Photo courtesy of Ballard Historical Society

Scenes from old Ballard: Golden Gardens

With summer waning and days getting shorter, we thought it might be nice to share an old scene from what has become one of Seattle’s most popular parks -- Golden Gardens.

The scene would strike a little odd these days, of course. Whereas today two piece bathing suits and shirtless men in Hawaiian shorts are the norm, here we see a more conservative approach to bathing in the sun. Aside from the jovial young people in front, in the background a plethora of men can be seen dressed in full suits, as if that were the proper attire for a day of recreation or relaxation.

The photo comes from the 1920s. From left to right is an unknown person, Ruth Peterson and her then future husband, Ted Peterson. Ted Peterson came from a pioneer family and grew up in a Northwest Ballard house that his parents built in 1902. Both Ted Peterson and his father were marine divers who worked all along the West coast, from California to Alaska.

Ted Peterson, though, is better known for his great love of Ballard and his civic engagement. He was elected state senator and later on was a key player in the Ballard Bell Centennial Foundation, which would return Ballard’s old town hall bell to its original position. You can still see it now, in fact, at the top of Ballard Ave, where it has been recently automated to ring every hour on the hour.

As for Golden Gardens Pak, it was developed in 1907 by Olive and Harry W. Treat. And rather than being named after Seattle’s infamously gray weather -- which is far from golden -- it was actually named after their daughter, whose name was Golden.

In 1923, The park was purchased for $37,000 by the city of Seattle. It became a municipal park, made accessible by a streetcar, and was advertised as a place to go to get out of the city and into nature (not to mention to check out some prime real estate), according to the Parks and Recreation website.

Since its creation, Golden Gardens has seen many changes. In 1929, the wooden bathhouse that is depicted in the photograph was replaced with the brick bathhouse, which remains to this day. By 1931, a long pergola (a shaded walkway often featured in gardens) paralleled the beach just to the west of the railroad tracks. In the late 20s and 30s, the Sunset Gun Club had a skeet shooting facility just north of the oil dock at the north end of the park. After the oil tanks were removed, marshland was filled to provide the grassy meadow we enjoy today.

These days, especially when the sun is peeking out, Golden Gardens sees more use than ever. Whether it’s throwing the Frisbee, playing volleyball, walking the dog or just soaking in some sun, a plethora of people can be seen, young and old, liberal and conservative. It’s also a hard place to beat for a better view of the sunset, as you can watch the sun sink slowly behind the Olympic Mountains, its last rays reflecting off of the Puget Sound and pink-hued clouds.

“Scenes from Old Ballard” is a new feature that will run tentatively on a bi-weekly schedule. It is composed using photos and notes from the Ballard Historical Society’s historic archives. Visit their website at

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