Constructed 1927 for Frederick W. Fisher by contractor Gardner Gwinn, the Peterson Hardware Co. Building contributes to the architectural and historic character of 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 post annexation era of commercial and industrial development (1908-1930) when after the annexation of Ballard to Seattle, substantial construction continued to occur along Ballard Avenue and it remained the commercial center of the community. However, commercial development occurred at a slower pace and was more concentrated near NW Market Street. Three distinctive reinforced concrete buildings were built early in this period; the Hyde & Fitzgerald Building (aka Eagles Building, 1908), the O’Donnell Hotel Building (1909) and the Ballard Savings & Loan Building (1914). Gradually new construction and business activity became much more concentrated near Market Street.
During this era Ballard, and Seattle as a whole, became more auto-oriented and associated businesses, including a Ford showroom, were established on Ballard Avenue. The streetscape changed significantly after 1916 when prohibition was instituted and long-established local saloons were converted to tobacco, candy, ice cream and soft drink businesses. The 5-year long construction and the completion of the nearby Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Lake Washington Ship Canal in 1916 also spurred major changes within the local community and increased industrial and commercial fishing activity. Prior to the construction of the locks, barges and ships could only dock at Salmon Bay during high tide, whereas after the construction the waterway remained at a much more constant lake level, which was conducive for shipping and product distribution purposes. The creation of the ship canal also required the construction of a new Ballard Bridge (1918) and spurred associated road improvement and paving projects. With traffic revisions and roadway improvements, Market Street (formerly Broadway Street) began to be developed as the principal commercial thoroughfare. In 1927-28, the completion of the massive Ballard Building established Market Street as the modern commercial center in Ballard. However, numerous distinctive commercial buildings continued to be built along Ballard Avenue up until the onset of the Depression era.
City of Seattle permit records indicate that is building was constructed in 1927 for owner F. V. Fisher by contractor Gardner Gwinn at a cost of $5,000. Permit # 268055 issued May 31, 1927 does not identify an architect; the building may have been a standardized plan, or it may have been designed by Gwinn. Frederick V. Fisher was a partner in the Worthington, Fisher Company, a local securities and mortgage firm with offices in the Hoge Building. Fisher also had Gardner Gwinn construct a very similar building at 5319 Ballard Avenue NW the same year.
The first identified tenant was the Peterson Wholesale Hardware Company, part of the Peterson Hardware and Plumbing Company, which owned the adjacent building to the north. This company appears to have used this property by at least 1935 (and post 1937 tax records indicate that they purchased it at some unidentified date). In 1935 a storage shed for pipes was constructed at the rear elevation of the building. It extended 32 feet to the rear property line and was approximately the same width as the original building (47 feet). It had a corrugated iron roof, no interior finishes and an earthen floor. The south façade had a pair of glazed garage doors and six double-hung windows on two levels. The improvement was designed by architect John E. Kelly., Jr. for Fisher, who still owned the building. Peterson Hardware continued to use this building until approximately 1945, when the company moved to Shilshole Avenue NW. In 1945 the building was altered for use by Ballard Auto Sales, which appears to have been a brief tenant. In the following years, there were several tenants (including the U.S. War Price and Rationing Board and a diesel engine dealer; however, the building appears to have been at largely vacant. In 1955 it was purchased by Obermaier Machine Works, which continued to conduct business here for over fifty years. One separate space (perhaps the rear building) was also occupied by a series of separate businesses for many years: Gem Welding (1967), Ballard Avenue Welding and Repair and Alaska Marine Fabricators (1985); Salmon Bay Welding (1989-96) and Northwest Freight and Marine Salvage (1989). [Additional Source: Report prepared by Mimi Sheridan]
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
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, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.