Lisa’s folks are visiting. We were off to work and they looked at a bit of a loose end. We suggested they visit Cafe Besalu–the best French bakery outside France–for croissants, and then find the Pioneer Houses on Ballard Ave and take some pictures. You’ve got to keep the kids occupied.
I’d walked by the small green house that fronts onto Ballard Ave many times and been mildly curious. As Lisa’s Dad said, once you notice it, your eye is drawn back. It’s approximately the same vintage as the rest of the street, maybe a bit older. But it’s a house wedged into an “unprepossessing” streetscape of brick commercial buildings. (Look a bit closer and it’s actually two houses. The second house sits directly behind the first one and is accessed from the right. The lot slopes down to NW 22nd.)
Looking at the buildings it would be fair to guess that the houses came first. Maybe the owners refused to sell and ended up surrounded either side (sound familiar?). But the truth is a little stranger. They’re two of the oldest houses in Seattle, dating back to the late 1800s, but they’ve only been on Ballard Ave since the mid-1970s.
This from Historic Seattle:
In 1975, two of the city’s oldest houses were threatened with demolition. These small, carpenter-built wooden houses, typical of the late 1800s, sat on land in the International District that (was) coveted by the management of an adjacent bank. The bank offered to donate the houses and help cover the cost of moving the structures ….. After a search for an appropriate site in their original neighborhood was unsuccessful, Historic Seattle decided to move the houses to the newly created Ballard Avenue Historic District, where they were compatible with early Ballard dwellings. After relocation, the exteriors were fully restored and the interiors remodeled for adaptive reuse as professional offices.
Note that the Historic Seattle text says they were compatible with early Ballard dwellings, not with Ballard Avenue. As Lisa’s Dad pointed out, they’re something of an architectural oddity in the context of the street, but quite welcome in my opinion.