Constructed in 1896, 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 Chopard Block (1894) and the City Hall (1899, demolished).
Reportedly built in 1896, this building was designed to house two ground floor retail shops and living quarters/lodging rooms on the second floor. The original street address was 191 Ballard Avenue. It is not known who the original owners or tenants were; however, by 1904 it became known as Ballard Livery & Transfer and then housed the offices of this moving and storage company until 1918. During this era Ballard Livery & Transfer operated a car barn out of a location at 14th Avenue NW (aka Railroad Ave.) and Market Street (aka Broadway St.) where they employed a crew of twenty movers and ten horse-drawn carriages. They also operated a warehouse located on Shilshole Avenue. City directories indicated that a meat market as well as the offices of The Ballard Record (a local newspaper edited by Charles D. Ulmer) were also located in the building c.1904. By 1937, the building housed a five-room apartment on the upper floor and was in the ownership of Dell C. Ford and was subsequently purchased by Harry K. Kumakura. Tax records indicate that it had housed a café and a tailor shop and that the apartment rented for $40.00 per month sometime prior to 1971. By 1976, the storefronts along Ballard Avenue had been altered to some degree. In 1982 the exterior of the building was carefully renovated and the interior was adapted to serve as professional offices for Lagerquist & Morris Architects. This firm has been actively involved in numerous renovation, rehabilitation & new construction projects within the historic district since its designation..
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 Historical Society, Ballard Avenue Landmark District Plaque Project records.
“Ballard Avenue Historic District” National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Form (Prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter, OAHP, April 1976.)