The small, triangular Bergen Place Park marking the intersections of Leary Ave., 22nd Ave. and Market St. in Seattle has been dedicated to the city of Bergen, Norway since 1971. In 1975 King Olav V flew from Norway to make the park’s dedication official, and two decades later his son King Harald followed suit for the unveiling of the Bergen Place mural.
Painted by artists Alan Wylie and Charles Svab, the Bergen Place mural is dedicated to King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway and portrays scenes from Ballard’s long history in the lumber and maritime industries. Ballard is immensely proud of its Scandinavian immigrant roots and over the years has commissioned several artists to pay tribute to the neighborhood’s ethnic history. Bergen Place Park is also home to a contemporary sculptural installation by Jennifer Dixon entitled Witness Trees, evoking elements of Nordic mythology, maritime life and the Native tribal heritage of the Pacific Northwest. The piece has been somewhat controversial as many Ballard residents complain that the trees aren’t Scandinavian enough and reflect a new, modern Ballard rather than acknowledging the neighborhood’s rich past.
A more popular addition to the park has been the 2005 installation of five granite, rune-like stones carved by artist James Cole with traditional Scandinavian weaving and embroidery patterns that were carefully chosen from books at the Nordic Heritage Museum. Each stone features the name of a different Nordic country carved both in English and in the country’s native language. The piece has been received well by Ballard residents, who seem to agree that the stones successfully enhance the park’s intended Scandinavian feel.