The big news in Ballard this past weekend was the announcement that the Ballard Historical Society is launching a campaign to raise funds to automate the bell in the Ballard Centennial Bell Tower, which stands in the location formerly occupied by the Ballard City Hall. And the hottest ticket in town was the 97th birthday celebration for retired elementary school teacher Bertha Davis at the Ballard Blandmark, which also served as the kickoff for the Bring the Ring Back to Ballard project.
Both events are reminders that despite the influx of community-wrecking carpetbaggers and commuters (and condos), parts of Ballard remain true to its small town roots. In fact, as somebody commented on MyBallard.com, the whole thing bears a striking resemblance to everybody’s favorite fictional Connecticut town–Stars Hollow. Whatever. If folks really want the bell to ring twice daily that’s fine by me. (Unlike some, I won’t be breaking out my tool box under cover of darkness.)
Ballard City Hall, the original home of the bell, was demolished in 1967, two years after it was damaged in the 1965 earthquake. The photo immediately above from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shows the building shortly before demolition, with the bell removed for safekeeping. This overview of U.S. earthquakes in 1965 included the following summary of damage to the building:
Ballard City Hall (Ballard Avenue N.W. and 22nd Avenue N.W.)–Sidewalks adjacent to the old Ballard City Hall were barricaded due to bricks falling from the old structure.
This implies a serious amount of damage, but enough to warrant demolishing the whole building? Paul Dorpat doesn’t think so. In his 1990 book Now and Then, he contends that the earthquake resulted in only minor damage to the bell tower and was really just an excuse for demolition. He also notes that formation of the Ballard Ave Historical District in 1976, came too late to save the City Hall building.