Seeking Ballard's past
If a picture is worth a thousand words, there's a book coming out about Ballard history that's worth a quarter of a million.
The Ballard Historical Society is publishing "Seattle's Ballard" this Christmas, and is in the process of assembling some 250 photos to showcase the images that tell the story of how the Ballard we know came to be.
Julie Albright is an editor with Arcadia Publishing, a company specializing in historical books. For Albright, a third generation Ballardite herself, her new assignment of putting together a book on Ballard's history is something of a dream job. She says the big challenge is getting people to find those old photos.
That's where you come in. "Seattle's Ballard" will be a photo album built from the photos that people often have sitting in a dusty attic, or some cellar, or lost behind a dozen other boxes in the utility closet. Albright is urging Ballard residents to take some time and dig out some of those photos, and send them to the historical society for consideration. She says that, if nothing else, photos in the historical society's archive are saved for posterity.
"Once they're printed in a book, they're saved forever. It doesn't do any good to have great photos if nobody sees them," Albright said.
And by great, Albright stresses that the photos don't have to be strictly of children cavorting or elegant houses - though those are good too. She said the images of Ballard come in all shapes and sizes and shades of gray, and people should send photos to the historical society whether they think the photos are suitable or not. The key, for Albright and the society, is for people to find those photos so they can be preserved in the first place. Albright says Ballard's history can't protect itself.
"I have a great love of Ballard, and I think its history is being torn down willy-nilly," she said.
"When I was a kid, except for Ballard Avenue, Leary Way and Market Street, the whole area from here [Market Street] to the canal was single family houses."
And Albright, whose grandfather was a shipwright, sees preserving homes as a crucial part of capturing Ballard's origins, and its maritime heritage.
"Many of these people were building homes when they weren't fishing," she said.
"These houses are not on the historic register, they won't be saved. A huge part of our history is being lost every day."
And Ballard industry, like the homes themselves, is a tenuous thing, especially now, with the price of land skyrocketing.
"I've realized something with blinding clarity, where businesses were when I grew up are now storage warehouses. This is one of the last working waterfronts on the west coast," the Sunset Hill resident says.
Albright remembers the log booms on Shilshole Bay from her childhood, and knows about the maritime trade from her work in a cannery in Alaska.
But Albright's is only one past, and there are countless others in the folds of Ballard's history, that just need to see the light of day, or at least the light of a picture scanner so they can end up in the book. Albright says that even old pictures too delicate to remove from plastic can be scanned portably to make a digital replica.
So get up in that closet and find those photos but do it fast. Albright says all photos need to be collected by May first in order to keep the book's Christmas release schedule.
If you have photos you'd like to send to have considered for "Seattle's Ballard," contact Albright at email@example.com or call her at 206-661-2400.