Constructed in 1905, the Palmer Building is among the oldest, most intact and architecturally significant historic buildings within 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 a crucial era in the commercial and industrial development of Ballard (1900-1907) when the commercial district along Ballard Avenue was fully established and a significant number of permanent buildings were constructed. By the early 1900s Ballard became known as the “Shingle Capital of the World” with approximately twenty lumber and shingle mills in full operation. In addition to the mill operations the industrialized shoreline included iron foundries, machine shops, paint manufactures, shipyards, pipe making plants and boiler works. Substantial commercial buildings were constructed along Ballard Avenue as the local population grew to over 10,000 residents (including 3,400+ school age children) by 1904. During this era Ballard Avenue functioned as a full service commercial street populated by numerous boarding houses, hotels and lodging houses, clothing merchants, banks, hardware dealers, druggists, dry good stores, laundry businesses, meat markets, restaurants, theaters and saloons. Gradually, the earliest wood-frame structures were replaced by more permanent – often architect designed – commercial buildings. Among the distinctive masonry and stone buildings that date from this era and most of which continue to characterize the streetscape are the G.B. Sanborn Block (1901, Portland Building (1901), Felt Block/Jones Building (1901, demolished), St. Charles Hotel (1902), Deep Sea Fisherman’s Building (1902), Scandinavian American Bank (1902), Matthes Block (1903), Kelsey Block (1903), Junction/Lombardini Block (1904), Kutzner Block (1904), Barthelemy Bros. Hardware Building (c.1904), Ernst Brothers Hardware Building (1904, demolished), A.L. Palmer Building (1905), Theisen Block (1905), Ballard Hardware Supply (1905), Peterson Hardware Co. (c.1905), Markussen Building (1905), and the Enquist Block (1906). In late 1906 Ballard residents approved annexation and the town became part of the City of Seattle on January 1, 1907. The boom era of major commercial construction began to lessen after the annexation.
[aka 5100-5102] Believed to have been constructed in 1905. Efforts to identify the original architect or builder of this historic property have been unsuccessful. The building was designed to function with two storefront level shops and lodging and/or rooms at the second floor. According to historic 1905 insurance maps its original address was 164-166 Ballard Avenue, which also identified it as having “2 stores” and “lodgings 2nd” and noted the rear stairs and porches at the rear NE elevation. According to historic 1905 insurance maps its original address was 164-166 Ballard Avenue, which also identified it as having “2 stores” and “lodgings” at the second floor level” and noted the rear stairs and porches at the rear NE elevation. It utilized the common central entry/stair passage plan to provide access to second floor level, this was typical of several other commercial buildings that were constructed on Ballard Avenue during this era and the prior decade. The 1912 Baist’s real estate atlas identified it as a brick apartment house. It is known to have been owned by Alfred L. Palmer, the proprietor of A.L. Palmer & Sons, a real estate development company that built and owned numerous commercial buildings in Seattle during this era. The property was valued at $3,890 in 1905. Substantial historic commercial development tended to occur at this end of Ballard Avenue as it was closer to the well-established St. Charles Hotel and the railway depot. It is unclear if Palmer had this property built or merely acquired it at a later date. The company is known to have owned it for more than three decades and it was known as the “Palmer Apartments” until the 1930s. The National Sheet Metal Works was using the ground floor spaces by 1937. Historically four apartment units with private baths were located on the second floor and Trader Van's Tavern was located in the corner storefront.
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.)
Ballard Historical Society, Ballard Avenue Landmark District Plaque Project records.
Baist’s Real Estate Atlas of Surveys of Seattle, Wash. Philadelphia: W.G. Baist, 1905, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org