The Ballard Avenue Landmark District holds a significant place in Seattle history. The uniquely-preserved state of Ballard Avenue provides visitors with a window into the heyday of Ballard's industrial and commercial era.
The City of Ballard was incorporated in 1889 and functioned as an independent municipality for the next 16 years. The city's early economy was driven by lumber mills. By 1896, Ballard was known as the "Shingle Mill Capital of the World." The Salmon Bay shoreline, from the Ballard Bridge to the present-day location of the Ballard Locks, was home to 18 lumber and shingle mills. A nascent fishing fleet was also developing to harvest halibut and salmon off the Washington Coast.
Many unsuccessful attempts to maintain an independent water system resulted in Ballard's annexation to Seattle. When a 1906 Washington Supreme Court ruling awarded Seattle exclusive rights to the Cedar River watershed, city leaders concluded that annexation to Seattle was the best solution. After months of heated discussion, on May 29, 1907, the annexation measure passed by a narrow margin of 122 votes.
In response to the prosperity generated by the thriving mill district, Ballard Avenue quickly became a busy commercial district serving the needs of the milling and fishing industries. Services ranged from industrial equipment and supplies to banks, bard, and boarding houses. Businesses offering commercial goods, lodging and entertainment were established. The architectural landscape of Ballard Avenue in 1880s and 1890s was very different from its current appearance. Prosperous business owners replaced the original simple wooden structures with the handsome brick and masonry buildings that make up this historic district. The dirt street with boardwalks was eventually paved and street lighting was installed.
While Ballard has existed as a City of Seattle neighborhood for more than a century, the community's residents - old-timers and newcomers alike - have a strong identification with, and devotion to , Ballard's unique history and traditions. The spirit of independence and loyalty still resonates. The installation of these historical markers on Ballard Avenue enables residents and visitors to interact with the rich history of the once City of Ballard. The plaques also highlight the protected status of Ballard Avenue, which was designated a City and National Landmark District in the mid-1970s.