Believed to have been constructed in 1897, this distinctive two-story brick masonry building is one of the oldest and most architecturally intact 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 the initial era of industrial and commercial development of Ballard (1888-1900). The establishment of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad service to and from Seattle proper in 1888, which occurred in conjunction with the platting and promotion of Gilman Park by the West Coast Improvement Company, triggered the initial era of industrial development along Salmon Bay and commercial development along the adjacent Ballard Avenue. The first successful industrial lumber mill began operation in 1888 with others rapidly established thereafter. After the great fire of June 1889, which destroyed virtually all of the commercial buildings and industrial facilities in Seattle, these mills prospered by supplying the lumber and wood products required for the massive reconstruction efforts.
In 1890 Gilman Park was formally incorporated as the municipality of Ballard and boasted a population of 1,636 residents living in the general vicinity. By 1895 Ballard was home to a large Scandinavian fishing fleet and included a concentration of shingle and lumber mills employing some 570 men. The community grew rapidly as passenger rail and private streetcar service expanded in the 1890s. By the late 1890s Ballard Avenue was lined with a distinct collection of wood-frame commercial buildings, workingmen’s hotels and lodgings and single family residences as well as several masonry and stone commercial buildings, including the subject property, the highly distinctive Cors & Wegener Block (1893), the subject building (1897) and the City Hall (1899, demolished).
According to historic tax records this building was constructed in 1897; however it is unclear who had it constructed and for what specific purposes. Historically, it appears to have functioned as two storefront level shops with living quarters or office rooms above. The 1904-05 Sanborn Insurance Map noted the building (at the address then known as 187 Ballard Avenue) and Ballard city directories from that era indicate that it housed a grocery store operated by Charles G. Sanborn; along with his store clerks he resided at this same address.
Historic tax records indicate that the building was owned by Anna Hubert in 1930, housed a commercial laundry business (Wah Kee Laundry) in 1937 and was purchased by Edward Stokes in 1950. Edward and Marcela Stokes had moved to Ballard in 1943; they established the American Flag and Decorating Co. here where they produced flags, street decorations and bunting for ship launching. They provided and produced material for local and downtown parades and various celebrations. Mrs. Stokes continued to operate this unique business into the 1990s. A canopy/shed addition was made to the south side of the building c.1955.
----------. Passport to Ballard, Ballard News Tribune, 1988.
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.
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.)