Constructed 1908-09 for Fitzgerald & Hynes and designed by Seattle architect Victor W. Voorhees, the Eagle Block is one of the most architecturally important and 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 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 Eagle Block, 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.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (February 2, 1908) included an article “Ballard Will Have Two New Buildings.” It noted that plans were being drawn by V.W. Voorhees* for new brick business block to be erected for Fitzgerald & Hynes on a 50’x100’ lot that had been recently purchased at the “rear of the old city hall.” The article also noted that the “Second story has been rented to Ballard aerie of Eagles and will be fitted up for their exclusive use. The ground floor will be used by the owners as a department store. The building will cost approximately $8,000.” City of Seattle microfilm permit records include Permit #67406 that was issued to Fitzgerald & Hines (sic) on 10-7-1908 in order to “Construct lodge hall & store bldg.” at 5410-12 Ballard Ave. at a cost of $8,000. The Ballard News carried an article with photograph (2/5/1909, pg.5) entitled “New Eagle Building” and noted that the building had just been completed. This article stated that it had been built for Fitzgerald & Hynes for a cost of $15,000 and that the entire second floor had been leased to the Ballard Eagles. [The difference in cost may have been due to the reinforced concrete rather than the brick masonry structural system] It noted that the lodge had 500 members and it was one of the “most elegantly appointed lodge halls on the Coast.” The lodge included a main hall, adjoining dining, lockers, anterooms, a reception room, kitchen, toilet rooms and a storeroom. The Ballard Eagles Aerie No. 172 was founded in 1901. In 1927-28, the massive new Eagles Building/ aka Ballard Building at NW Market Street and 22nd Avenue NW was constructed by the Ballard Eagles Aerie No. 172 to serve as the Eagles lodge and they vacated the subject building. However, tax record photographs taken in July 1937 shown that the inscription in the parapet of the building “Eagle Block 1909” remained in place. In the late 1940s the Marie Miller Studio of Dance became a long time tenant in the building. The façade appears to have been remodeled with a “new front” c.1947. In the 1950s the building began to house the printing plant for the Ballard News Tribune (tax records refer to it as Ballard News Hall), which remained there for several decades.
*Victor W. Voorhees (1876-1970) began his long Seattle career in Ballard c.1904 and is credited with the design of hundreds of industrial commercial and residential buildings over the following three decades. He may be best known for the his house plan book “Western Home Builder” that was initially published in 1907, as well as numerous extant commercial properties throughout the city. The nearby Markusen Building may be one of the earliest examples of Voorhees commercial work in Seattle. Voorhees appears to have had an office in the “Lombardini Block - #6” (Junction Block 5200 Ballard Avenue NW) as of the 1905 Ballard City Directory. An article appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on 8-14-1904 (pg.12, col.1) that noted Fisher, Voorhees and T.G. Bird “have taken up rooms together in the McDonald Block at 2nd and Ballard” - the McDonald Block appears to be a reference to McDonald’s Hall – which was located in the DeCurtin/Junction Block in 1904. Thomas G. Bird is credited with the design of the Junction Block, although it appears that Voorhees and Bird may have practiced together for a brief period; early in Voorhees’ career and late in Bird’s career. It is not known if Voorhees played any role in the design of the Junction Block (aka DeCurtin/Lombardini Block). However, Voorhees was responsible for the design of numerous buildings that were subsequently built along or near Ballard Avenue and clearly had ties to the business community there. Fisher & Voorhees also had a brief partnership and are believed to have designed another brick commercial business block on Ballard Avenue for George Jacobs at the same time as the Markusen Building; however, the subsequent address and status of this project are not known. (Seattle Post Intelligencer 10/4/1904, pg.14, col.2) It unclear if Fisher was in fact Elmer H. Fisher (ca.1843-1905) who was Seattle’s most prolific post-fire architect and responsible for the design of highly regarded Romanesque Revival commercial blocks in the old downtown commercial core and Belltown. In addition to the subject building and the Markusen Block, V.W. Voorhees is known to have designed the William Curtiss Co. Block (1911) at Leary and 22nd Avenue NW, the Frank Pyle Building (1913 at 5421 Ballard Avenue NW), and the altered restaurant building (1913, at 5231 Ballard Avenue NW) as well as several early 20th C. Ballard residences that were included in his planbook or constructed from plans selected from the planbook.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
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, 1912.
Sanborn Insurance Maps, 1884-1951. Digital versions available via Seattle Public Library - www.spl.org.