Ballard: The City That Once Was

Just another day in Ballard. Another day coasting on my borrowed two wheeled transportation through the old fishing town. Remnants of this bygone era still cling to its shores, the broke down and rusted docks jutting out into the canal, waiting patiently to receive the cod laden ghost ships that once chugged in from Alaska’s frigid waters.

The seasonally reclusive star came out today. In a city where winters are predominately dark, wet and dreary you learn to cherish any ray of direct sunlight that may happen to fall upon your grey little corner of the world. This is the second Sunday in a row where the day lived up to its given name. Thank god for sunny Sundays.

I needed out. Out of my room, out of the apartment and out of the neighborhood. Months of constant traveling have left me a restless wanderer. I want stability, predictability but then once found I want change and something different. My mind can’t make up its mind.

So while I couldn’t bum around a different country I decided I could at least spend time bumming around different parts of Ballard. Ballard is a strange place in that technically it is part of the city of Seattle but beyond that technicality its nothing like it. Ballard lies on the far outskirts of Seattle, down a large hill and eventually ending on the shores of Puget Sound.

It’s a blue collar, 9 to 5, industrial town. The people are friendly; involved in their community and love to talk of the rich Scandinavian history Ballard is built upon. Actually they love their Nordic roots so much that they celebrate Norwegian Constitution Day, complete with a parade down the main street. They also have a museum dedicated to their Nordic history. A museum at which I paid 6 dollars and spent a couple of hours walking around learning about Scandinavian immigration to America and eventually Ballard.

For 17 years Ballard was a city all its own. That came to an abrupt halt in 1907 when it was annexed to the city of Seattle. Many of the residents at the time were not happy with this annexation proclamation. Even today you can still see cars with bumper stickers that read “Free Ballard”. Guess I’m not the only who doesn’t deal well with change.

I ended my day with a stop at the Maritime brewery. Sitting at the bar with strangers around me I drank pints of Nightwatch dark ale and talked with Bruce and Dave, two regulars, about films, football and the once great city that lay just beyond the doors of the Jolly Roger Taproom.


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