Ballard Power Systems is a Burnaby-based company that makes fuel cells. Some of the research in the area of fuel cells has been done in conjunction with math research groups from SFU and UBC. An amazing amount of work has been done in the field of fuel cells in recent years in BC, and all indications are that Ballard will continue to be a leader in the field, with money coming in from environmentally-conscious investors and big automotive companies.

Fuel cells designed by Ballard are being tested by the DaimlerChrysler and Ford Motor companies. Some BC Transit buses have been testing out fuel cells for almost a year now.

Now a neighborhood of Seattle, in 1853 Ballard had in Ira Utter its first English settler. Ballard soon became a pioneer town of the Pacific Northwest as others arrived to farm and log the thickly forested surroundings.

Rising from its humble beginnings, in 1890 Ballard's proud citizens officially gained city status for the town, making it the third largest city in the state of Washington (officially formed the year before in 1889). 1636 people lived in Ballard at the time of the 1890 census.

Ballard had a profitable lumber industry, which got its start when the Sinclair mill was built on Salmon Bay in 1880. By 1895, Ballard was producing more shingles than any other location in Washington, garnering the flattering title "Shingle Capital of the World."

Ethnic migration was a large part of Ballard's history. After lumber, fishing became the next great industry of Ballard, and scads of Scandinavian fishermen moved to the area, perhaps attracted not only by the fishing industry but by homesickness. These Scandinavians integrated their culture into that of the Northwest, and started Ballard's ever-important boating industry.

The annexation of Ballard by Seattle became a hot-button issue in the early 1900's, as Seattle wanted to expand and inflate its population as much as possible before the 1910 census. Mayor Moore of Seattle campaigned around Ballard, promising better utilities, improved emergency services, and lower taxes. Although resistance to the annexation was strong in Ballard, water contamination from a dead horse (referred to above) and a drought in the region swung the vote in favor of annexation, for Ballard's citizens could no longer live without Seattle's water supply. The vote was close, however: 996 for annexation, 874 against it.

After the consolidation, Seattle officials considered changing the name of Ballard to Northwest Seattle. Some wanted to call the area Canal Station (due to the recent completion of the ship canal). Thankfully, these ideas went nowhere and Ballard's identity survives.

Ballard's population isn't heavily Scandinavian anymore, although you wouldn't guess it. Norwegian and Swedish flags decorate Market Street, the main street of Ballard, and the community holds festivals to celebrate Ballard's Scandinavian roots.

Ballard is also home to Archie McPhee, one of the greatest and most bizarre retail stores in the country (specializing in rubber chickens and the like). In fact, a small section of their store is dedicated to Ballard's history, and you can buy bumper stickers, t-shirts, and patches with the motto, "Free Ballard," referring of course to Seattle's 1907 annexation (as far as I know, however, no such movement to free Ballard exists).

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