Take Action! Support the Ballard Carnegie Library Landmark Nomination

Ballard Carnegie Library in 1937 / Source: Washington State Archives, Puget Sound Branch

Historic Seattle has been working with the Ballard Historical Society and the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to support the landmark nomination for the historic Ballard Carnegie Library. We urge you support the nomination and designation of this significant community landmark. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Everyone seems to already think it’s a landmark, so let’s make it one officially!

Attend the Landmarks Preservation Board Meeting or Submit Written Comments

The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board will consider this nomination at its meeting on Wednesday, September 19, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. in the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, 40th Floor, Room 4060. The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. Or you may email your comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board by September 17, 2012, by 5:00 p.m. Address your comments to the Landmarks Preservation Board c/o Kate Krafft and email comments to kate.krafft@seattle.gov.

We encourage you to speak or write about why the Ballard Carnegie Library building is important to you and/or the community. We ask you to tie in the City’s designation standards to support your comments. A property only needs to meet one of the designation standards to be landmarked but it’s always good to meet more than one standard. Review the nomination to learn about the property’s significance. The nomination is posted on the Department of Neighborhoods website under the heading of “Current Nominations.” Download the meeting agenda here (LPB41412.)

Historic Seattle believes the property meets several designation standards including:

Standard C: Because the Ballard Carnegie Library was built when Ballard was an incorporated city and was a key cultural and educational institution in the community, it is associated in a significant way with a significant aspect of the cultural heritage of the Ballard community.
Standard D: The Ballard Carnegie Library is an excellent example of an eclectic style with Renaissance Revival or Neo-Italianate influences.
Standard E: The building is an outstanding work of architect Henderson Ryan.
Standard F: Even though it is located mid-block on NW Market Street, the Ballard Carnegie Library building maintains prominence of spatial location, contrasts of siting, age, and scale. It is an easily identifiable visual feature in Ballard and contributes to the distinctive quality or identity of the neighborhood.

History of the Site and Why it’s Important to Landmark the Building

Built in 1904 when Ballard was an incorporated city, the construction of the Ballard Carnegie Free Public Library was funded by the Carnegie Library Program. When Ballard was annexed to the city of Seattle in 1907, the library became a branch of the Seattle Public Library. In the post-war boom of the 1950s, the community had outgrown the original library. A new, larger Ballard branch library building was erected in 1963 at a different location (5711 24th Ave. NW). That same year, the original Ballard Carnegie Library building was sold to a private owner. The current owner acquired the property in 1977 and is the second private owner. The building has been well-loved and has served small, locally-owned neighborhood businesses since it has been in private hands.

We believe nominating and designating the building as a Seattle Landmark will only enhance the property, not hinder its operations or its future. Most historic properties in Ballard, particularly those in the Ballard Avenue Landmark District, are thriving. Officially designated landmarks are also eligible for preservation incentives such as Special Tax Valuation and Zoning Code/Building Code Relief. Since the property is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s eligible for federal historic tax credits as well. Seattle Landmarks are also eligible to apply for funding through 4Culture’s Landmark Challenge Grant program.

For a detailed history and description of the Ballard Carnegie Library, download the nomination prepared by The Johnson Partnership. Larry Johnson, who prepared the nomination, has a long history with the property. For an interesting look into his connection to the building, we refer you to an article he wrote for Preservation Seattle. He also wrote a more recent blog post about current efforts to landmark the property. The current owner, Karoline Morrison, does not support the nomination. Here’s an article in the Ballard News-Tribune on why she is not in support of officially recognizing the property as an official landmark.

Your voice will make a difference in demonstrating to the Landmarks Preservation Board broad community support for the nomination and designation of the Ballard Carnegie Library building.

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2 Responses to “Take Action! Support the Ballard Carnegie Library Landmark Nomination”


  1. 1 Nan Hughes September 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I second Mr. Curl’s motion as a way to preserve this gorgeous building!

  2. 2 Herb Curl September 15, 2012 at 10:57 am

    It’s obvious the current owners are very dedicated to preserving this building and they’re providing for it their wills. But wills are easily broken, and they’re not likely to provide for something like the “city-funded perpetual maintenance” that Andrew Carnegie required of his library in Pittsburgh.

    City designated landmarks do not necessarily protect entire buildings. Current owners can request ‘undesignation.’ In many cases owners are allowed to build an alternative structure on a site if only the facade of the historical building is retained, e.g., the Troy Laundry building in the SLU.

    The owners are funding maintenance, etc. from rentals, which is a very tenuous proposition. If Mr. Johnson and others would like the entire building preserved and possibly restored, they could possibly work with the owners to start a 501c3 “Friends of the Library” foundation to seek an endowement. Otherwise there may not be many others as passionate about preserving the building as the current owners.


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