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The hidden history of the Ballard Bell

You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve heard it.

The Ballard Bell.

The Ballard Bell sits atop the Ballard Centennial Bell Tower at the corner of 22nd Ave NW and Ballard Ave NW in Ballard.

"It chimes the hour, on the hour,” says Jay Craig, or otherwise known as the Ballard Bell-Keeper.

“It rings eleven times at eleven and twice at two-o-clock. From nine in the morning to nine at night."

But, Jay says this bell didn’t always ring, in fact - it spent about 100 years in silence.

“Ballard was an independent city from 1890 to 1907,” says Laura Cooper from the Ballard Historical Society.

The 1,000 pound bronze bell was cast in 1892 and Laura says it resided in the bell tower of Ballard’s City Hall and rang everyday until May 30, 1907. The day Ballard was no longer an independent city.

“There was a very close vote and Ballard became part of Seattle,” Laura says.

The bell was stowed away and Ballard City Hall was re-purposed as a police station and was eventually demolished in the 60’s.

A few Ballard residents never forgot the bell, and rallied the community to build a new home for the historic ringer. In 1989, the current Ballard Centennial bell tower was dedicated, standing in the same spot where Ballard City Hall stood.

But it still didn’t ring.

Enter Jay Craig and the Ballard Historical Society. In 2011, they found and installed all the necessary hardware and software to get the Ballard Bell to sing.

“We just basically had to wire it all up there, make a base for the underside and fabricate a striker there’s a little electromagnet and when it gets power it strikes the bell,” Jay says.

If you want to see the mechanism for yourself, just walk under the bell tower and look up. But, some friendly advice, don’t stroll under there at the top of the hour... that bell is really loud.

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