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Aerial view of Ballard shipyard and Lake Washington Ship Canal from south.

Ballardis a neighborhood located in the northwestern part of Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker. To the north it is bounded by Crown Hill, ( N.W. 85th Street); to the east by Greenwood, Phinney Ridge and Fremontmarker (along 8th Avenue N.W.); to the south by the Lake Washington Ship Canalmarker; and to the west by Puget Soundmarker’s Shilshole Baymarker. The neighborhood’s landmarks include the Hiram M.marker Chittenden Locksmarker (known locally as the "Ballard Locks"), the Nordic Heritage Museummarker, the Shilshole Bay Marina, and Golden Gardens Parkmarker.

The neighborhood's main thoroughfares running north-south are Seaview, 32nd, 24th, Leary, 15th, and 8th Avenues N.W.; East-west traffic is carried by N.W. Leary Way and N.W. 85th, 80th, 65th, and Market Streets (east- and westbound). The Ballard Bridgemarker carries 15th Avenue over Salmon Bay to the Interbay neighborhood, and the Salmon Bay Bridgemarker carries the BNSF Railway tracks across the bay, west of the Ballard Locks.

Historic Ballard

Early Settlements

Before the settling of Seattlemarker, the land surrounding Shilshole Baymarker was inhabited by the Shilshole Tribe who lived off the plentiful salmon and clams in the region. The first European resident, homesteader Ira Wilcox Utter, moved to his claim in 1853. Utter hoped to see a rapid expansion of population but that did not happen, so he sold the land to Thomas Burke, a judge. Thirty-six years later, Judge Burke, together with John Leary and railroader Daniel H. Gilman, formed the West Coast Improvement Company to develop Burke's land holdings in the area as they anticipated the building of the Great Northern Railway along the Salmon Bay coastline on the way to Interbay and central Seattle. The partners also built a spur from Fremont’s main line of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad. Today three miles (5 km) of this line, running along Salmon Bay from N.W. 40th Street to the BNSF Railway mainline at N.W. 67th, are operated as the Ballard Terminal Railroad.

During the late 1800s Captain William Rankin Ballard, owner of land adjoining Judge Burke's holdings, joined the partnership with Burke, Leary, and Gilman. Then, in 1887 the partnership was dissolved and the assets divide, but no one wanted the land in Salmon Bay so the partners flipped a coin. Capt. Ballard lost the coin-toss and ended up with the “undesirable” tract.

The railroad to Seattle ended at Salmon Bay because the railroad company was unwilling to build a trestle to cross the bay. From the stop at “Ballard Junction,” (as the terminus was called) passengers could walk across the wagon bridge and continue the journey to Seattle. In addition to gaining notoriety as the end of the railway line fledgling Ballard benefited economically from the railway, because the railroad provided a way to bring supplies into the area and also to export locally manufactured products. Ability to ship products spurred the growth of mills of many types. Ballard’s first mill, built in 1888 by Mr. J Sinclair was a lumber mill; the second mill, finished the same year was a shingle mill. After the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 the mills provided opportunities for those who had lost jobs in the fire, which in turn spurred the growth of the settlement as families moved north to work in the mills.

The City of Ballard: 1890-1907

Ballard City Hall, photographed 1915.
With the rapid population growth the residents realized that there might soon be a need for laws to keep order, a process that would require a formal government. In the late summer of 1889 the community discussed incorporating as a town, but eventually rejected the idea of incorporation. The issue pressed, however, so several months later, on November 4, 1889, the residents again voted on the question and this time they voted to incorporate. The first mayor of Ballard was Charles F. Treat. A municipal census, conducted shortly after the passing vote showed that the new town of Ballard had more than 1500 residents, allowing it to be the first “third class town” to be incorporated in the newly admitted state of Washington.

By 1900, Ballard's population had grown to 4,568 making it the seventh largest city in Washington, and the town was faced with many of the problems common to small towns. Saloons had been a problem since the beginning, and in 1904 the drinking and gambling became so bad that the mayor ordered the City of Ballard officially closed for the day in order to prevent gambling. The city also faced problems with loose livestock, so the Cow Ordinance of 1903 made allowing cows to graze south of present day 65th St. a punishable offense. The city faced more serious problems, however, with two of the most difficult being the lack of both a proper water supply and a sewer system. The one weakness of the location on Salmon Bay was the lack of nearby freshwater springs, which meant that water came from local ground water wells. Lack of a proper sewage system contaminated the ground water, compounding the problem.

The town continued to grow, reaching 17,000 residents by 1907 and becoming the second largest city in King County. However Ballard, like many of the other small cities surrounding Seattle continued to be plagued by water problems. The rapid population growth had overwhelmed the city’s ability to provide services, particularly a safe drinking water and sewer, and Ballard’s city government had tried unsuccessfully to deal with the crises, so the citizens began considering asking Seattle to annex the town. In 1905 the question was voted on and the residents voted against annexation, hoping for a solution, but the problems refused to go away. In July 1906 the Supreme Court ruled that Seattle was not required to share water with surrounding communities. Ballard had been dependent on a water sharing agreement with Seattle, but the Supreme Court decision left them with inadequate water, forcing a second vote on the annexation question. By this time the residents realized the inability of local resources to cope with their situation and the majority of residents voted in favor of annexation. On May 29, 1907 at 3:45pm the city of Ballard officially became part of Seattle. On that day Ballard citizens showed their mixed feelings about the handover by draping their city hall with black crepe and flying the flag at half mast.

Registered Historic Places in Ballard

The following Ballard Buildings, areas and landmarks are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

Ballard Avenue Historic District Along Ballard Avenue N.W. between N.W. Market Street and N.W. Dock Place (added in 1976, ID #76001885).
Ballard Carnegie Librarymarker On N.W. Market Street (added 1979, ID #79002535).
Fire Station No. 18 At the corner of Russell Avenue N.W. and N.W. Market (added 1973, ID #73001876).
Ballard Bridgemarker (added 1982, ID #82004231),
Hiram M.marker Chittenden Locksmarker and the Lake Washington Ship Canalmarker (added 1978, ID #78002751).

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Scandinavian Culture in Ballard

Historically Ballard is the traditional center of Seattle's ethnically Scandinavian seafaring community, who were drawn to the area because of the salmon fishing opportunities. In recent years the decline of the fishing industry, and the addition of numerous condo buildings, has decreased the proportion of Scandinavian residents but the neighborhood is still proud of its heritage. Ballard is home to the Nordic Heritage Museummarker, which celebrates both the community of Ballard and the local Scandinavian history. Each year the community celebrates Norwegian Constitution Day (also called Syttendi Mai) on the 17th of May to commemorate the signing of the Norwegian Constitution.

Locals once nicknamed the neighborhood "Snoose Junction," a reference to the Scandinavian settlers' practice of using snus.

Walking in downtown Ballard, much of the old flavor can still be seen as there are still many shops and bakeries with a Scandinavian theme and some businesses hang out flags from the Scandinavian countries.

Ballard In the 21st Century

The lower part of Ballard Avenue still includes many light industrial businesses.

Architect's office on upper Ballard Avenue, about two blocks south of Market Street.

Ballard Library, a block north of Market Street

Arts and Entertainment

In recent times Ballard has added venues for live music, including bars, restaurants and coffee shops, such as Conor Byrne, Egan's Jam House, Fu Kun Wu @ Thaiku, Kiss Cafe, La Isla, Molly Maguire's, Mr. Spots Chai House, Old Pequliar, Smokin' Pete's BBQ, The Stepping Stone, and The Tractor Tavern.

Each month the Ballard Chamber of Commerce sponsors the Second Saturday Artwalk. Downtown Ballard also boasts a variety of restaurants and local shops.Downtown Ballard is also home to the Majestic Bay Theater, which was the oldest operating movie theater on the West Coast prior to its closure in 1997. In 1998 it was renovated and transformed from a bargain single-screen theater to a well-appointed triplex.

Schools and Libraries

High School

Ballard High School has been supported by the involvement of Amgen, Zymogenetics, G. M. Nameplate, Youth Maritime TrainingAssociation, North Seattle Community College, Seattle City Light, and Swedish Hospital. It is the oldest continuously operating high school in the city. The original building was demolished in the late 1990s. The new school building is now one of the largest in the district and houses a biotechnology magnet program that attracts students from all over Seattle.

Elementary & Middle Schools

There are several elementary schools and one alternative school located in the neighborhood. The closest middle school is Whitman Middle School, which is located north of Ballard in the Crown Hill neighborhood.

Adams Elementary School (K-5)

Loyal Heights Elementary School (K-5)

Whittier Elementary School (K-5)

North Beach Elementary School (K-5)

Salmon Bay School (K-8)


The Ballard Public Library was first created as the Carnegie Free Public Librarymarker in 1904. In 1907, after annexation, the library became part of the Seattle Public Library System. The original Carnegie building was replaced with new construction in 1963. 42 years later, in 2005, a new library building, designed by architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, was opened as part of the Seattle Public Library's "Libraries for All" initiative.

Urban Growth and Development

At the end of the 20th century Ballard began to experience a real-estate boom. By early 2007, nearly 20 major condominium/retail projects were under construction or had just been completed within a five-block radius of downtown Ballard. The new developments will add as many as 2500 new households to the neighborhood. This growth in urban density is the result of the neighborhood plan created by former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice. Mayor Rice’s plan aimed to reduce suburban sprawl by targeting certain Seattle areas, including Ballard, for high-density development.

Transit and growth remain the two most contentious issues in the greater Seattle area. A newly formed nonprofit group, called Sustainable Ballard, is exploring many of these challenges on a community level. The group has adopted the slogan "A Blueprint for EveryTown USA." This fast growing community-wide effort is working on many projects, including “Undriving Ballard,” a transportation campaign to reduce traffic in the neighborhood, and "Get Carbon Neutral," working toward Ballard becoming the first carbon neutral community in the nation, a goal inspired by Al Gore's speech at NYU Law Schoolmarker on September 18, 2006.

Notable people


  1. Ballard Chamber of Commerce Accessed November 12, 2007
  2. Ballard News-Tribune. Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story. (Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988) p21
  3. Ballard News-Tribune. Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story. (Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988) p24
  4. Wandry, Margret. Four Bridges to Seattle: Old Ballard 1853-1907. (Seattle: Ballard Printing & Publishing, 1975) p79
  5. Seattle Municipal Archives, Annexed Cities exhibit [1]
  6. Ballard News-Tribune. Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story. (Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988) p57
  7. Ballard News-Tribune. Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story. (Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988) p62
  8. Bass, Sophie. When Seattle Was a Village. (Seattle: Lowman & Hanford Co., 1947) p 116
  9. “The Water Situation” Ballard News. 6 April 1901
  10. “Notice to Water Consumers.” Ballard News. 6 July 1901
  11. “Would Purchase Municipal Plant.” Ballard News. 12 October 1901
  12. “New Well Connected Up.” Ballard News. 6 July 2007
  13. “New Pump Connected Up.” Ballard News. 13 July 2007
  14. Annexation Cause is Gaining Ground.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 9 November 1905
  15. “Enthusiasm Shown for Annexation.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 11 November 1905
  16. “Ballard Votes to Go At It Alone.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 6 November 1905
  17. “Will Allow Use of City Water.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 20 July 1906
  18. Ballard News-Tribune. Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story. (Seattle: Ballard News-Tribune, 1988) p64
  19. “Ballard Is Now Part of Seattle.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer. 30 May 1907
  20. National Register of Historic Places for King County, Washington, page 1 and page 2. Accessed September 16, 2007.
  21. Ballard Chamber of Commerce - The History of Ballard Accessed October 31, 2007
  22. Accessed 31 October 2007
  23. Seattle Neighborhoods: Ballard -- Thumbnail History
  24. Second Saturday Artwalk Accessed November 10, 2007
  25. Boutique Shops, Neighborhood Pubs, Eclectic Restaurants, and Waterfront Parks in Ballard Accessed November 10, 2007
  26. "Triple feature", The Seattle Weekly, October 11, 2000. Accessed April 5, 2008
  27. Majestic Bay History Accessed November 10, 2007
  28. Seattle Public Schools Report Accessed November 10, 2007
  29. Rockwell Realty, LLC - History of Fremont Accessed December 5, 2007
  30. Ballard High School Biotech Academy Accessed November 11, 2007
  31. Seattle Public Schools District Map. Accessed November 10, 2007
  32. Seattle Public Libraries Website Accessed November 10, 2007
  33. Sustainable Ballard Homepage Accessed October 25, 2006.
  34. Al Gore, Policy address on solving the global climate crisis, September 18, 2006. Accessed October 25, 2006.

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