Annexed by the City of Seattle in 1907, Ballard was a separate town for fifty years, beginning with its settlement by Scandinavian immigrants in the 1850s. The Ballard City Hall was constructed in the 1890s. The hall suffered damage in the 1965 earthquake and had to be demolished, but the Ballard Centennial Bell Tower was erected on the site in 1976 with the refurbished 1,000-pound brass bell in place. Its dedication ceremony was attended by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden. The tower marks both the City Hall site and the Ballard Avenue Historic District, and is surrounded by a patio and a small park dubbed Marvin's Garden (1; 4). The park's namesake, Marvin Sjoberg (1921-1989), was a well-loved local in the community who was given the title of Honorary Mayor of Ballard (1; 4; 5).


  • Ballard Centennial Bell Tower at Marvin's Garden (image from Historical Marker Database)
    Ballard Centennial Bell Tower at Marvin's Garden (image from Historical Marker Database)
  • View of the bell tower in Marvin's Garden (image from Walking Seattle)
    View of the bell tower in Marvin's Garden (image from Walking Seattle)
  • Ballard City Hall in 1902 (image from City of Seattle archives)
    Ballard City Hall in 1902 (image from City of Seattle archives)
  • Ballard Avenue Historic District in 1976 (image from the National Register of Historic Places)
    Ballard Avenue Historic District in 1976 (image from the National Register of Historic Places)
  • Compass inside the Ballard Centennial Bell Tower (image from the Historical Markers Database)
    Compass inside the Ballard Centennial Bell Tower (image from the Historical Markers Database)
  • Marvin Sjoberg, Marvin's Garden namesake, in 1975 (image from University of Washington library)
    Marvin Sjoberg, Marvin's Garden namesake, in 1975 (image from University of Washington library)

Annexed by the City of Seattle in 1907, Ballard was a separate town for fifty years, beginning with its settlement by Scandinavian immigrants in the 1850s. It grew to be Washington's seventh largest city by the turn of the twentieth century. The Ballard City Hall was constructed in the 1890s, containing a jail, fire department, offices, community meeting rooms, and a ballroom (2; 3). As the population boomed, Ballard struggled to meet its citizens' service needs, particularly an adequate drinking water supply. For a few years, the city purchased water from Seattle, but the ensuing debt led to a reluctant decision to merge Ballard with its larger neighbor. The city hall tolled its bell, flew a flag at half mast, and was decorated in black crepe on annexation day (1; 2; 3). The hall subsequently served as a police station, but suffered damage in the 1965 earthquake and had to be demolished due to instability (3; 4).

The Ballard Centennial Bell Tower was erected on the site in 1976 with the original city hall's refurbished 1,000-pound brass bell in place. Its dedication ceremony was attended by King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden. The tower marks both the City Hall site and the Ballard Avenue Historic District, and is surrounded by a patio and a small park dubbed Marvin's Garden (1; 4). The park's namesake, Marvin Sjoberg (1921-1989), was a well-loved local in the community (1; 4). Though illiterate, Sjoberg earned a living selling newspapers, working odd jobs including the roles of bouncer and caretaker, and was given the title of Honorary Mayor of Ballard (5).

Historic Marker Inscriptions:

 Marker 1:
Be it remembered that at this place on the eleventh day of April, Nineteen Hundred and Seventy Six, the Ballard Avenue Landmark District was officially designed by a city ordinance signed by Wesley C. Uhlman, May or the City of Seattle and through the proclamation of his majesty, King Carl XVI Gustuf of Sweden, created in the bicentennial spirit of preserving the best of past traditions for the enlightenment of future generations.

Marker 2:

Ballard Avenue Historic District

Under the provisions of the national historic preservation act of October 16, 1966, this property possesses exceptional value in commemorating or illustrating American history. Placed on the national register on July 1, 1976 by the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Washington State Park and Recreation Committee.

Marker 3:

Ballard City Hall Bell

This bell, a symbol of the heritage of the Ballard community, hung above the Ballard City Hall when Ballard was an independent city and booming industrial center. On May 30, 1907, the bell was rung to sadly announce Ballard’s annexation to the City of Seattle and was later removed from the area. The former Ballard City Hall was demolished in 1965 after serving the city as a precinct police station.

The 1,000 pound brass bell has now been refurbished and returned to the Ballard community after an absence of nearly 40 years. On April 11, 1976, Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf XVI and Seattle’s mayor Wes Uhlman rang the bell to formerly announce the creation of the Ballard Avenue Historic District and the resurgence of community interest in its historic past. The bell now hangs in this monument at the corner of 22nd Avenue Northwest and Ballard Avenue, the former site of the Ballard City Hall.
 
Erected 1976 by National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Washington State Park and Recreation Committee. (Marker Number 103.)

1. Bugajsky, Kathy Ann. "Ballard Avenue Historic District / Ballard City Hall Bell." Historical Marker Database. February 21, 2010. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=27797. 2. Ernst, Jason. "A Brief History of Ballard, One of Seattle’s Most Beloved Neighborhoods." AMLI Residential. August 27, 2014. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.amli.com/blog/brief-history-of-ballard-neighborhood-seattle/. 3. Seattle Municipal Archives. "Ballard." City of Seattle. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/online-exhibits/annexed-cities/ballard. 4. Seattle Parks and Recreation. "Marvin's Garden." City of Seattle. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.seattle.gov/parks/park_detail.asp?ID=298. 5. University of Washington Libraries. "Marvin Sjoberg, the 'Honorary Mayor' of Ballard." Don Wallen collection. April 4, 1975. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/ref/collection/hupy/id/930.