Constructed in 1894 the Chopard Block is a heavily altered one-story building that was originally constructed as a two-story structure and functioned for retail and hotel purposes. However, it is partly intact and among the oldest group of 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).
This building was constructed for Louis Chopard in 1894 and appears to have been designed to function for hotel/lodging purposes with two ground floor retail spaces. Mr. Chopard was a partner in Chopard & Cosgrove Wholesale & Retail Liquors. It is not known whether Mr. Chopard established a business here or if this was purely a real estate investment. Efforts to identify an architect responsible for the design have been unsuccessful; however, given the quality of the original façade design it appears likely that an architect or highly skilled builder was involved. The original two-story structure utilized a very common central entry/stair passage plan for access to second floor level and exhibited a prominent central arched entry bay; numerous other historic properties on Ballard Avenue followed this same scheme.
In c.1904 the Chopard Block was acquired by Nicholas Theisen who had operated a liquor store located in the building since 1901. Known as in California Wine Co. – it featured “a high grade of California wine.” With the success of this business, Theisen was able to purchase the Chopard Block as well as develop the adjacent Theisen Block, built in c.1905. The two buildings have functioned in tandem and under tandem ownership since then. The 1905 Baists real estate atlas noted the “Chopard Block” (the address then known as 188-190 Ballard Avenue) and Ballard city directories indicate that a firm known as Scott & Bailey (?) operated a business at this address. After the construction of the adjacent Theisen Block the two buildings functioned as the 26-room Theisen Rooming House and as the Theisen Hotel (operated by Mrs. Susanna Theisen).
In 1908, a ground floor retail space at the north end of the building was adapted to function as the Ballard Theater and remained in operation for 20 years. Operated by pioneer businesswoman S.J. McEntree, it was one of three motion picture theaters on Ballard Avenue in 1910. The theater is said to have booked performers and films that were considered to be suitable for young children; patrons were charged five to ten cents per performance. Both properties were acquired by H.I. Poll in 1945 and appear to have continued to function for lodging (providing furnished rooms) purposes until at least 1951, by which time the upper portion of the façade had been altered and the ornate cornice and parapet removed (possibly due to the 1949 earthquake). The entire upper floor level was removed sometime prior to c.1966 based on the reduced improvement value included in the tax record. The entire building underwent major renovation/partial façade reconstruction since designation and was adapted for retail and office purposes in the late 1990s.
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.
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.
“Ballard Avenue Historic District” National Register of Historic Places – Nomination Form (Prepared by Elisabeth Walton Potter, OAHP, April 1976.)