Then & Now: Ballard’s Street Department Barn

Before the convenience of heavy equipment, road construction was a real challenge for communities, including the growing frontier cities of Ballard and Seattle. Loggers cut the trees, and teams of horses and mules dragged the stumps out of the ground.  If the stump wouldn’t budge, the road would simply be built around it. Streets then had to be cleared of debris, plowed, harrowed, and graded. On these crude roadways, early neighbors navigated through ever present mud and wagon wheel ruts. Improvements in the form of gravel, brick, or wooden planks were laid along main streets to make travel less demanding for horse and buggy riders.

Street Department Barns were used to house horses, wagons, and tools needed to build the boulevards and byways in our growing city.   In the ‘Then’ photo below, there are piles of planks that appear to have been pulled from one of Ballard’s many muddy lanes and left outside the Ballard Barn once located at 1148 NW 54th Street, now the backside of the Koi Apartments. Planked sidewalks and roadways could be seen until the 1930s, when large scale concrete paving efforts began in the neighborhood.  For example, NW 65th Street received its first concrete paving improvements in 1934.

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THEN:  Street Department Barn #4, dated 1914.  Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #57330.

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NOW:  Looking northwest at the Koi Apartments, dated 2016.

In the background of the ‘Then’ photo is Ballard Livery & Transfer Company Stables, located at 14th & Market Street.  At this location you could rent horses, tack, buggies, and more. By 1909, the same year as the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Ballard Livery began advertising “Automobile for hire”,  as seen in The Seattle Times advertisement below.  A sign of changing times.

st 1909 crop

Ballard Livery classified advertisement, dated July 7, 1909.  Courtesy The Seattle Times.

According to HistoryLink.org, between 1906 and 1916, the number of motor vehicles in Washington increased almost 100 times – to 70,000. Between 1915 and 1920, the number of automobiles in the U.S. quintupled to 10 million.  That is a lot of cars driving on dirt, gravel and brick roads.  Look down when you are walking in one of Seattle’s historic districts, some of those bricks can still be found peeking out from below the pavement.

When were the first roads in Washington paved?

In 1904, a survey showed that just 1 percent of the roads in the state was paved. Most of those were within cities. According to HistoryLink.org, these were the first paved roads in Washington.

Who was responsible for roads in early Seattle?

In the growing City of Seattle, the Department of Streets and Sewers was responsible for planning, construction, repair, and cleaning of the City’s streets, sidewalks, and sewers. City Council appointed the first Street Commissioner in 1875. The position came under the jurisdiction of the Board of Public Works in 1890. The position of Superintendent of Streets, Sewers and Parks was established in 1896; authority over parks was removed in 1904. The Department was abolished in 1936 and became the Maintenance Division of the Engineering Department.

then and now dates

Then & Now:  1148 NW 54th Street

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Location of Street Department Ballard Barn.  Map courtesy Google Maps.

Seattle’s First Bertha: Cold War Relic on Phinney Ridge

If you lived in the West Woodland neighborhood between 1953 – 1970, you’ll remember hearing the air raid siren each Wednesday at 12:00 pm.  Long time neighbors have told me that you could set your watch by ‘Big Bertha’, the nickname given the massive Crystler built siren that weighed over 5000 pounds.  Dogs would howl and kids would scramble under their desks each time the siren wailed.  Big Bertha was installed at  North 67th Street & Phinney Avenue North, next to the John B. Allen School, better known as the Phinney Neighborhood Center.

The tower and siren were erected in 1953, a response to the Cold War, Communists, and threat of nuclear annihilation. This tower-siren combination just might be the only remaining example of the 21 that once dotted Seattle neighborhoods, my search turned up *no others. (But there is another!  Please see two updates at bottom of post!)

Why was the air raid siren installed next to a school? According to a Seattle Times article, dated March 24, 1953, the alternative would have been the Woodland Park Zoo.  “The whole thing could be explained to children. But who’s to recite the hard facts of the atomic-age to monkeys…?”  Can’t argue with that logic.

1953

Dated March 24, 1953, courtesy The Seattle Times

In 2011, the Phinney Neighborhood Center, the surrounding buildings and the air raid tower, earned a historic designation.  The Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation listed the John B. Allen property on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places. The property is also designated a Seattle landmark and home to the Phinneywood Monkeys during the winter holidays!

Additional information about this property is available HERE.

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Air Raid Siren Installation, April 22, 1953.  Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #44281.

Tower - North 02 with date

Then & Now:  Looking north at 67th & Phinney

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Air Raid Siren Installation, April 22, 1953.  Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #44285.

Tower - North with date

Then & Now:  Looking south at 67th & Phinney

Bonus Picture:

The City of Seattle routinely photographs public works projects, events, sites, facilities, and elected officials for current use and as a record of events. The photo below, of North 67th Street & Phinney Ave., was taken to record the creation of a traffic channel for motorist.  This “channelization” is now a part of the Heart of Phinney Park.  

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Looking north at North 67th Street & Phinney Ave North, 1951.  Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #54427

Click HERE to explore the current view.


*Update #1 (04/03/2016):  

Dave Hoover, neighbor & history enthusiast, found a photo on Instagram  that shows an air siren tower, just like ‘Big Bertha’ at Northacres Park.  There is no mention of the tower on the Seattle Parks Department webpage.

I headed out to the park this morning & indeed the siren & tower are still standing!  There is no informational plaque available on site.  I will call the Parks Department and see what information they are able to provide.  Stay tuned!

Northacres Park 04 03 2016

*Update #2 (04/05/2016):

Message from Seattle Parks & Recreation

“I was not able to track down any historical information about the air-raid siren at Northacres Park. You might have more luck researching through the library.

The only information I could find from staff is that the air-raid siren is not designated as a landmark and that we currently do not have any plans to move the siren or do anything with it.

Thanks,

Christina

Christina Hirsch
Strategic Communications Advisor
Seattle Parks and Recreation”

The accidental neighborhood historian

After my baby boy was born, I filled long hours with walks around my neighborhood. Not the kind that simply take you from point A to point B, but walks where I would loose myself in the trees, flowers, and architecture of the neighborhood. The questions started during a spring stroll in March 2013. Why does that home look like an old grocery store? Why is 5th Ave NW wider than the rest of the roads in the neighborhood? A digital camera became my constant companion and the photos of buildings, roads, and other neighborhood landmarks were researched during baby boy’s nap time.

It didn’t take long to realize I knew nothing about my neighborhood.  I didn’t even know I lived in Ballard. Armed only with curiosity and a laptop, I began my research. During one walk I photographed an apartment building near NW 65th Street with the words “The West Woodland Apts.” etched in stone above the front entrance.  Why would a building about a mile from West Woodland Elementary School share the same name?  A quick online search of “West Woodland” revealed a photo of the Woodland Theater. My first discovery, and another question.  Why do these locations all have “Woodland” in their name?  The hunt continued.

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The West Woodland Apartments at 6512 5th Ave.NW.

I shared the discoveries with my neighbors and in return they sent more locations for me to research.  Long time locals thanked me for collecting their memories and photos. A few wondered if West Woodland would be forgotten in our rapidly changing city.

I love my hobby.  The research is exciting and I enjoy giving back to the community I call home – West Woodland, Ballard.  When you’re out on your next walk, look beyond the pealing paint, the angular addition, or that overgrown hedge. It’s worth the effort to uncover Seattle history hiding in plain sight.

Connecting with Paul Dorpat & Jean Sherrard

I’ve been reading the ‘Now & Then’ column since I was in Elementary School.  Every Sunday while my sister Sandy and brother John fought over the funny pages, I would grab Pacific Magazine out of the middle of the Times and flip to the back page.  The old photos of Seattle were mesmerizing.  I knew I was holding something special, so I carefully cut each one out and saved in a photo album my Mom kindly purchased for me.

Fast forward to 2015, the photo album has long since been discarded, but I continued to read ‘Now & Then’ online. One sunny Sunday scrolling through the archives, I realized West Woodland had never been highlighted. I mustered up the courage and sent an email to Paul Dorpat, my childhood hero.  When he called me a week later, I totally gushed on the phone. Absolutely star-struck.  I collected myself after a few minutes and got down to business. “Please write a column about West Woodland!”, I said.  He agreed and the rest is now history.

ST - 03 27 2016 - Pierce

Classic Home Tour Hosted By Ballard Historical Society

bhsEvery three years, the Ballard Historical Society showcases the solid craftsmanship of Ballard homes. The 2013 home tour was a success, and they’re doing it again this year!

Mark your calendars for Ballard Historical Society’s Classic Home Tour to be held on Sunday, June 26, 2016. This year’s slate of nine vintage houses were built between 1900-1931.  The homes will be open for public view from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. that day as a fundraiser to benefit Ballard Historical Society, a non-profit.

These well-maintained homes will draw you back to an era of solid craftsmanship, beauty, and style. Some on the tour exemplify the thoughtful integration of an older home’s necessary updates while still embracing the scale and period in which the house was built.

$20 tour tickets will go on sale in early June. For more information, keep an eye out for updates on their Facebook page and website.

Want to volunteer?

Are you interested in volunteering for the 2016  Ballard Classic Home Tour and touring the houses free of charge?  Please email our Classic Home Tour Coordinator, Lesli Cook.

Join the Ballard Historical Society!

The Ballard Historical Society relies on members to help preserve the history and culture of Ballard.  They compile archives of historical Ballard photos, hosts lectures and take on exciting new community project to improve our unique neighborhood.

Attending BHS events, visiting the web site and keeping in touch via their blog is a great way to honor one of the best things about our neighborhood — it’s colorful history!

Learn more about the benefits of membership HERE.

The Ghosts of Seattle Past

ghostsThe Ghosts of Seattle Past is an anthology and art installation designed to preserve memories of place – gathering spots, restaurants, shops, art venues, and community institutions lost to rapid development in Seattle.

The project started with editor/curator Jaimee Garbacik, mapmaker Josh Powell, and designer Jon Horn conducting interviews with community members, inviting the public to share places they miss.  The team also created a digital map where anyone could pin and note their memories of a lost space, you can find the map HERE.

The team will be using the map as a reference as they create hand-drawn maps featuring everywhere Seattleites miss. The art installation includes an atlas of essays, photography, and art from those who wish to commemorate a lost space.

The Ghosts of Seattle Past team is collaborating with Chin Music Press to compile and publish an anthology of the most striking and representative pieces of the art installation. The book will come out in or before 2017, but in the meantime this labor of love is ongoing.

They are hoping the public continues to share stories and art to be included in this project. Their goal is to make sure that as many different voices are represented as possible from all of Seattle’s communities.

Would you like to participate?

They’re looking for essays, people to interview, or any artwork or photography they can print to help preserve the city’s collective memories. If there is someone who you think would be a good fit for our project, they would also like for you to share their contact information.

Many of the places we love are disappearing, please help in creating something that lasts.

Contact Information:

Cali Kopczick
Editor, Chin Music Press
cali@chinmusicpress.com
(360) 531-3337

The #27 Trolley Line

Walks through the neighborhood usually turn into a history lesson for anyone with me. The old buildings all hold stories waiting to be uncovered and shared.  Clues to our neighborhood’s past are everywhere – embedded in the sidewalk, under vinyl siding, or shared in the memory of a longtime resident. When we are looking, with our eyes and ears, we find clues that provide a peek into the past.

I was one of the many volunteers photographing pre-1960 homes this past February as part of the Ballard Historical Society’s mapping project. My assigned route took me from 8th Ave NW to 14th Ave NW, where I met David Smith, owner of Blowing Sands Glass Studio.

with address 2016-02-06 14.07.54

David showed me around his building, sharing bits of history he had gathered using old property records and photos obtained from the Puget Sound Archives.  As I was leaving he showed me the old City of Ballard street name plaque embedded in the sidewalk outside his shop and our conversation turned to trolleys.

Pre-1907, 14th Ave NW was Railroad Avenue and the #27 trolley ran the length of the street, taking passengers north to East Sloop Street, today’s NW 70th Street.  There was a “T” or turn around at NW 70th Street so the trolley was able to face forward on the way back into town.  Photo of the #27 trolley below, courtesy the University of Washington.  Current view of this location can be found HERE.

Ballard trolley

Trolley lines were important in the development and expansion of early Ballard.  The northern frontier neighborhoods, including Loyal Heights & West Woodland, owe their growth to the introduction of the trolley line.  Most roads in the area were not paved until the 1930s, making travel dirty and difficult.  Trolleys made the rural north end accessible to those wanting to buy property or a home of their own.

1915 Trolley map

Note the 14th Ave NW railway Bridge that once connected Ballard and Interbay.  Courtesy Seattle Department of Transportation.

As I walked home along 14th Ave NW, I wondered what our city would be like today if the trolley rails had not been torn up and replaced by gasoline powered buses in the 1940s. The convenience of commuting from Ballard to Fremont, Queen Anne & beyond, car free, no parking problems, makes the trip sound down right delightful.

The future of 14th Ave NW includes a park that will provide much needed green space in park starved Ballard.  This two block outdoor oasis, stretching from NW 59th to NW 61st Street, will become the front yard for neighbors who live in the many condos and townhomes lacking outdoor access. Perhaps someday the park will stretch south, following the trolley line, creating a refreshing refuge for years to come.

Learn more about Seattle’s Trolley History HERE and the 14th Ave NW Park HERE.

 

 

Then & Now: Market Street in 1953

The Seattle Municipal Archives Photograph Collection is a time machine of sorts, providing Seattleites with the ability to look back in time at their city, neighborhood, and block.  I browse the archives for fun, looking at old photos, maps, and other city documents that are available online, that is how I came across the photos for this post.  I had seen them several times, but never investigated further because the description provided by the city was limited to the following:

Balenger

That was it.  No address or other indication of location was provided.  Armed with the plat name, I went to work locating the approximate address of the photos you’ll see below.  I was surprised to find that these photos were of homes on Market Street, between 6th & 7th Ave NW.  When you think of Market, you don’t think “residential street”, you think noise, big trucks, and traffic!  These photos paint a different picture of Market and it looks rather quiet.

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Kroll Map of 1920.  Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives Map Index, #1868.

The photos were part of a petition to the city, by Belanger and Belanger, asking that two parcels located in Block 2 of Ballard’s Addition to Gilman Park be rezoned. The request is dated January 26, 1953, which was four years after the Ballard – UW Extension, also known as the Ballard Spur, was created in 1949.

Ballard’s Addition to Gilman Park is a plat name provided by a long forgotten frontier developer, and block 2, which was reference by the city, is circled in red on the Kroll Map. This plat is made up of 10 blocks in the heart of the West Woodland Neighborhood, bordered by Market Street to the north, NW 50th Street to the south, and between 8th Ave NW & 3rd Ave NW.

The city denied the Belanger’s request for a rezone that year.  I wasn’t able to find what zoning the Belanger’s were requesting, or why their request was denied.  More to hunt down later.  Enjoy the Market Street views circa 1953.

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Looking south west on Market Street.  The street sign on the left side shows 6th Ave NW.  Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 168422.

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Then – January 26, 1953 & Now – March 9, 2016

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Looking south on 7th Ave NW towards Market Street.  Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 168424.

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Then & Now

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Looking south east near 7th Ave NW & Market Street in 1953.  Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 168423.

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Then & Now

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Looking south west near 7th Ave NW & Market Street in 1953.  Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 168421.

6th and market - SW 2

Then & Now

About Plat Names:

Plats in Seattle have unique names provided by the land owner.  So while you may live on the west side of Phinney, your plat name may be something Ballard related.  Most plat names in our area were assigned during the land grab between the City of Ballard & City of Seattle, and owners may have chosen names to show where their allegiance lie.

In 1895, one frontier neighbor even went so far as to deed the City of Ballard a huge chunk on land on the west side of Phinney Hill.  This parcel later became Greenwood Park, see Baist Map of 1905 below. Today, there’s just a sliver of this park remaining – Greenwood Triangle Park.

A plat is a section of surveyed land that the owner has created a plan for, including lot sizes and identifying where they believe streets will be.  A plat document is used for construction purposes, filing for permits with the city, and showing to prospective buyers. The document shows how the area will be developed for personal use or lots sold for home building, but it does not mean that the area is already developed with basic infrastructure like roads. Sometimes items shown on plat documents are for future planning purposes and they currently only exist on paper.  Something to consider when looking at old documents.

You may find that you live in a plat called “Steel Works Addition” or “Salmon Bay City”, both on the west side of Phinney Hill.  Remember those are not neighborhood names, they are simply names assigned to a specific chunk of land by the property owner.  You can learn about Seattle’s current plat process available HERE.

Baist map 1905

One Final Shot of Market Street:

This photo was taken 2 years after the photos above, in 1955, and was part of the file created to document the completion of the Market Street Widening project.  Look closely at the right hand side of this photo, you can see the mid-century house that was once on the lot Belanger wanted to rezone.  There are several other data points you can compare & connect with the photos above.  I won’t point them all out – enjoy the hunt!

Market and 8th - Aug 1955

Looking east from 8th Ave NW & Market Street, 1955.  Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, 52744.

Then and Now - Market and 8th

Then & Now