Constructed 1923 for Paul Hopkins, the Hopkins Block is an architecturally distinctive building that contributes to the 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.
Efforts to identify the original builder and/or architect associated with the construction of this commercial building have been unsuccessful. Tax and permit records indicate that the property was owned by and the building was developed by Paul Hopkins in 1923. Paul Hopkins was an English immigrant (b. ca.1844) who initially settled in Illinois and Michigan before coming to Seattle c.1898. The 1900 US Census shows that he and his large family were residing at in the city of Ballard at 262 Ballard Avenue and that he worked as a boilermaker. He was enumerated in the 1910 US Census as a manufacturer of steam boilers and by then resided at 2852 W.56th Street. By 1910, at the age of 76, he was no longer working. Mr. Hopkins obtained a permit in 1914 to work on an existing building (being used as a boarding house) at the subject site and on 11-23-22, he obtained a permit to demolish an existing residence at this address (Permit #218907). Paul Hopkins appears to have owned the property and this building until 12-26-1934, when it appears to have come into the ownership of one of his sons, Frank F. Hopkins. This distinctive one-story two commercial bay wide business block is typical of small commercial buildings that were built in neighborhood commercial districts throughout Seattle during this era. It does not appear to have housed a family owned business, but was instead built for investment purposes. This is the earliest of a group of similar properties constructed in the commercial district along Ballard Avenue up until 1930. Historically, it housed a variety of retail businesses including a card room/café, barber shop, offices, a market, taverns, cafe and cocktail lounges. In 1952, the south side of the façade was modernized (Vasa Sea Grill & Patio Room).
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