This sign is not your typical ghost sign, a term that typically applies to faded painted advertisements. But it’s certainly a ghost of sorts, located above the People’s Pub, just a few doors down from the Princess Hotel. I don’t know how long the Vasa Sea Grill and its Patio Room have been gone, but the People’s Pub has been in this location since 2000.
And it seems like I may have captured this sign just in time, before it goes the way of the Bob’s Ballard TV sign. Item 120210.13 on the agenda (pdf) of last December’s Ballard Ave Landmark District Board meeting was “Remove Vasa Sea Grill and Patio Room Sign.” Minutes are not yet available, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the motion to remove was approved.
Sig Hansen notes in his memoir North by Northwestern that the Vasa Sea Grill was named after the famous 17th Century Swedish warship of the same name that sank less than a mile into her maiden voyage, and also provides this description of Ballard Ave and the Vasa (the bar) in the 1960s:
Liquor laws allowed only restaurants to pour the hard stuff. So Malmen’s Fine Food (now Hattie’s Hat) served dinner in the back and cocktails in the front, while the Smoke Shop had its “Ember Room” and Vasa Sea Grill had its “Patio Room.” … The Patio Room was smoky and raucous, crowded with old sailors and fishermen, most of them Scandinavian. …. The crowd was almost all men – in those days women were not allowed to sit at the bar or carry a drink from table to table, a holdover from the antiprostitution laws from decades before. Out the back window of Vasa’s Patio Room a man could see the Ballard Locks and the Pacific Fisherman Shipyard, the Scandinavian crosses fluttering in the wind.
One thing not noted in Hansen’s memoir is that the sinking was not the end of the story for the Vasa (the ship). The Vasa was found outside Stockholm harbor in the late 1950s and salvaged in 1961, and today is one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions.