This street is named after Captain William Rankin Ballard (1847–1929). Born in Ohio, he came to the West Coast with his family in 1857. They initially settled in Oregon, then moved to King County in 1865. (His father founded Auburn, then known as Slaughter.) Ballard attended the University of Washington for one year, in 1868, then was a schoolteacher, surveyor, and captain of the Zephyr, which took passengers between Olympia and Seattle. He helped form the West Coast Improvement Company with Thomas Burke, John Leary, and Boyd J. Tallman; they filed the plat of Gilman Park in 1889. The city of Ballard was incorporated the next year; it was annexed by Seattle in 1907. It was so named because, at the time, the tracks of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway stopped at Salmon Bay. Passengers had to disembark and complete the rest of their trip to Gilman Park via footbridge. Apparently one of Ballard’s friends who worked for the railway began referring to the stop as Ballard Junction, and the name stuck.
Ballard Avenue NW begins at NW Market Street between 22nd Avenue NW and 24th Avenue NW and goes ½ a mile southeast to 17th Avenue NW, where it becomes NW Ballard Way. Most of it is part of the Ballard Avenue Historic District. (NW Ballard Way goes a further ½ mile east and becomes NW 47th Street when it crosses Leary Way NW at 9th Avenue NW.)