Ballard, once a Scandinavian fishing town and blue-collar community, is now a popular Seattle neighborhood. And rightly so–located just a 30 minute bus ride from downtown Seattle, Ballard has easy access to the city along with the benefits of bordering Puget Sound. Ballard has one of the Seattle area’s most beautiful beaches at Golden Gardens, and the Ballard Locks and adjacent gardens draw both tourists and locals.
In recent years, Ballard’s growth has meant that rents are skyrocketing and new construction–particularly of large apartment complexes and row houses–has been booming. Seattle has been one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, leaving residents to grapple with the issues caused by growth: housing affordability, the pushing out of old communities and cultures, and an overall need for smart growth.
The changes in Ballard have been disconcerting to many. How to support the community of Ballard and ensure that its history is captured and its future is planned for? Enter the Mapping Historic Ballard project. The project launched in November of 2015 and the completion celebration was held just two weeks ago. The outcomes of the project are a testament to a community and an unsurpassable resource to the future, both as a research tool and as an information base of community planning.
What the Mapping Historic Ballard project has accomplished is a fascinating resource for Seattlites and other communities alike. Ballard’s fight for smart growth is by no means unique. Check out some of the amazing tools the Ballard Mapping team created:
- You can see the complete inventory here. Volunteers photographed all buildings older than 50 years, and used an app to record details. (Click “improve this map” in the lower right corner of the map, or click here for a full version with key.)
- Maps with sliders that allow comparison of old and current views were created for 1904/2016, 1937/2016, and 1996/2016.
The Ballard Historical Society hopes to combine this trove of information with other materials, like a series of oral histories, that can be linked to the map. Growth can be unavoidable, but allowing for growth while retaining the cultural of a place is invaluable. Ballard wouldn’t be Ballard without the Scandinavian imports store, the Safeway on 85th festooned year-round with Scandinavian flags, and the tiny fisherman’s cottages tucked here and there in the neighborhoods. This isn’t just a neighborhood within the Seattle metropolis. This is Ballard. And this place matters.