Constructed in c.1895, this distinctive one-story wood-frame building is one of the oldest and architecturally important 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).
The specific construction date for this building has not been confirmed; however given the scale, form and wood-frame construction as well as the photo documentation from 1937, this property appears to date from the1890s when Ballard Avenue included a concentration of similar wood-frame structures. The 1905 Sanborn Insurance map identified the address as 323-325 Ballard Avenue. City directories and other records indicate the small storefront was used historically for a variety of purposes and occasionally housed more than one business enterprise: Edwin C. Dill, meat market (1904), Herman J. Gleeman, barber (1907), Chas. Leonhardt, Jeweler (1907), W.H. Peter & Co. (Frank B. Carpenter, Julius Jasperson) who practiced law, loans, real estate and insurance (c.1907). It housed a tailor shop by 1909. Some tenants may have also resided at this address, either within the subject building or buildings located behind it. Tax records indicate it was possibly owned by R.H. Mueller and housed Ace Sheet Metal Works and George M. Fisher Plumbing repair services (1937) and subsequently housed a tavern and barbershop. An addition measuring 23’x 20’ was made to the rear c.1948. Tax records also indicate that an unused brick “bake oven” remained within the original 20’x 42’ envelope, which would indicate that it must have functioned at some point as a bakery. The 1937 tax record photograph indicated that the façade had been very little altered by that time and exhibited a highly distinctive stepped false front that was decorated with wood trim and brackets as well as an intact storefront bay with recessed central entry, low bulkheads, large display windows and double store doors with a band of transom lights above. By 1968, the adjacent historic wood-frame buildings had been demolished, the stepped false front façade altered and the decorative portions of the façade had been covered (and/or removed) with a modern plywood paneling. In 1982, the building was rehabilitated and the façade partly restored and reconstructed to serve as a café (Burk’s Cajun & Creole); it was expanded with the addition to the south side in c.1985.
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.
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.)