Constructed 1909 for James O’Donnell and designed by F.F. Travis, the Ballard Hotel building has been extensively altered. However, it is of historic importance and contributes to the character of the the Ballard Avenue Landmark District. The Ballard Avenue Landmark District encompasses a particularly well preserved section of one of several successful small towns that flourished around the perimeter of Seattle in the late nineteenth century and would be subsequently incorporated into the metropolis. Ballard Avenue is lined with an intact collection of modest scale commercial buildings that reflect the development of the community’s main commercial street between 1890 and 1930. The character of this distinctive historic streetscape was primarily preserved because it was by-passed by Post-War era development that instead occurred along modern arterials - Market Street and 15th Avenue, to the north and east. In 1976, the Ballard Avenue Landmark District was formally designated a local historic district by the City of Seattle and was also listed in the National Register of Historic Places (Ballard Avenue Historic District).
This historic property is directly associated with the post annexation era of commercial and industrial development (1908-1930) when after the annexation of Ballard to Seattle, substantial construction continued to occur along Ballard Avenue and it remained the commercial center of the community. However, commercial development occurred at a slower pace and was more concentrated near NW Market Street. Three distinctive reinforced concrete buildings were built early in this period; the Hyde & Fitzgerald Building (aka Eagles Building, 1908), the O’Donnell Hotel Building (1909) and the Ballard Savings & Loan Building (1914). Gradually new construction and business activity became much more concentrated near Market Street.
During this era Ballard, and Seattle as a whole, became more auto-oriented and associated businesses, including a Ford showroom, were established on Ballard Avenue. The streetscape changed significantly after 1916 when prohibition was instituted and long-established local saloons were converted to tobacco, candy, ice cream and soft drink businesses. The 5-year long construction and the completion of the nearby Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1916 also spurred major changes within the local community and increased industrial and commercial fishing activity. Prior to the construction of the locks, barges and ships could only dock at Salmon Bay during high tide, whereas after the construction the waterway remained at a much more constant lake level, which was conducive for shipping and product distribution purposes. The creation of the ship canal also required the construction of a new Ballard Bridge (1918) and spurred associated road improvement and paving projects. With traffic revisions and roadway improvements, Market Street (formerly Broadway Street) began to be developed as the principal commercial thoroughfare. In 1927-28, the completion of the massive Ballard Building established Market Street as the modern commercial center in Ballard. However, numerous distinctive commercial buildings continued to be built along Ballard Avenue up until the onset of the Depression era.
The Seattle Post Intelligencer (10-18-1908 Real Estate Sec.p.3) reported that James O’Donnell would have a reinforced concrete building the building that was designed by FF. Travis constructed at the corner of Ballard Avenue and Dock Place. F.F. Travis is an obscure Seattle architect who appears to had an active practice in Seattle between 1904 and 1915. He is reported to have designed numerous apartment buildings that were built in various neighborhoods and a lodge hall in Fremont. However, extant properties associated with him have yet to be identified. The Seattle Post Intelligencer published an article on November 16, 1908 (2nd Sec., p.1) entitled “Reinforced Concrete Building for Ballard” which also announced the construction of the O’Donnell Block. DPD microfilm building permit records include Permit #69307 issued November 21, 1908 to James O’Donnell for the construction of a three story concrete hotel to cost $10,000. A prior permit (#68424) was issued to move an existing building from the site. On June 14, 1909 (2nd sec. pg.1) the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published a photograph of the nearly completed building and described it as the “one of most modern buildings in Ballard” and heralded the modern reinforced concrete construction noting that it would serve as stores, office and living rooms. The building became established as the Ballard Hotel and operated as such until at least 1972. Sometime prior to 1981, it was extensively remodeled and modernized. The distinctive corner bay window, denticulated cornice, ornate double-hung windows were all removed, the building was clad with modern concrete stucco and the historic storefront eliminated.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
Property Record Cards (1937-1972). Washington State Regional Archives, Puget Sound Regional Branch, Bellevue, WA.
“Ballard Avenue Historic District” National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Form (Prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter, OAHP, April 1976.)
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Seattle, Wash. Philadelphia: W.G. Baist, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.