A look back at Nix Auto Wrecking & Ballard’s Gasoline Alley

You won’t see a ‘For Sale’ sign when you drive by 1400 NW Leary Way, but the long-time home of Nix Auto Wrecking, built in 1928, is on the market for $2.1 million. The lot is in Ballard’s old “Gasoline Alley” and was already home to a junk yard when it was purchased by Edward Prestek in 1939.  After retiring from his business in 1974, Nix Auto Wrecking was passed to his stepson Gerald Murphy, who is the current property owner.

Nix Auto Wrecking is a hold out of sorts, with nearby neighbors like Trader Joe’s, Quest Church, and Office Max, it is hard to believe that this area was once considered NW Seattle’s scrapheap for totaled cars, old tires, and more.  It is the last of it’s kind in the West Woodland, Ballard neighborhood and will be the end of an era once sold and the lot cleared for development.

An article dated February 26, 1996 in the Seattle Times, three days after Prestek had passed away at the age of 83, gives us an idea of how much Prestek enjoyed sales. (Edward Prestek – Feb 1996)

Once in the 1950s, Murphy said, Mr. Prestek sold the transmission of a junker he usually drove back and forth to work.  Unfortunately, he had no way to get home that evening so – always the improviser – he picked the only other junker that was driveable.

The car’s transmission was bad – only the reverse gear worked.  No matter. Mr. Prestek drove the car home backwards, from Ballard to the Shoreline area, and backwards to Ballard the next morning.”

Another great story in the Seattle Times, dated September 12, 1965, details a reoccurring theft issue at Nix Auto Wrecking. Playful high-jinx, or perhaps something more sinister, the article doesn’t share much more.

Nix Auto Wrecking - Theft

Time To Clean-Up:

Scrolling through the Seattle Municipal Archives (SMA), you will find at least 45 photos related to Nix Auto Wrecking violations.  At the time, Nix Auto Wrecking was storing cars on property and public streets from the Ballard Bridge, west on Leary, all the way to NW 47th Street.  The volume of cars is astounding to look at in the photos.

The city documented the violations with photographs that are surprising to look at.  Junk cars line the street and are left on the side walks and median.  For a pedestrian attempting to stay out of traffic, you would have to avoid the area all together, perhaps walking blocks out of your way just to use a clear sidewalk.


Below are three “Then & Now” photo groupings, looking east, from near the corner of NW 47th Street and Leary Way.

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NW 47th and Leary - 1961 and 2016

Looking east from near the corner of NW 47th Street and Leary way.  In the background, right side, you can see the auto garage that would become the home of Redhook Brewery in 1981.  Now & Then pairing above, 1961 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #66603.

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NW 47th and Leary - 1962 and 2016 (02).jpg

Looking east from near the corner of NW 47th Street and Leary way.  Now & Then pairing above, 1962 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #71267.

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NW 47th and Leary - 1962 and 2016

Looking east from near the corner of NW 47th Street and Leary way.  Now & Then pairing above, 1962 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #71262.


Below are four “Then & Now” photo groupings, from near the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW Leary Way.

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14th Ave NW and Leary - 1951 and 2016

Looking west from near the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW Leary way.  Now & Then pairing above, 1951 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #42552.

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14th Ave NW and Leary - 1962 and 2016

Looking west from near the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW Leary way.  Now & Then pairing above, 1962 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #71266.

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14th Ave NW and Leary - 1961 and 2016

Looking northwest from near the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW Leary Way. Now & Then pairing above, 1961 & 2016. Photo courtesy SMA, Item #66606.

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14th Ave NW and Leary - 1962 and 2016 - looking NE

Looking northwest from near the corner of 14th Ave NW and NW Leary way.  Now & Then pairing above, 1962 & 2016.  Photo courtesy SMA, Item #71260.


As I mentioned before, there were 45 photos available online showing areas around NW Leary Way from 1948 – 1962.  If you would like to see all of them, check out Seattle Municipal Archives online and use search term “Nix Auto”.  Click HERE to search.

 

 

 

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