Courtesy of Ballard Historical Society

Scenes From Old Ballard: When streetcar existed

With all of the recent hubbub over the possibility of a high capacity transit line connecting Ballard to Downtown, we thought it might be nice to take a look at the past. If you'll remember, Ballard had a streetcar before.

In this photo from the Ballard Historical Society's photo archive, which was taken around 1920, Maud Reid Adams stands on the Ballard Bridge with a steetcar in the background.

Here are their notes on the photo:

The Ballard Bridge was originally constructed in 1888. Prior to it being built there was no direct access to Seattle from Ballard. Interestingly, there was originally a tiny island located where the current bridge stands. Anchored to this island (at the turn of the century) was what was known as a Pest House. Built initially upon a scow and eventually secured to the island with pilings, the pest house was used as a quarantine facility during the epidemics of diphtheria, scarlet fever, small pox and polio. The original bridge has been replaced twice by more modern versions.

In 1890 the first streetcar started operating in Ballard. The run consisted of twelve motorcars that made two daily trips apiece. The cost was $.05 (with a transfer) and the streetcar grossed about $20.00 a day. In 1902 the Fremont-Ballard Streetcar began service. As a result people could live in Ballard and easily commute to downtown Seattle every day. Unfortunately streetcars were unreliable and often overcrowded. Ballard’s streetcar system started to decline in the 1930’s and the last Ballard streetcar run ended in 1941. The City of Seattle replaced the electric streetcars with diesel buses and trackless trolleys.

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