Originally a small town domiated by fishermen and shingle factories, Ballard was annexed by the City of Seattle in 1907. It still retains a feeling today of a city within a city. (Emphasized somewhat by the prevalance of "Free Ballard" bumperstickers; evidently some are still bitter about being strong-armed into annexation 100 years ago in exchange for water from Seattle.)
The neighborhood has grown dramatically in recent years and has become somewhat more diverse than its previous Scandinavian dominance. It now features a thriving downtown area with a movie theater, several happy-hour hot spots, international cuisine and no less than four places to stop for a quick latte. But you can't get away from reminders of the neighborhood's roots. Scandinavian flags are scattered throughout the downtown area, Viking Bank is easy to spot and the Leif Erikson Lodge is located just off Market Street. And don't forget the yearly Seafood Fest.
Located on the shores of Puget Sound, the neighborhood has a sizable marina and tons of parks including Golden Gardens (a beach park with actual sand).
Housing styles are truly some of the most diverse in the city. A variety of new construction townhouses and condos are available in and around the downtown area. The rest of the neighborhood has everything from 1910 farmhouses, small cape-cod style homes built in the 1940s, lots of fabulous 50s ranch homes, a few custom-built homes from the 80s, predominantly tall and thin homes from the 1990s and some fairly large craftsman-reproductions since 2000.