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.
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 toRussell, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: The Ballard Fire Station ca. 1903”
Where are the spots? On the ear and at the base of the tail.
Thank you for another great article and photos! I had heard that the first all white Dalmatian was spotted in 1965. Your THEN photo  may prove what I heard is incorrect!