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A Concise History of the City of Ballard

Ballard today is known for its strong Scandinavian ties and for its character as a small town within the big city. Those reputations spring from its origins as the city of Ballard, Washington, established in 1889.

The city of Ballard prospered primarily because of its lumber and shingle mills along the industrial waterfront. By 1905, more red cedar shingles were being produced in the ten shingle mills here than in any other community nationwide.

Only a block from the mills, a bustling commercial district developed along Ballard Avenue. The business district remains largely intact today and has been protected by a Seattle City Ordinance as an Historic Landmark District. Its buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Like many small communities on the outskirts of a growing Seattle, Ballard quickly outgrew its resources. Primarily due to lack of adequate water for its population of 15,000, Ballard citizens voted to be annexed to Seattle in 1907. But annexation did not put an end to Ballard. The fishing and boat building industries, begun as small family operations, were growing in importance. In 1914, Fishermen's Terminal was established on the south shore of Shilshole Bay. Its facilities continue to grow today to accommodate one of the largest fishing fleets on the West Coast.

The Ballard Locks, built in 1912-1917, and the Ship Canal project (1911-1934), separated forever the fresh water shoreline from the saltwater tide and vastly improved the area for industry, providing livelihoods for generations to follow.

Market Street became the focus of business in downtown Ballard in the 1930's. The Ballard businesses and the community continue to seek improvements for the commercial district, while seeking to maintain a balance of industry, history and community.

Ballard continues to be known for those aspects of its history that gave it its unique flavor - its immigrant heritage, its blue-collar population tied to maritime and lumber industries, and its wide residential community dotted with church spires. As you visit our neighborhood today, you will get an "inside" look at the homes and the people upon whom the community has been built.

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Ballard Historical Society, PO Box 17775, Seattle, Washington, 98127.info@ballardhistory.org    

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