THIS WEEK we look south-southeast into a somewhat befuddling Ballard intersection where Leary Way, before curving to the east and heading for Fremont, meets 17th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 48th Street. The photographer of this picture was working for the Foster and Kleiser billboard company, so the intended subjects were the big signs on the far side of the curving Leary Way.
On the left, between the Mobilgas flying horse (named Pegasus by the ancient Greeks) and the OK Texaco service station is 17th Avenue Northwest. In the early 1890s, 17th was the eastern border for Gilman Park, an early name for Ballard. In 1936, the likely date of the photo, this intersection was obviously devoted to filling stations, billboards and power poles. Unlike the many brick landmarks on Ballard Avenue, one block to the west, the buildings along Leary Way were mostly one- and two-story commercial clapboards and manufacturing sheds.
Leary Way was named for Seattle capitalist John Leary, the first president of the West Coast Improvement Company, which through the 1890s shaped Ballard into the “Shingle Capitol of the World.” Writing in 1900, pioneer Seattle historian Thomas Prosch called it the “most successful” real estate enterprise connected to Seattle. The town was named for Capt. William Rankin Ballard, who with Leary was one of the company’s principal developers. Ballard explained that in the first three months of the township venture he made 300 percent profit on the property he had “won” as a booby prize in a gamble with a friend. Ballard did not live in Ballard, but recounted this from his First Hill mansion.
Soon after Leary passes under the north approach to the Ballard Bridge (the bridge’s trusses appear at the far right) it turns at 11th Avenue Northwest, cutting the shortest possible route to Fremont throughstreets lined with well-tended workers’ homes. This neighborhood just east of Ballard or just west of Fremont has cherished nicknames; sometimes it’s called Ballmont, and other times Freelard.
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