Chief Seattle Thelma Dewitty Thomas Foley Carrie Chapman Catt Anna Louise Strong Mark Tobey Helene Madison Home
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7099 essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Cybertour Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Ballard Tour Essay 7041

Click here to start the tour

This is a tour of Ballard, the historic Seattle neighborhood. Also available as a printable walking tour (PDF format). Written by Walt Crowley. Curated by Chris Goodman. Presented by the City of Seattle.


Ballard is a singular Seattle neighborhood with an unmistakable Scandinavian accent. A city in its own right between 1890 and 1906, Ballard built a handsome business district now preserved as a national and local historic district. The nearby Fishermen's Terminal, Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Shilshole Marina, and Golden Gardens Park attract tens of thousands of visitors each year. Ballard is located along Salmon Bay in northwest Seattle, and easily reached from downtown via Elliott and 15th avenues or Aurora Avenue.

This tour begins by focusing on the Ballard business and historic districts, then expands to include nearby attractions.

Note: This tour is intended for personal use only and was prepared by HistoryLink for the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development, Tourist Division. Copyright 2001, City of Seattle. All references to contemporary businesses in this tour date from June 2001. They are cited for orientation and information purposes only and do not imply recommendation or endorsement by the City of Seattle or by HistoryLink.


The first claim in the future city and neighborhood of Ballard was filed in 1852, the same year settlers arrived in Seattle itself. Development proceeded slowly until railroad entrepreneurs Thomas Burke and Daniel Gilman (remembered now with the Burke-Gilman Trail) assembled a large tract in 1888 for the construction of a new community.

Meanwhile, a ship's captain named William Rankin Ballard lost a bet with a business partner and found himself the owner of 160 acres of seemingly worthless logged-off land adjacent to the planned Gilman Park development. Burke and Gilman hired him to manage their project, and appreciative residents named their new city after Ballard when they incorporated in 1890.
The new town grew quickly thanks to new electric streetcars linking it to Seattle and thanks to the establishment of numerous lumber and shingle mills along Salmon Bay. Meanwhile, the influx of immigrants escaping famine and tensions in Scandinavia provided a skilled work force for local mills and fishing fleets. The popularity of chewing tobacco among these new arrivals earned the neighborhood the nickname "Snoose Junction."

A new business district rose along Ballard Avenue NW and the town built a handsome City Hall in 1899. Legend has it that Ballard decreed a perfect balance between vice and virtue by limiting saloon licenses to the number of churches in the city, but the municipal government had trouble delivering basic services such as potable water. Ballardites voted reluctantly in 1906 to annex to Seattle, but their neighborhood retained its distinctive culture.

The output of Ballard's mills made it the "Shingle Capital of the World," and the Port of Seattle built Fishermen's Terminal to house Ballard's fishing fleet on the south shore of Salmon Bay in 1913. Four years later, the opening of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and Government Locks (now named for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district head Hiram Chittenden) created new economic opportunities for maritime commerce.

In recent years, "Old Ballard" has become a hub for a wide array of ethnic cafes from Cajun to Asian and lively music clubs. It remains a "city within a city" with its own pace and special flavor that reminds us of a gentler era in Seattle history. Local groups and merchants sponsor an evening Arts Walk on historic Ballard Avenue on the second Saturday of every month.

To learn more, visit the Nordic Heritage Museum, located in north Ballard at 3014 NW 67th Street (206-789-5707;

Click here to start the tour

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Seattle Neighborhoods |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

Ballard Avenue from City Hall, Ballard, ca. 1900

Ballard Bridge, with original wooden approaches, Seattle, March 13, 1918
Photo by James P. Lee, Courtesy UW Special Collections (Image No. Lee 4023)

Carnegie Free Public Library (Henderson Ryan, 1904), Ballard, 1911
Courtesy MOHAI (Image No. 1983.10.6837)

Brower's Grocery, 6th Avenue NW and NW Market Street, Ballard, n.d.
Courtesy Leonard Nordine

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM) is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email