Sobey Manufacturing shingle mill, 1915

By 1895, Ballard claimed to be the center of the world's largest shingle industry and, by 1904, was producing an incredible 3 million shingles per day. Many of the mill jobs were filled by Scandinavian immigrants, establishing an ethnic influence that remains today.

The area's success spurred the construction of a strip of commercial buildings north of the shingle mills--two and three story Italianate brick banks, retail stores, saloons, and hotels--that form the core of the historic district today. Incorporated in 1890 with a population of 1,173, Ballard took just five years to grow into a bustling town of 10,000 that supported sizable foundry and fishing industries, in addition to the tremendous shingle industry.