Constructed in 1903 for Albin and Oscar Matthes and expanded in 1920 for the Ballard Elks, the Matthes Block/Elks Temple Building is among the oldest and most 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 5228 Ballard Avenue] The Matthes Block also known as the Elks Temple Building was constructed in 1903 for brothers Oscar and Albin Matthes, who had established the Old Home Saloon in an earlier wood-frame building on this site. The Old Home Saloon was a particularly successful business operation. City of Ballard records (held by Seattle Municipal Archives) include a formal request from the Matthes Bros. that was submitted to the Mayor and City Council (stamped Jul 8 1903) requesting permission to move their store building to a nearby site in order to continue to conduct business while the “substantial brick block” they intended to build was under construction. The Seattle Times reported (on 3/16/1903, pg.4) that brothers planned to construct a distinctive new brick and stone (three story) building on the site, which they owned, and that it would be constructed for $15,000 with the entire third floor level to be built in order to accommodate the Ballard Elks’ lodge. The local Ballard lodge #827 of the Benevolent & Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) was established January 23, 1903. The Seattle Times (January 25, 1904) and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (February 22, 1904) reported on the upcoming dedication and described the Elks new quarters that included $5000 in furnishings [weathered oak furniture in the Mission style and modern electric lighting], a large and spacious lodge hall, a banquet room with kitchen, reception rooms for both ladies and gentlemen, and lockers for club storage. The front of the building included an elegant reception and smoking room open to guests and private quarters and an office for the club secretary. The Elks Hall was formally dedicated on February 27, 1904 (Seattle Times 2/28/04, pg.13) with an event that attracted some 300 club members from throughout the region.
The building as originally constructed was a two story – not a three story - brick masonry structure. According to tax records, the Elks acquired the building in April 1920. The organization proceeded to expand the building to its current three story form with lodge offices, meeting rooms and other facilities on both the second & third story. By 1920, the storefront at the corner of Ballard Avenue and NW Vernon Place housed the Union National Bank and then the Dexter Horton Bank (predecessor to Seattle First National Bank) from 1925 until 1930. It subsequently housed a US Post Office with a furniture store in the southern storefront space (c.1937). Tax records indicate that the building was remodeled c.1947; possibly the southern storefront. A major modern addition to the Elks Temple was constructed c. 1952 on site to the NE adjacent to Leary Way. This was the former location of Dick Smith’s Super Service/Texaco Station built 1923, acquired by the Elks 1939 and demolished 1951. By c.1972 the storefront level housed the Stag Room tavern that included a pool and game room. In 1978, the building was acquired by Jim Riggle and Harrison Jewell who established the Olympic Racquet & Heath Club there. They adapted the former Elks facilities to modern sports, exercise and spa uses and the former ballroom became a basketball court. In 1987 it became known as the Olympic Athletic Club.
Pheasant-Albright, Julie D. Early Ballard (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing, 2007.
----------. Passport to Ballard, Ballard News Tribune, 1988.
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.