! Telling friends and out of town guests you live on 'Post' is so much more romantic that boring old '62nd'. Great project! Thanks Luke.

  9. That's good info B33, your website answered one of the questions I had which is why are some of the letters backwards? I had assumed, based on long timer's post that it may have been the work of the Cub Scouts, but the “Baker St” photo on your website indicated that it may have been one of the originals. I like the drunk tile guy scenario!


  10. That Rumsey map is fantastic.

    I thought it was only Ballard that had non-numeric street names not currently in use, because of the annexation. It's eye opening to see the whole town does.

    What an incredibly dehumanizing thing it was to strip all those names and go to the Euclidian numeric system instead.

    Fight the power! Use real street names!

  11. Ja, Ernie – The set of street names on 20th was the model for our new ones on 24th. I catalogued the letters and found several versions of most – I don't have it handy, but I think there were 8 different “A”s. Hopefully everyone has seen the Ballard Historical Society's “Passport to Ballard” which has maps and info, photos, and stories from pre anexation Ballard. It's at the library and may still be available from the society. Very worthwhile to explore.


  12. On the topic of names and such in the sidewalk, if you look down at the edge of the sidewalk at some of the corners around the Salmon Bay and Loyal Heights neighborhood, you will see the name “JJ Liston” stamped in the sidewalk – very obviously from a pre-made stamp while the cement was setting. Does anyone know who that is? I just told my daughter a story that it was the company that put in the sidewalk so now when we walk by one of those stamps she always says “Thank you, JJ Liston!” But when I did a google search on the name I didn't come up with any companies or anything by that name.

  13. I wonder if my street name (Earl Ave) is an original or not? It's not a numbered street but I think that's because it's a short street that is between two numerically numbered streets. Anywho it would be interesting to find out…

    On a side note my father in law who has lived in Ballard forever has an old map of Ballard that has all the old street names on it, I should go take a look at it. He found it in his house when he bought it on Crown Hill in 1970. Also there were some old photo's of the house when it was built in the 1920's and it's crazy to see all the “farmland” around the house when it was built. It was one of the first ones on the block so to speak.

  14. On the N.W. corner of 58th Street N.W. at the intersection of 14th N.W. there is a metal marker in the sidewalk stating “Times St.” This is right next to the front door of the glass studio.

  15. Girl Scout Troop 639 participated in the layout drawing workshop. They would have been juniors then – 5th or 6th grade. I think it tied in with a local history badge they were working on.

  16. Thanks, Melinda!- CBCC records from that time are not in my possession, so I could not look it up. I will try to add that to the project info.


  17. Not on that google map as of now, there's one on the SW corner of 34th Ave NW and either NW62 or NW64 St. Don't remember what it says, maybe a numbered street?

  18. Hi, Melinda-M – If you have some photos of the scouts working on the
    project cartoons at the Ballard CC I would love to see them. With
    your permission, I would post them with my other 24th Ave tile project
    photos and info.


  19. If you enjoy photo-documenting places, especially while walking around, you should check out You can make your own StreetView-esque walkarounds from simple photos, and zoom into whatever visual tidbits you find interesting – like Tile Street Markers!

  20. Does anyone remember a tiny restaurant, at the end of a block that came to a point…. it had about 4-5 bar stools in it. served hamburgers? Name… owner? 1970 perhaps?

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