Constructed in 1893 for William Cors and Robert E. Wegener, the Cors & Wagener Block is 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 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 substantial masonry and stone commercial buildings, including the Cors & Wegener Block (1893), Chopard Block (1894) and the City Hall (1899, demolished).
William Cors and Robert Wegener became business associates in 1889 and initially established the Ballard Wine House in a wood-frame building on this site c.1890. They had this imposing classically detailed building constructed in 1893 where they continued to operate the Ballard Wine House, which was a thriving saloon business, and were described as “artists in compound mixtures and fancy beverages.” The business included a separate entrance and private room for women. Efforts to identify an architect responsible for the design have been unsuccessful; however, given the quality of the façade design it appears likely that an architect or highly skilled builder was involved. The property appears to have remained in the ownership of R.E. Wegener for several decades; however, by 1915 Adolph A. Johnson was the proprietor of the saloon at this address. Subsequent businesses that occupied the storefront level include: Jeff’s Place (1937), M. Moritz & Son (1937) and a Chinese café (1960s).
The upper floor level included several office rooms. As early as 1904 the upper floor level was in use by The Ballard News, an early local newspaper acquired in 1902 by J.D. Ruffner and his sons A.E and O.E Ruffner. As the business district expanded northward, the newspaper offices and printed plant were moved to the R.J. Huston Block at NW Market Street and 22nd Avenue NW. A.E. Ruffner along with his wife continued to publish this important community paper until 1934, when it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Harold G. Kimball.
Major Bibliographic References:
Crowley, Walt. National Trust Guide: Seattle. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.1998.
Nyberg, Folke & Victor Steinbrueck. An Inventory of Buildings & Urban Design Resources - Ballard. Seattle: Historic Seattle, 1975.
Pheasant-Albright, Julie D. Early Ballard (Images of America), Arcadia Publishing, 2007.
----------. 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.
City of Seattle Directories Collection, 1867-1940. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.
Seattle Times, 1900-1984. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.
Building Permit Records. City of Seattle, Department of Planning & Development – Microfilm Library.