Parade celebrating Seattle's rebuilt Ballard Bridge takes place on May 25, 1940.

  • By Priscilla Long
  • Posted 7/18/2001
  • Essay 3453
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On May 25, 1940, a parade to celebrate Seattle's rebuilt Ballard Bridge takes place. Called the "new" Ballard Bridge, this is in essence the old bridge with new approaches ("Key Opens New Span..."). The original bascule bridge was built in 1917 in conjunction with the Lake Washington Ship Canal. The rebuilt bridge retains the original piers and double bascule leaves, but features new approaches made of concrete and steel to replace the rickety and hazardous wooden-trestle approaches of the original bridge. Ballard citizens have agitated long and hard for this work to be done. Governor Clarence D. Martin (1887-1955) leads the parade across the bridge and Seattle Mayor Arthur B. Langlie (1900-1966) wields a huge key to symbolically open the span. The bridge crosses Salmon Bay and the Lake Washington Ship Canal at 15th Avenue NW.

In 1937 the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance for work to begin on reconstructing the bridge. The job of replacing the timber approaches took a year and a half and included the addition of ornamental lighting. The cost was $800,000, funded 45 percent by the federal Depression-era Works Progress Administration and the remainder by Seattle's share of the state gas tax.

The work closed the roadway for the year and a half of construction. For the duration, people crossing the ship canal had to drive over the Fremont Bridge or the Aurora Bridge. 

A parade to celebrate the "new" Ballard Bridge was held on Saturday May 25, 1940. Governor Clarence D. Martin officiated and led the parade across the bridge. The recently elected "king" of the Ballard District, Donn H. Frizzell (1920-1986), a University of Washington freshman and a graduate of Ballard High School, reigned over the parade. Serving as co-royalty was Elizabeth Wright, Central District "queen." Seattle Mayor Arthur J. Langlie (1900-1966) wielded a huge key to symbolically open the span.


"Issues of Election March 8," The Seattle Times, March 3, 1932, p. 2; "Ballard Begins Final Drive to Improve Bridge," Ibid., March 6, 1932, p. 12; "Clubs Are Aiding Ballard Plan," Ibid., November 6, 1937, p. 4; "Key Opens New Span to Ballard," Ibid., May 26, 1940, p. 55; "Annual Report of the [Seattle] City Engineer for the Year Ending December 31, 1936," Engineering Reports, Box 2, Office of City Clerk, Annual Reports, 1802-G2 (1931-1949), Seattle Municipal Archives; Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, "Ballard Bridge (Seattle)" (by Priscilla Long), accessed April 4, 2017. See also: Susan Cook, "Fat and Lean Years -- 1920s-1940s" in Passport to Ballard: The Centennial Story ed. by Kay Reinartz (Seattle: Ballard News Tribune, 1988), 106, 109.
Note: This essay was corrected and substantially rewritten on April 4, 2017.

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