Seattle Now & Then: The Ballard Fire Station ca. 1903

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Ballard’s short-lived fire station at the southwest corner of Broadway (NW Market Street) and Burke Avenue (Russell Ave. NW) circa 1903. Looking northwest the view includes, above the horses, a glimpse of Sypher’s Hall, a rentable venue for playful and/or political events. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: Ballard’s short-lived fire station at the southwest corner of Broadway (NW Market Street) and Burke Avenue (Russell Ave. NW) circa 1903. Looking northwest the view includes, above the horses, a glimpse of Sypher’s Hall, a rentable venue for playful and/or political events. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: In addition to his photo of the 1911 Ballard Fire Station No. 18, Jean Sherrard has widened his repeat to include Ballard’s Carnegie Public Library (1904) across NW Market Street.
NOW: In addition to his photo of the 1911 Ballard Fire Station No. 18, Jean Sherrard has widened his repeat to include Ballard’s Carnegie Public Library (1904) across NW Market Street.  Other snaps of these front doors are featured with gear near the bottom of this short essay.  

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On the back [above] of the original print of this Ballard subject, preserved in the Museum of History and Industry’s Sophie Bass Frye Library, is written the MOHAI print number “1042.”  It continues with a sparse description of the subject:  “Ballard Fire Dept. 1903, Market St. wooden bldg.”  Ballard, then commonly tagged the “Shingle Capitol of the World,” was still its own city with its own fire department in ca. 1903.

Detail from te 1904 Sanborn map of Ballard showing the fire station on Burke Street.
Detail from te 1904 Sanborn map of Ballard showing the fire station on Burke Street.  Market St. is on the left, although not market in this detail.    
Above: Judge on a walk downtown and not in Ballard. Below: A year's worth of recording looking north on Burke Street from N. 44th Street, shot during my Wallingford Walks of 2006 to 2010, or about as long as my knees lasted.
Above: Judge on a walk downtown and not in Ballard. Below: A year’s worth of recording looking north on Burke Street from N. 44th Street, shot during my Wallingford Walks of 2006 to 2010, or about as long as my knees lasted.
A year at Burke and 44th, looking north.
A year at Burke and 44th, looking north.

The caption writer’s claims for “Market St.” are slightly off, for the address of the station, with the hose and chemical wagon posing here, was set on Burke Street.  Admittedly, that is a bit fussy, for while looking northeast from the station’s footprint on its flatiron block’s irregular southwest corner, the station faced both Burke and Market Streets. Before annexation Market was named Broadway and was truly as broad then as it is now.  The street fronting the station was also trespassed.  It had been named in honor of Thomas Burke, one of the Pioneer bounders who first developed Ballard in the late 1880s.  With annexation the founder’s name was changed to Russell, another Ballard pioneer, on the principle of “First come first serve.”  In 1907 Seattle already had a Burke Ave., running north from Lake Union through Wallingford.

A clipped (at the top) clipping from the Seattle Times for Octobert 1, 1905 posing and naming the members of the Ballard Fire Department, with Chief H. Roberts third from the right. We have placed below this a letter from Roberts to Ballard's mayor and council that they fire Assistant Chief L. Roberts (no relation) for violating the rules and regulations, of the department we assume. The letter is dated Nov. 10, 1903, and we can find no posing L. Roberts in the 1905 crew portrait, nor the recommended successor M.G. Mabbuth (spelling?)
[CLICK to ENLARGE] A clipped (at the top) clipping from the Seattle Times for October 1, 1905 posing and naming the members of the Ballard Fire Department, with Chief H. Roberts third from the right. We have placed below this a letter from Roberts to Ballard’s mayor and council requesting that they fire Assistant Chief L. Roberts (no relation) for violating the “rules and regulations,” of the department we assume. The letter is dated Nov. 10, 1903, and we can find no posing L. Roberts in the 1905 crew portrait, nor his recommended successor M.G. Mabbuth (spelling?)

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The original photo offers nothing in the way of names for the firemen, or for the horses or the station’s mascot, who. we assume, is a Dalmation, the traditional fire station breed.   When I suggested this to Galen Thomaier, the director of Seattle’s Last Resort Fire Department, in Ballard, and its Museum in Pioneer Square, he smarty replied, “Where’s the spots!”  I answered that the want of them was no fault of the dog, but of the print’s highlights, which after about 111 years are washed out.  (Thomaier added that fire stations in Seattle rarely chose Dalmations.)  As for the uniformed men in the featured photo, posing in a line as straight as their buttons, we can feel confident that their names survive in “Archival Ballard,” the many boxes of letters, minutes, ordinances, proposals, plans, ledgers that, following the 1907 annexation, were carted to Seattle’s City Hall, then popularly named “Katzenjammer Kastle” for its battery of odd clapboard additions.  The Ballard archive remains in the caring hands of what has become Seattle’s Municipal Archives, now overseen by Seattle’s newest City Archivist, Anne Frantilla.

City Hall, aka the "Katzenjammer Kastle," at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and Jefferson Street, ca. 1897, with the Yesler Mansion beyond it at the northeast corner.
City Hall, aka the “Katzenjammer Kastle,” at the southeast corner of Third Ave. and Jefferson Street, ca. 1897, with the Yesler Mansion beyond it at the northeast corner.

Last Resort’s Director Galen Thomaier served twenty-six years as a fireman for the Seattle Fire Department.  For eight of those he was stationed in Station No. 18, the brick Ballard landmark that in 1911 replaced the “wooden bldg.” featured here. Thomaier and his colleagues have many more photographs of both stations, brick and board, preserved in the Last Resort Fire Department’s collections. 

ABOVE and BELOW two looks at the "new" brick Ballard station No. 18 and its rolling stock from horses to horsepower.
ABOVE and BELOW two looks at the “new” brick Ballard station No. 18 and its rolling stock from horses to horsepower.

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The Last Resort Fire Department also cares for eighteen antique fire engines, sixteen of them road-worthy.  The Department’s collections are kept and shown in two locations: the Pioneer Square Museum at 301 2nd Ave. S., and the Ballard site at 1433 MW 51st Street.  Call first at 206 783-4474 and/or consult lastresortfd.org.  

Before building its own quarters Ballard's Burke Avenue, the Shingle Capitol's fire department was lodged in its brick City Hall. Here volunteers (mostly) pose with two of the department's hose reals. On August 25, 1902 the Ballard hose team won an invitational race and $124 on Firemen's Day. Running on Union Streeet between fourth and Seventh Avenues they made a run of 300 yards, laid a line (of hose), and had water running in forty-one seconds. The Columbia Cityi team was second in forty-nine seconds. At two extremes, the Seattle Team did not run, and the Hoquiam team ran too well. It easily made the best run, but went oo far, passing the first fire plug entirely. Hence no record of their run could be taken.
Before building its own quarters on Ballard’s Burke Avenue, the Shingle Capitol’s fire department was lodged in its brick City Hall., where volunteers (mostly) here pose with two of the department’s hose reals. On August 25, 1902 the Ballard hose team won an invitational race and $124 on Firemen’s Day.  Performing on Seattle’s Union Street between fourth and Seventh Avenues they made a run of 300 yards, laid a line (of hose), and had water spurting in forty-one seconds. The Columbia City team was second in forty-nine seconds. At two extremes, the Seattle Team did not run, while the Hoquiam team ran too well. It easily made the best run, but went too far, passing the first fire plug entirely. Hence no record of their run could be taken.  The Firemen’s Day contests and parade stirred some civic interest months later.  A clip from The Seattle Times for January 30, 1903 reads, “INFO as to where the Ballard Fire Department can secure photographs taken of the Firemen’s parade and race, August 25, 1902.. Address W. Baker, Secretary, Ballard.
Ballard Avenue fire alarm perhaps showing off for a crowd already in place or near it for a parade on Ballard Avenue - unless they heard the alarm. The pointed tower of Ballard's city hall is seen in the distance, just to the left of the racing apparatus.
Ballard Avenue fire alarm perhaps showing off for a crowd already in place or near it for a parade on Ballard Avenue – unless they heard the alarm. The pointed tower of Ballard’s city hall is seen in the distance, just to the left of the racing apparatus.
Looking northwest on Ballard Ave thru the slight jog at its intersection with 22nd Ave. N.W., with what was City Hall (before the 1907 annexation into Seattle proper) standing above the corner.
Looking northwest on Ballard Ave thru the slight jog at its intersection with 22nd Ave. N.W., with what was City Hall (before the 1907 annexation into Seattle proper) standing above the corner.  The cornerstone had been laid on May 17, 1899.  

A detail from the 1904 Sanborn map of Ballard before its 1907 annexation into Seattle. Here the future 22nd Ave. N.W. is still numbered Third Avenue. The City Hall footprint holds the pointed corner.
A detail from the 1904 Sanborn map of Ballard before its 1907 annexation into Seattle. Here the future 22nd Ave. N.W. is still numbered Third Avenue. The City Hall footprint holds the pointed corner.

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WEB EXTRAS

We interrupt our usually scheduled program on behalf of the public interest. Today, a short memorial was held on the steps of Blanchet High School for our neighbor Donelle “Nellie” Yelli, who died a few days ago in a hit-and-run.

Donelle "Nellie" Yelli (Courtesy of Michael McIntosh)
Donelle “Nellie” Yelli (Courtesy of Michael McIntosh)

Nellie was a pretty extraordinary woman, ‘mother hen’ at Greenwood House, a shelter for women in need – a fierce advocate and gentle supporter. I snapped a few photos of the event.

In memorium at Blanchet
In memorium at Blanchet
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L-R Lee Bruch, organizer; Gordon Padelford, policy director, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways; Pastor Nick Steinloski, Bethany Community Church
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“Remember Nellie” – and make our street safer
Lynn DeMarco,Low Income Housing Institute area manager spoke tearfully and with great affection for Nellie
Lynn DeMarco,Low Income Housing Institute area manager, spoke tearfully and with great affection for Nellie

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Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, spoke passionately of the need to strictly enforce impaired driving laws and improve public safety
Cathy Tuttle, Executive Director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, passionately addressed the need to strictly enforce impaired driving laws and save lives
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Flowers and a tribute at the corner of 82nd and Wallingford
A memorial silhouette posted above the flowers honoring Nellie; one of twenty recently placed around the city by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways at sites where pedestrians have died.
A memorial silhouette posted above the flowers honoring Nellie; one of twenty recently placed around the city by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways at sites where pedestrians have died.

Anything to add, gents?  Sure Jean.  We will start with a few relevant clips placed by Ron Edge.   We call them, you know, Edge Clips.   Then we’ll string along a few old clips with Ballard subjects, and conclude with some photos of a few friendly and brawny Ballardians.

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: 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: James Lee, for many years an official photographer for Seattle’s public works department, looks south over Ballard’s Salmon Bay a century ago. Queen Anne Hill marks the horizon, with a glimpse of Magnolia on the far right. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)

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: 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)

Built for the manufacture of a fantastic engine that did not make it beyond its model, the Fremont factory’s second owner, Carlos Flohr, used it to build vacuum chambers for protecting telescope lenses. Thirty feet across and made from stainless steel the lens holders were often mistaken for flying saucers. (photo courtesy Kvichak marine Industries.)

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THEN: Like violence in a classic Greek play, the carnage suggested by this 1934 crash scene on the then new Aurora speedway was kept off stage, either behind the city’s official photographer, or in the county morgue. (Courtesy, Seattle Municipal Archive.)

THEN: Constructed in 1890 as the Seattle Fire Department’s first headquarters, these substantial four floors (counting the daylight basement) survived until replaced by Interstate Five in the 1960s. (photo by Frank Shaw)

THEN: Frank Shaw’s late winter composition of waterfront landmarks at the foot of Madison Street in 1963. (Photo by Frank Shaw)

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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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First appeared in Pacific, July 15, 1984.
First appeared in Pacific, July 15, 1984.

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Appeared first in Pacific, June 24, 1984.
Appeared first in Pacific, June 24, 1984.

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Ballard's bascule bridge on 15th Ave. n.w. seen over the masts & stacks of Fishermen's Terminal.
Ballard’s bascule bridge on 15th Ave. n.w. seen over the masts & stacks of Fishermen’s Terminal.

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First appeared in Pacific, January 29, 1987
First appeared in Pacific, January 29, 1987

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First appeared in Pacific, August 19, 2001.
First appeared in Pacific, August 19, 2001.

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First appeared in Pacific, June 26, 1992.
First appeared in Pacific, June 26, 1992.

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First appeared in Pacific, May 6, 2001
First appeared in Pacific, May 6, 2001

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First appeared in Pacific, March 9, 1986.
First appeared in Pacific, March 9, 1986.

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First appeared in Pacific, October, 10, 2004.
First appeared in Pacific, October, 10, 2004.

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First appeared in Pacific, March 10, 1996.
First appeared in Pacific, March 10, 1996.

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First appeared in Pacific, December 11, 1988.

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Ballard preparing, it seems, to make American great again.
Ballard preparing, it seems, to make American great again.

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The Ballard Marching Band following a performance in Wallingford's* Meridian Park. (" Wallingford, "The Gateway to Ballard."
The Ballard Marching Band following a performance in Wallingford’s* Meridian Park.  *Wallingford, “The Gateway to Ballard.”

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Friends of Ballard and/or Ballardian friends at sea, or near it.
Friends of Ballard and/or Ballardian friends at sea, or near it.

2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Ballard Fire Station ca. 1903”

  1. Thank you for another great article and photos! I had heard that the first all white Dalmatian was spotted in 1965. Your THEN photo [1903] may prove what I heard is incorrect!

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