The Scandinavian sites of Ballard

As Syttende Mai approaches, MyBallard examines Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. Last week we looked at the Scandinavian culinary gems, and today we tour some of the neighborhood’s historical and cultural markers.

A drive or walk along Seaview Avenue at the western edge of Ballard takes residents and visitors right by the Leif Erikson memorial, where a statue of the Norse explorer looks out over Shilshole Bay and the boats moored in the marina.

A Shilshole icon for decades, the statue was a gift to the city from the Norwegian American community, and was unveiled during the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. It now sits surrounded by rune stones bearing the names of Scandinavian immigrants, a relatively new tribute to Scandinavian immigrants, which the Leif Erikson International Foundation, or LEIF, unveiled in October 2007.

To the east, in the heart of the Sunset Hill neighborhood, the Nordic Heritage Museum lies nestled in a residential area just off 32nd. The museum shares the history and culture of each Scandinavian country through exhibits featuring dioramas, artifacts, clothing, events and classes for children and adults, special exhibits, and more.

Here’s a look at a couple upcoming events at the museum:

– May 14: Concert by Ole Morten Velde and Erlend Hetterud – Two of Norway’s finest musicians will be in concert at the museum. Pianist Erlend Hetterud is from Bergen, Norway and Vocalist Ole Morten Velde is from Haugesund, Norway.
– May 15: Kids with Cameras – Taught by a Swedish teacher and photographer, children will learn about digital photography and take photos that will be displayed in an informal exhibit at the museum.
(Confirm class times, dates, and prices with the museum.)

In Downtown Ballard, Bergen Place Park is a small, urban park along Market Street, where Leary Avenue and 22nd meet. Named after Seattle’s Sister City Bergen, the park features several sculptures by artist Jenn Lee Dixon called “Witness Trees,” and a mural depicting Scandinavian culture. Norway’s King Olaf dedicated the park in 1975.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of Ballard’s Scandinavian heritage. Now we want to hear from you. Where do you see examples of the community’s Scandinavian roots? How have you seen it change throughout the years?

Daytona Strong is a freelance writer for She has years of journalism under her belt producing/writing for television and writing for print. She and her husband live in the neighborhood.

4 thoughts to “The Scandinavian sites of Ballard”

  1. Great idea! For the 100th anniversary of District 2, Sons of Norway, which includes Leif Erikson Lodge 2-001 here in the heart of Ballard, we are developing a list of 100 sites in Washington (Ballard has a huge amount–so many we couldn’t include them all as we needed to include other places as well), Oregon, Idaho, Alaska with additional places in British Columbia, California, Utah, etc which were once part of District 2 until we got so big.

    Will send you a list after it debuts on May 20 at our centennial celebration!

    Christine Anderson
    District 2 Historian and Ballardite

  2. Ballard has changed in many ways over the 30 years that I have been here. I love the changes; the interesting places to eat, shop, and engage in new ways. I do also appreciate the symbols and monuments that the article highlighted. They are a reminder to me of my own heritage, and the spirit of the immigrants that braved an uncertain future for the hope of something more. That is exactly the same spirit that continues with vibrant/creative/wonderful new neighbors that possess the essence of what Ballard has always been. It is a good thing to honor the past and still be able to move forward and enjoy change.

  3. You forgot to mention an formerly Must-See Scandahoovian site,the former Walhalla Tavern,now re-named..
    Site of many quaffings of ale from the drinking horns of retireing sea-rovers..And,not a few battles over miscellaneous scandia rhine-maidens/valkyrian ladies of Ballard…

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