At Large in Ballard: Golden Years
Linda Treece thinks it would make her husband sound too old if she updated his website to say that he has been practicing law in Ballard for 49 years, so it stays at “over forty”. In person Tom M. Treece, P.S. looks as though he must have passed the bar exam at age ten to boast almost 50 years as a local attorney. The man may be a Golden Beaver but he just took up horseback riding 12 years ago. And according to his wife, Tom’s mount is “one strong horse.”
A few weeks ago I was told I should talk to Tom, “Because he knows everyone in Ballard.” When I called he asked who I wanted to talk about.
“You,” I told him.
Being the subject was not as comfortable for him as recalling fellow Ballard High School graduates and businesspeople of Ballard dating back to the 50’s and 60’s. Treece is Ballard-born (when the hospital was still in the Eagles building) and he was a BHS Junior already interested in theater when now-legendary Earl Kelly took over the Drama program. After University of Washington law school, Treece first practiced law with two others on Ballard Avenue, just north of the old city hall.
One morning in April 1965 they had just unlocked their doors and were still chatting in the foyer when the earthquake hit. Over their heads the fluorescent lights swayed but most unnerving was the sound. Bricks were falling onto the sidewalk and cars parked on Ballard Avenue. When they stepped outside to survey the damage a crack in the old city hall was already visible.
Gone with city hall’s subsequent demolition was the repository for what Treece and others had dubbed “A Museum of Early Ballard.” They had been collecting photographs, signs and remnants of early Ballard they envisioned would become a true museum. Instead there was an auction before the demolition. Local businessman Dave Mitchell successfully bid on one of the jail’s doors, even though he had no idea what he was going to do with it.
Treece recalled that surviving photos of early Ballard were later hung in rotation along the hallway of the old Ballard Library, not the Carnegie - the one currently slated for yet more apartments along 24th NW.
Treece suddenly mused, “Whatever happened to those?
Treece lives on the Eastside now, four doors away from where their horse is stabled. When he implored his wife to return to manage the office, as she had in the earliest days, she stipulated, “I bring my dog.” It’s a new dog since Linda Treece first returned to work in the office Treece shares with longtime partner Dave Richdale. Their offices are now downstairs in the building on NW 56th they built in 1978, but have since sold.
Treece can remember when Seaview Avenue was just a dirt trail and an old wooden freighter was anchored where Sunset West Condominiums now stand. But what’s changed most for him in Ballard is not so much the growth as how business is done. In old Ballard someone could appear and offer to demolish a building for free or start building a road without an environmental impact statement.
Within three blocks of his office on NW 56th Street there are cranes positioned at both the site of the old Denny/Mannings and Sunset Bowl. The trucks wait for the dirt as it is excavated, driving it out to Monroe. Treece learned from a driver, “No one in Seattle wants dirt.”
For Treece and partner Dave Richdale (a Lincoln graduate) business has always been steady; they specialize in estate, probate and escrow. When there were still two local newspapers they kept a tally on the wall so that they would evenly distribute their paid probate announcements between both papers. Treece also volunteers at Ballard Rehab, providing notary services as a favor for those needing Powers of Attorney.
Treece still really enjoys what he’s doing and the new tolling on the 520 bridge has actually made the commute the best it has been in years. He and Linda are in the office together two days a week; they usually pick up sandwiches at Ballard Market and eat lunch in the office. He would probably have been happier if we had discussed others, but Tom Treece is clearly a contented man, no matter how many years he has been practicing law in Ballard.