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A Tale of Two Cities
As you, dear readers know, Linda and I recently moved. What we
didnít know is that though we were staying in Seattle, we were
moving to a different city.
For twenty-five years we lived in southeast Seattle, in a
neighborhood near Columbia City. Now we live in northwest Seattle,
west of Ballard on Shilshole Bay. Itís the same city, only it isnít.
Seattle is bounded by water, Lake Washington to the east and the
Puget Sound to the west. In our former home we were several blocks
off Lake Washington. Now we look out on the Sound. Itís a world of
The Sound is an ocean atmosphere, with tides, waves, currents, boat
traffic and commerce related to the sea. The Lake, which did have
white-caps on stormy days, seems more residential -- park-like -- by
comparison. It is a winding way for runners, cycling, walking,
sculling as well as the seasonal hydroplane races of Seafair.
Lake Washington is fresh water, swimable in the summer. The Puget
Sound is salt water, and stays icey cold year-round. This geographic
difference shapes different culture.
Ballard is famously Scandinavian, home of Norweigens, Swedes, Finns
and sons of Iceland. Southeast Seattle has long been a landing place
for a varied mix of the cityís most recent immigrants. In the 2010
census our southeast Seattle zip code, 98118, was identified as
ďAmericaís most diverse.Ē
While African Americanís make up 2% of the Ballard population, that
number is 26% in southeast Seattle. Caucasians are 87% of the
population in Ballard, just 27% in the 98118 zip code.
Yet there are some commonalities between the two neighborhoods. Both
were founded in the late 19th century as independent towns. Each was
annexed to Seattle in the early 20th century. More interesting, both
were defined in those early years by lumber. Ballard was the
nationís leading shingle producer with ten mills on the waterfront.
Columbia City was a milltown for the lumber industry that harvested
the forests of southeast Seattle and Renton. Lumber was shipped from
Columbia City to Seattle by rail.
From my point of view the biggest differences, here in northwest
Seattle are being on the Sound and a more predominately Caucasian
population. Scandanavian heritage lives on. May 17 will be Ballardís
Norweigen Day Parade, which I understand is a very big deal.