Seattle Now & Then: Big Snow in Ballard, 1916

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Ballard photographer Fred Peterson looks south-southeast on Ballard Avenue on February 3rd or 4th, 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: Ballard photographer Fred Peterson looks south-southeast on Ballard Avenue on February 3rd or 4th, 1916. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: Jean Sherrard’s hopes for some snow escaped him and Ballard Avenue. He did, however, find that many of the historical structures on this landmarked street have survived, including four of the five seen here across the historic way.
NOW: Jean Sherrard’s hopes for some snow escaped him and Ballard Avenue. He did, however, find that many of the historical structures on this landmarked street have survived, including four of the five seen here across the historic way.

This week’s subject, a snow-bound Ballard Avenue, was chosen ceremonially: it celebrates the one-hundredth anniversary of Seattle’s – and the Northwest’s – Big Snow of 1916. (Actually, by the time this feature appears in PacificNW, our centennial commemoration will be a bit late, as this is being written in mid-January.)

Peterson's other recording of the Big Snow looks back (northwest) over the same part of Ballard Avenue covered in the shot that is at the top. Here you can also see the tower of the Ballard City Hall and fire station..
Peterson’s other recording of the Big Snow looks back (northwest) over the same part of Ballard Avenue covered in the shot that is at the top. Here you can also see the snow-topped tower of the Ballard City Hall and fire station..

On the first of February the snow began an unrelenting twenty-four hour drop that added nearly two feet more to the two that had already accumulated through an exceptionally cold January. For many Ballardians, the fact that prohibition began its sixteen year run at the beginning of 1916 added to the chill, especially on Ballard Avenue, celebrated for its saloons. With its rough count of Ballard Avenue bars, the famous newspaper feature “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” figured that there was “one for every church in Ballard.”

The Saint James Cathedral after the Big - and wet - show of 1916 crushed its dome.
Not at Ballard church but the  Saint James Cathedral after the Big – and wet – show of 1916 crushed its dome.
Here in the interests of balance is a Ballard sanctuary without snow.
Here in the interests of balance is a Ballard sanctuary without snow.

The new and heavy snow of early February “put on ice,” and sometimes under, commuting, public entertainment, classroom education, railroads, and weak roofs. The grandest disaster was on First Hill, where the St. James dome collapsed into the Cathedral’s narthex. For this exceptional occasion the Bishop expressed thanks that no one was in church.

A November 1916 advertisement for photographer Fred Peterson run in The Seattle Times. This Peterson is working near the Pike Street Market. Perhaps he moved his commercial studio from Ballard.
A November 1916 advertisement for photographer Fred Peterson run in The Seattle Times. This Peterson is working near the Pike Street Market. Perhaps he moved his commercial studio from Ballard.

Here (at the top) a neighborhood professional photographer, Fred P. Peterson, sights to the southeast with his back near what was until Seattle annexed Ballard in 1907, its City Hall at 22nd Ave. N.W. Peterson has stamped in red ink at the bottom of his snapshot a claim of copyright next to a caption, which records a “record snow fall of 38 inches” accumulated on the second and third of February. At least six trolleys are stalled on Ballard Avenue, and close to Peterson a motorcar straddles the avenue and its sidewalk. The sign swinging above it suggests that this might be a Studebaker stuck in its attempts to get service.

Not in Ballard but on First Avenue near Seneca Street and deep.
In neither Ballard nor Colorado but on First Avenue near Seneca Street and deep.
A scene from out biggest snow, that of 1880. The prospect is from the front door to another and different Peterson photograph, the pioneer one at the foot of Cherry Street. The snowscape of 1880 on Cherry is compared to two shots of the street from the same prospect about 30 years later. It is also a lesson in what a boom town can do in three decades.
A scene out of our biggest snow, that of 1880. The prospect is from the front door to another and different Peterson studio, the pioneer Peterson and Bros.  whose studio was at the foot of Cherry Street. Here the snow scape of 1880 on Cherry is compared to two shots of the street from the same prospect about 30 years later. It is a lesson in what a boom town can do in three decades.

Measured principally by depth and not by winter mayhem, Seattle’s biggest big snow blanketed the village in 1880. (This feature could not commemorate that big snow with a centennial because “Now and Then” first got going in the winter of 1982. I remember that it was raining.) On Sunday January 4, 1880, the rain froze. On Monday it was all snow. Two days later the Seattle Intelligencer purposely exaggerated the depth at ten feet “in order to play it safe.” Pioneer promoters liked calling Puget Sound our “Mediterranean of the Pacific.” On Saturday, January 10, the Seattle Intelligencer advised, “If anyone has anything to say about our Italian skies . . . shoot him on the spot.”

First Avenue south of Pine Street at the first melting of the Big Snow of 1916. The Liberty Theatre is on the left, and the Corner Market Building on the far right. (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Northwest Collection in the Special Collections.
First Avenue south of Pine Street at the first melting of the Big Snow of 1916. The Liberty Theatre is on the left, and the Corner Market Building on the far right. (Courtesy, University of Washington Libraries, Northwest Collection in the Special Collections.

Among our pioneers were many weather watchers who kept diaries. By their authority, six-and-a-half-feet of snow were measured in the first week of January 1880, and on the twelfth it began to rain.

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WEB EXTRAS

Anything to add, lads?   Surely Jean, and before the reader reaches the collection of links that Ron Edge has put up, we will pause together and remember the historian Murray Morgan.  We may still consider him the “Dean of Northwest Historians.”  His Skid Road is the most read history of Seattle, and was first published for the city’s first Centennial in 1951.  Murray was born in Tacoma during the big snow of 1916.  Had he lived he would have been celebrating his own centennial about now.  His century will be celebrated at the Tacoma Public Library on Saturday the upcoming 27th, probably in the elegant and yet well-packed Murray and Rosa Morgan Room there.  Check out the library’s web page if you like.   Here’s a portrait of Murray taken by Mary Randlett and shared by her.  Below it  is another 1916 big snow shot.  We miss both Murray and Rosa.

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MURRAY MORGAN’S CENTENNIAL

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THEN: Captioned Salmon Bay, 1887, this is most likely very near the eastern end of the bay where it was fed by Ross Creek, the Lake Union outlet. (Courtesy, Michael Maslan Vintage Posters and Photographs)

THEN: Looking east from the roof of the still standing testing lab, the Lock’s Administration Building (from which this photograph was borrowed) appears on the left, and the district engineer’s home, the Cavanaugh House (still standing) on the center horizon. (Photo courtesy Army Corps of Engineers at Chittenden Locks)

THEN: A Seattle Street and Sewer Department photographer recorded this scene in front of the nearly new City-County Building in 1918. The view looks west from 4th Avenue along a Jefferson Street vacated in this block except for the municipal trolley tracks. (Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archive)

THEN: A circa 1908 look northeast through the terminus of the Loyal Electric Street Railway line at the corner of now Northwest 85th Street, 32nd Ave. Northwest, and Loyal Way Northwest. (Courtesy, the Museum of History and Industry)

THEN: With his or her back to the original Ballard business district, an unnamed photographer looks southeast on Leary Way, most likely in 1936.

THEN: Built in 1910, Ballard’s big brick church on the northwest corner of 20th Avenue NW and NW 63rd Street lost the top of its soaring tower following the earthquake of Nov. 12, 1939.

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Appeared first in Pacific on March 11, 2001.
Appeared first in Pacific on March 11, 2001.

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First appeared in Pacific on January 12, 2003.
First appeared in Pacific on January 12, 2003.
This photo of a snow-bound Volunteer Park pavilion may or may not be from the big one of 1916.
While the panorama put above the feature above is of the big snow, this photo of a snow-bound Volunteer Park pavilion may or may not be from the big one of 1916.
Nearby at the southeast corner of 14th Ave.E. and Prospect Street.
Nearby at the southeast corner of 14th Ave.E. and Prospect Street.

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Horse logging down 15th Avenue Northeast with Science Hall (Parington Hall) on the U.W. campus.
Horse logging down 15th Avenue Northeast with Science Hall (Parrington Hall) on the U.W. campus.
First appeared in Pacific on Jan. 31, 1999.
First appeared in Pacific on Jan. 31, 1999.

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One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Big Snow in Ballard, 1916”

  1. Thanks for the great Ballard Ave photo in the Pacific of Feb 21, 2016. I worked on Ballard Ave for 25 years (retiring 5 years ago) and always enjoy pics of what it used to look like, even buying a few from MOHAI. This is one I have never seen. I worked at a store located where the peaked-roof house is in the ‘Then’ pic, third structure from the right. This the first pic I have seen that shows that structure.

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