Mapping Historic Ballard (MHB)

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: