Ballard Private Hospital (Seattle)

  • By Brendan Jonathan Harrison
  • Posted 4/29/2009
  • Essay 9002

The Ballard Private Hospital, located in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, was founded in 1907 and continued until 1935.  The hospital originally served mill workers and their families, but by 1920 had changed to being primarily a maternity hospital.  It operated for almost 30 years, making it one of the oldest hospitals in Ballard.  

Mill Hands and Heads

Work in lumbering and the shingle mills was very demanding.  “Not only was the pay low, but the working conditions were notoriously dangerous.  Producing 30,000 shingles a day at a grueling pace, sooner or later the shingle weavers ran more than just the red cedar over the blade.  A shingle weaver could always be recognized around town by his mutilated hands.  Dr. Melgaard recalls that sewing weavers’ fingers back on constituted the majority of his work in Ballard” (Passport to Ballard).

According to stories related by Ed and Emil Beck, who were familiar with working conditions in the Ballard mills, injuries ranged from minor to severe and were quite frequent. Some of the mills had basic first aid rooms and were able to treat relatively simple injuries. However, major accidents such as severed fingers, very deep cuts in arms and other body parts, as well as head injuries caused by flying pieces of wood were beyond their capabilities. Many of the mills had only a designated first aid person -- or nobody at all. “There was a very crucial need for medical facilities in early Ballard. Indeed, for workers, their families, and the general population, health care was a major concern” (The Beck Family History). 

Doctors Nearby

Dr. Walter Johnson and Dr. Joseph H. Reinhart had offices in Ballard as early as 1893.  Dr. Johnson was a graduate of the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and Dr. Reinhart received his medical degree from the Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio.  By 1895, Dr. Reinhart had left Ballard and Dr. Johnson was joined by Dr. A. M. Critz.  The year 1898 marked an increase in the number of health-care providers with the addition of Dr. C. Stanley Emery, Dr. James Parker, and midwife  Olena Dawley.  

Dr. Johnson also ran the Ballard Pharmacy which was in the same building as his office at the southwest corner of 2nd Avenue W and Ballard Avenue.  In addition to being on the main commercial street of the community, his office was also very close to the mills. Along with the other doctors he no doubt had a very busy practice.

By 1900 there were six doctors all with offices on Ballard Avenue, but no hospital.

A Hospital for Ballard

The need for a hospital was first met, as far as we know, in 1902 when Dr. Charles F. Engels (b. 1872) established the Ballard General Hospital at 256 Ballard Avenue. Dr. Engels received his medical degree in 1896 from the Bennett College of Eclectic Medicine in Chicago. He was licensed in Washington state in 1900.  Dr. C. S. Emery, an 1890 graduate of the Kentucky School of Medicine in Louisville who was licensed in Washington in the same year, assisted him in the operation of the hospital. This hospital is reported to have had six beds by 1905.  Sometime in 1906, the hospital ceased to exist and Dr. Engels was no longer in Ballard.

By 1906, The Ballard City Hospital was in operation at 182 Leary Avenue. Virginia Roberts was the matron.  The 1907 edition of Polk’s Seattle City Directory lists the hospital as the Ballard General Hospital, with "Mrs. Lillis Lawrence" as the matron.  It was gone the following year.

In late 1905 or early 1906, the Lumbermen’s Hospital opened in the Louisa House building at 2nd Avenue and the corner of Burke (now 20th Avenue NW and Russell). It was under the direction of "Mrs. M. R. Cudhie," the superintendent.  This was the forerunner of the Ballard Private Hospital.

Ballard Private Hospital

In 1907, Dr. Ivan Arthur Parry (b. 1876) took over the Lumbermen’s Hospital, and it became known as the Ballard Hospital, a “private hospital under the direction of Dr. I. A. Parry” (Polk’s Seattle City Directory, 1907). Marion P. Bunker was the matron. It is reported to have had 10 beds.  At the time, the address was 814 2nd Avenue.  When the annexation of Ballard to the City of Seattle took place in May 1907, the streets were renamed and the hospital’s address became 5218 20th Avenue NW.  The first official listing for the Ballard Private Hospital by name appeared in the 1909 edition of Polk’s Seattle City Directory.

Dr. Parry (1876-1924) was born in Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1901.  He came to Seattle in 1902, was licensed to practice medicine, and began his career as a resident at Seattle General Hospital.  By 1904 he had opened an office in the Lumber Exchange Building in downtown Seattle.  

Dr. Murray (1879-1943) was born in Canada in 1879.  He graduated from the University of Toronto College of Medicine in 1906 and came to Seattle around 1908.  He opened an office in the American Bank Building and joined Dr. Parry in the Ballard Private Hospital. 

Another hospital appeared in 1910 when the Salmon Bay Hospital was established at 5322 Ballard Avenue with Marian S. Faulkner as superintendent.  By 1913 Dr. Thomas J. Costello (b. 1876) was in charge. He graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1904. He was licensed in Washington State in 1907. The Salmon Bay Hospital was apparently closed by 1916, although Dr. Costello remained in practice in Ballard for many years. 

The Ballard Private Hospital remained in the Louisa Block until 1913 when it moved to 6016 17th Avenue NW.  Dr. Murray also took up residence here and opened an office at 5300 Ballard Avenue.  On October 25, 1913, Dr. Parry and Dr. Murray filed articles of incorporation for the Ballard Hospital Investment Co., Inc.  The capital stock of the corporation was $8,000 divided into 80 shares with a par value of $80.00 each. 

War Years

The status of the Ballard Private Hospital may have changed sometime in late 1915 or early 1916 since it was not listed in Polk’s Seattle City Directory for 1915 through 1921.  Dr. Murray appears to have left Seattle in 1915, possibly to serve with the United States military or with the government during World War I.  In 1916 Dr. Parry and his wife, Elizabeth, moved into the building at 6016 17th Avenue NW.  He also maintained an office at 3-5300 Ballard Avenue in addition to his office in the Empire Building in downtown Seattle.  

It is possible that he continued to operate the Ballard Private Hospital at 6016 17th Avenue NW on a smaller scale and chose not to list it in the directories.  On the other hand, he may have discontinued the hospital, admitting only occasional overnight patients on a limited basis.  A Ballard Hospital is listed in the 1914-1918 editions of the American Medical Directory, which would seem to indicate that it was in operation during this period -- unless the listing was continued on pro-forma basis by Dr. Parry or simply not removed by the AMD editorial staff.   

In any case, Dr. Parry’s connection with Ballard ended sometime in 1918 when he left both the house at 6016 17th Avenue NW and the office on Ballard Avenue.  He continued to practice from his office in the Empire Building in downtown Seattle until his untimely death in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 18, 1924, while on a study trip to Australia.

Dr. Murray returned to Seattle in 1920 and resumed his practice at 705 Broadway.  In 1921 he opened an additional office at 5420 20th Avenue NW in the Murphy Building in Ballard.  The following year he moved the Ballard office to 5300 Ballard Avenue.  In 1925 he closed this office and concentrated his practice in a new office in the Medical and Dental Building in downtown Seattle. He continued at this location until his death at age 63 on February 3, 1943.   

The Beck Era

Meanwhile in 1919 the groundwork was laid for the next phase of the Ballard Private Hospital when Scandinavian immigrants Ole and Ellen Beck and their family came to Seattle. They purchased a six-bedroom house at 2426 West 58th Street (now NW  58th Street), which was originally built as a boarding house. They were very happy with this conveniently located home in Ballard. 

Sadly, their joy did not last long as Ole became critically ill in late December 1919 and died on January 6, 1920.  His death created a serious financial problem for the family. His widow acted quickly and decided to rent the house. According to the 1920 Census as enumerated on January 12, two nurses, Florence Wolliscroft and Muriel Devey, had moved into 2426 West 58th Street and were operating a hospital. The census also listed three female “lodgers” in their early twenties, each with a child about a month old. This suggests that the house may have been a hospital serving single mothers.  

Some six months later, on June 10, 1920, J. E. Taylor and his wife took a three year lease with Ellen Beck for the house.  It is not known if they continued to rent to the two nurses or made some use of the house themselves.  However, on October 19, 1920, the Taylors had second thoughts and sublet the house to Mrs. Sydney McDougall who was then operating a sanitarium at 1111 Boylston Avenue.  Again, it is not known what Mrs. McDougall did with the house or how long she actually held the sub-lease.

Death and Birth

However, we do know that by November 1921, or perhaps somewhat earlier, the Ballard Private Hospital was formally in operation at 2426 West 58th Street because a death was officially recorded as having taken place in the hospital.

The former six-bedroom boarding house was remodeled to serve primarily maternity patients. Four of the six small bedrooms on the second floor were used as patient rooms with very little modification. The two remaining bedrooms and a large linen closet at the back of the second floor were remodeled for childbirth and surgical use.  One bedroom served as a prep room and recovery room. The adjoining bedroom was enlarged by the removal of a closet to become the delivery room. 

At this time two large windows were installed to let in more light.  A two-bulb electric ceiling fixture was installed in a position directly above the delivery table to provide additional light. The former linen closet, directly next to the delivery room, was fitted with a special OB (obstetrical) sink deep enough to wash newborns.  A counter and supply cabinet were installed to facilitate care for the newborns.  

There was a small office and a bedroom on the first floor. A call-bell system was installed for patients to summon staff from the first floor, although we understand that a nurse sometimes stayed in one of the bedrooms on the second floor.

By 1922 the Ballard Private Hospital was firmly established and offering maternity care to many women in Ballard.  Prudence White was the manager and she continued in this position through about 1924.  (Mrs.) Todd Gormley took over in 1925.    

A New Ballard Hospital

The need for a substantial hospital in Ballard had been recognized for some time and “on March 19, 1928 the new Ballard Accident and General Hospital opened on the third floor of the Ballard Eagles Building on Market Street” (Peltin).  This hospital, with 21 beds and seven bassinets, was under the direction of superintendent Ada L. Law, R.N.

The hospital provided standard care in addition to maintaining a 24-hour “on call” emergency service.  However, capacity was limited and the staff was often overwhelmed by the workload.  The hospital later became the Ballard General Hospital at 5300 Tallman Avenue, which evolved into the Ballard Community Hospital.  It is now known as Swedish Medical Center Ballard Campus.

Ballard Private Hospital Continuing

It has been related that the Ballard Private Hospital closed when the new hospital opened on Market Street, but this is not true.  There was still a shortage of hospital beds and medical services in Ballard, even after the opening of the Ballard Accident and General Hospital.  Babies continued to be born and people continued to become sick and injured.

There was a high demand for emergency care, particularly among workers in the mills, boat yards, and other industries in Ballard.  This need was further met in 1928 by Dr. Bruce Elmore, who established the Ballard Emergency Station at 4743 Ballard Avenue.  It was located close to the mill area and was equipped to handle industrial accidents. Dr. Elmore died on May 28, 1930, and the Ballard Emergency Station was taken over by Dr. Jackson K. Holloway.  In 1935 the Station moved to 5130 Leary Avenue and continued in operation until 1940.

The Ballard Private Hospital remained in business and by 1929, Olive Moon, a nurse, had taken over as superintendent. Through the early 1930s, the hospital continued to serve maternity patients, accident victims, and those in need of minor hospitalization.  

Beck family history relates that the hospital was owned and managed by female nurses. Since the hospital’s primary focus was on maternity care, they were probably similar to today’s nurse midwives. They had medical back-up for difficult and emergency cases from one or more Ballard physicians.  Several “old timers” who lived in the area in the 1930s reported that Dr. Walter Christensen was one of the physicians affiliated with the hospital, but no documentation has been found to support this statement.

Last Years of Ballard Private Hospital

In 1934, Olive Moon married Ted Fraser and they operated the hospital together.  But bad economic times during the Great Depression and competition from larger hospitals took an ever increasing toll on the Frasers and they eventually decided to close the hospital in early 1935.

At that time, the house that served as Ballard Private Hospital reverted to a private residence.

Sources: Passport to Ballard: the Centennial Story (Seattle: Ballard News Tribune, 1988), 254; Scott Edward Harrison, “The Beck Family History,” typescript in possession of the author, Seattle, Washington; Polk’s Medical and Surgical Directory of the United States (Detroit : R. L. Polk & Co., 1886-1936); Polk’s Seattle City Directory (Seattle: Polk's Seattle Directory Co., 1889-1936); American Medical Directory (Chicago: American Medical Association Press, 1906-1990); “Articles of Incorporation of Ballard Hospital Investment Co., Inc.” dated October 25, 1913, Collection: Articles of Incorporation, Secretary of State, Washington State Archives; Dr. Ivan Parry Dies on Trip to New Zealand,” The Seattle Times, March 19, 1924, p. 1; Lease for house at 2426 W 58th Street, dated June 10, 1920, in possession of author; "Hollman -- Mrs. Julia Hollman" (funeral notice), Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 1, 1921, " Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery, Seattle, WA," RootsWeb website accessed April 29, 2009 (; Nena Peltin, “We Stand by to Assist You”: The History of the Ballard Community Hospital (Seattle: Swedish Medical Center, 2004), 2.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You