Ballard: An Important Part of Washington’s History

Courtesy of the Ballard Chamber of Commerce

Though incorporated into the City of Seattle in 1907, Ballard continues to maintain its small town qualities and sense of independence. Located in an area bordered by both Puget Sound and Salmon Bay, water was and continues to be an important part of the community.

Tucked back from the sound, Salmon Bay provided a safe haven during winter months for Ballard’s first inhabitants, the Shilshole tribe. Numbering over 1,000 at their peak, our local waters provided an abundance of salmon and clams for drying.

In 1890, with Ballard’s incorporation as a city, it became the third largest city in the newly formed state of Washington, with 1,636 residents.

By 1905, pressure to consolidate with the City of Seattle had grown strong. Ballard needed to secure an adequate water supply for its growing population. Seattle was eager to acquire the prosperous mill town that blocked expansion to the north. City officials used their water source as a bargaining chip and on November 6, 1906, Ballard could hold out no longer. Annexation was approved by a close vote of 996 in favor to 874 opposed.

In 1916, after years of planning and construction, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks were completed. The new waterway linked Puget Sound with a vast inland harbor composed of Salmon Bay, Lake Union and Lake Washington. In the years following WWI, Ballard’s shoreline reached its high point of development with a strategic position on the Salmon Bay waterway.

No longer is the population heavily Scandinavian, but our hardworking ancestors built much of the cohesiveness Ballard enjoys today. The water levels have changed and the lumber mills are gone. Old factories have gotten face-lifts and new purpose. The fishing industry struggles with new regulations and constraints, yet evolves.

Today in the metropolitan area of Seattle, Ballard continues to be the center of a unique combination of manufacturing and commercial fishing industries and recreational boating. We also boast a vibrant commercial district with unique shops, restaurants and music venues. But the water is always there. Whether its waiting while the bridge opens to let a ship through, watching a sailboat race off Shilshole, or enjoying a delicious salmon dinner, water is always a part of life in Ballard. And Ballad continues to celebrate its maritime connections.

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