Mapping Historic Ballard (MHB)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Style Summary: Art Deco and Art Moderne

What do you think of when you hear the term Art Deco? Many people immediately recall the iconic Chrysler and Empire State buildings in New York City, while others think of the Jazz Age, Hollywood, and all things glamorous.

Paris Exhibition of 1925

While the term “Art Deco” did not emerge until later, the ideas and forms that became known as Art Deco style were given broad exposure at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts held in Paris in 1925. The intent of the fair was to celebrate modernism in architecture and all the arts. 

Although the United States did not participate in the Fair, hundreds of American designers, artists, and others attended. From there, the Art Deco style quickly spread to the United States, influencing the design of automobiles, trains, ships, jewelry, fashion, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.

Art Deco symbolized the dawning of the modern age; exuberance and optimism after the horror of World War One. By the 1930s, the angular, vertical, and geometric forms of Art Deco gave way to the more streamlined, horizontal, and curving forms of Art Moderne. In 1933 at the Chicago World’s Fair, Art Moderne architecture underscored the theme of “A century of progress.”
In architecture, both styles were mostly seen in public and commercial buildings; neither were common in residential architecture. The verticality of Art Deco was particularly suited to the American skyscraper which offered owners and architects a chance to showcase American design, craftsmanship, ingenuity, and progress. Seattle’s contribution to Art Deco architecture includes the Seattle Tower and Exchange Building, among others.
Exchange Building

Seattle Tower

Art Deco and Art Moderne—what’s the difference?

The simplest way to tell the difference between the two styles is to see whether the emphasis is on vertical lines or horizontal ones. Art Deco is typically vertical and embellished with zig-zags, chevrons, and other geometric motifs, while Art Moderne is typically horizontal with asymmetrical facades and massing, and often with curved edges and corner windows. Both styles can be seen in apartment buildings and larger private homes (with concentrations in Los Angeles and Miami), but less commonly in smaller homes in working class neighborhoods.

Despite the relative scarcity of modest Art Deco and Art Moderne-styled houses, examples do exist—even here in Ballard! The Select 160 list includes one Art Moderne house, #12, built at the tail end of the movement in 1939 and shown here in a 1940 photo. Glass brick windows flank the entryway and brick stringcourses (long raised bands) emphasize the home’s horizontality. The symmetrical front fa├žade has a quiet elegance in its clean lines. 

It is interesting to consider what made the owner choose the Art Moderne style for his home in a neighborhood otherwise mostly full of Craftsman, American Foursquare, and Tudor Revival houses. Property records indicate the owner was Carl Schweizer and the architect was T. Buchinger--most likely Theobald Buchinger who was born in Austria in 1868 and came to the Washington Territory in 1886. Buchinger designed buildings for the Catholic Archdiocese including St. Alphonsus school in Ballard, brewery buildings for the Hemrick Brothers in Seattle, the St. Charles Hotel in Ballard, and a variety of other smaller buildings and houses. He served as President for the Washington State Society of Architects in 1926 and died in December 1940, approximately a year after the Schweizer home was completed. Curiously, Carl Schweizer was a manager at Pacific Telephone & Telegraph--a company that built the only Art Deco building on the Select 160 list, described below. 

The Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company commercial building (#75 on the Select 160 list) was built in the Art Deco style in 1942—also at the tail end of the movement. The brick chevron detailing above the windows is classic Art Deco, as is the terra cotta entryway with geometric designs above the door. Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company later became Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company (1961), then UW West (1984), Qwest (2000), and CenturyLink (2011).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Project Background
With a Small and Simple grant from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, the Ballard Historical Society and its 100 volunteers mapped the streets of Ballard in 2016 to document what is ‘still historic’ in its structures. They were looking for structures over 60 years-old with minimal changes or architectural integrity since their construction.

The impetus for the project was to document Ballard’s architectural history amid the rapid and widespread changes to building stock now occurring through remodels and new development. Without this documentation, valuable history in the form of built structures is being lost as Ballard evolves in the 21st century.

With the launch of this on-line site the Mapping Historic Ballard (MHB) project is now available in more forms than previously, and with more content being added regularly. The interactive maps have been loaded with specific  “One Page Reports” on 160 of the structures.

Creating the Survey
The term “small & simple” doesn’t do justice to the efforts and products of this project. The project team, led by architect Davidya Kasperzyk, worked with consultants and the volunteers to conduct a survey of existing pre-1960 buildings north of 58th NW from the water’s edge on the west to 8th Avenue NW on the east, and up to NW 85th (north edge). Parcel by parcel, volunteers used mobile data collection to document and evaluate each structure, photographing each building, noting exceptional trees and completing information on its architecture and building materials.  They also made note if was part of a cluster of other historic structures.

All volunteers received training in historic preservation and research prior to deploying with the mobile survey app. Even before volunteers began the street survey, existing historical information was loaded into the Geographic Information System (GIS) app, using King County property data. Historical maps have been loaded onto this website so that in addition to looking at what is standing now, the viewer can “rollover” to see what the site looked like in an earlier map and two earlier surveys (1904, 1937, 1996).

After the street survey was completed, all of the data was analyzed and sorted by decade, and architectural style and integrity. The GIS consultant created interactive maps and the project moved onto its next stage, selecting representative structures within the architectural styles common in the history of Ballard. Out of 7300+ structures mapped, some 650+ were identified as “vintage,” or high quality. Out of the 650+, some 160 structures were found to have the most historical significance and/or architectural integrity. Researchers then wrote detailed historical summaries and architectural descriptions for each of the ‘select’ properties. In June 2016 in a presentation at the Sunset Hill Community Center, the public was invited to see the first products, in a slideshow and with individual property summaries. Since that time the data has been further refined, and every effort has been made to upgrade photographs and information as it has become available. The work goes on!

Want even more background?
Mapping Historic Ballard is an ongoing community effort to document the rich history of Ballard architecture and provide guidance for preservation of that architectural heritage. The Historic Resource Inventory and related static and web based GIS maps with historic and contemporary data describing homes and other buildings from the many eras of Ballard development is just part of this website..

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Style Summary: American Foursquare

Image courtesy of Old House Journal
The American Foursquare is more of a house form than a house style—the nearly perfect “cube” shape was quick and economical to build, and easy to embellish with detailing in a variety of styles. The Foursquare became popular nationally in the mid-1890s and persisted well into the 1930s. It is common to find Foursquare houses with Colonial Revival, Renaissance, Italianate, Classical, Craftsman, or even Mission-styled details. The Seattle “Classic Box” is a highly embellished local variant of the Foursquare house that is found across the city, with many stellar examples in the Capitol Hill and Queen Anne neighborhoods. 

The Foursquare was also popular with homebuyers. The floor plan of four primary rooms on the main floor (sometimes with a center hall) and four bedrooms on the second floor, was flexible, roomy, and efficient. Large windows made for spaces full of light.

Ballard has its share of Foursquare houses; some fancy, but many that are plain as befit Ballard’s working-class origins. No matter; the square shape and symmetrical facades are pleasing enough on their own even without a lot of architectural detail. Typical features include: 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mapping Historic Ballard Interactive Web Map

This web map presents the results of the volunteer-driven crowd-sourced data collection effort to inventory all of the pre-1965 buildings in Ballard. click a parcel to see a photo of the building, as well as a list of structural and site characteristics. (a full screen version is available here).

Printable Maps from the Mapping Historic Ballard Survey

We produced a series of large-format PDF maps to showcase the data collected by our volunteers and to provide information about Ballard. Click the thumbnail or associated link to download the PDF file.

Parcels by building type

Buildings and Parcels by Year Built

Survey Evaluation Category

Select 150 and Vintage 500

Comparison Map: 1904 - 2015

We built a series of 'time travel' maps that enable users to swipe back and forth between the past and the present day. Here is a screenshot of the map showing 1904/2015, click here for the interactive version:

Comparison Map: 1937 - 2015

We built a series of 'time travel' maps that enable users to swipe back and forth between the past and the present day. Here is a screenshot of the map showing 1937/2015, click here for interactive version: