Constructed in 1902, the J.L Ardstrom Block is among the oldest 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 5219-21 Ballard Avenue NW] Believed to have been built in 1902 for J.L. Andstrom. [See note below regarding orginal cornice.] Efforts to confirm the original ownership or identify the original architect, builder or tenants of this historic property have been unsuccessful. According to historic 1905 insurance maps its original address was 215-217 Ballard Avenue. It was designed to function as a set of storefront level shops with lodging and/or office rooms at the second floor. As originally designed, it utilized a common central entry/stair passage plan for access to the second floor level, typical of several other commercial buildings constructed along Ballard Avenue during this era and the prior decade. City directories from 1904 -06 indicate that the Cascade Drug store (prop. Henry G. Hourn) was located at 215 Ballard Avenue. The insurance maps also indicate that a gas coffee roaster was located in one of the storefronts and that the building may have been inner-connected to the adjacent building to the north. The upper floor level functioned as a rooming house (per Seattle Times 4-14-1910, pg.20) with eight 2-room house-keeping flats. The Svea Hotel and a tailor shop (prop. Peter Torwick) were located here by 1913. Tax records indicate that the storefronts functioned as a swap shop and furniture store by 1937 and by 1955 the upper floor level was considered unusable due to building code violations. The 1936 tax record photograph shows the original sheet metal cornice with stepped parapet and title crest that appears to read "J.L. Andstrom." The building was purchased by Canal Cabinet Corp. 9/12/1957 and in 1962 underwent a major remodeling project. The interior and the exterior were extensively altered to create office (second floor), showroom and warehouse spaces. The historic cornice was removed, facade was clad with concrete stucco and storefront display windows were eliminated and modern aluminum sash installed. By November 1963, the building was in active use by Cowan-Campbell Paint Company (C & C Paint Co.). See 5209 Ballard Avenue for information regarding C & C Paint.
In 2015 - this building underwent a major restoration project and the historic facade was uncovered and partly reconstructed.
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, 1905, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.