Issaquah Creamery (Darigold Plant)

611 Front Street North


Darigold plant today seen from Front Street.
May 1999 photo by David Bangs

Issaquah's dairy plant has operated continuously since 1909, when it was opened as the "Northwestern Milk Condensing Company" by a group of local businessmen looking for an outlet for the area's dairy farms.  Early activities included condensing milk, manufacturing butter, making ice, and canning fruit and vegetables -- all for the Seattle market.  Later known as the Issaquah Creamery and then the Alpine Dairy, the plant was Issaquah's largest employer at the time it became part of the Darigold Cooperative in the early 1960's.  As dairy plants in other towns were closed, Issaquah's plant expanded and took over butter production for the whole area in 1970. Today, the plant produces sour cream and cottage cheese in addition to butter.


The dairy plant bustles with activity, with large dairy trucks loading and unloading frequently on Front Street and in the crowded lot to the north.
May 1999 photo by David Bangs

Mural on Front Street


Mural - A Century of Dairying in Issaquah
Zoom Left   Zoom Middle  Zoom Right
July 1999 photos by David Bangs

The dairy's large wall facing Front Street was painted in 1995 with a mural commemorating "A Century of Dairying in Issaquah."  The work was a collaboration of artists Larry Kangas, Nichole Parsons and Evan Jones.  Prominently depicted are the creamery as it originally appeared (left), and the Pickering family's dairy barn and farm (center).

Hidden Nature Nearby

Be sure to take a peek along the south side of the plant to see the raging East Fork of Issaquah Creek in its pristine beauty. A surprising sight in this urban environment, it can only be seen if you get out of your car.  This picture was taken from Rainier Blvd behind the plant looking toward the bridge on Front Street.

May 1999 Photo by David Bangs

History


Issaquah Historical Society photo archives

[The following text is adapted from the Issaquah Historical Society's 1998 "Historic Properties Inventory"]

This is the site of the continuous operation of a dairy facility since 1909, after, under the auspices of the Commercial Club, Tolle Anderson and other leading Issaquah citizens organized the Northwestern Milk Condensing Company as an outlet for the valley's growing dairying enterprises. The business was incorporated by George M. Clark, the Issaquah High School Superintendent, as president, Dr. William Gibson as secretary, John Anderson as treasurer, P.J. Smith, and A.F. Giese on May 29th, 1908 for the purpose of condensing milk, manufacturing butter, making ice, canning fruit and vegetables and carrying out general merchandise business. The plant made a high grade of condensed milk and several kinds of cheese with the products being sold in Seattle. The business capitalized at $25,000, divided into 250 shares valued at $100 each. The business thrived at this location for 5 years, then was leased to others until local owners again acquired the business in the 1930's. Renamed Issaquah Creamery, the business enlarged its physical plant at the site, and opened a Seattle distributing plant on Rainier Avenue South in 1932.  Later known as Alpine Dairy, the business merged with Darigold in the early 1960's.  At that time, it was Issaquah's leading employer. 

The Darigold Cooperative has an important place in the history of successful dairy cooperatives. Darigold's umbrella spanned from Enumclaw to Mount Vernon, from Lynden to Chehalis and beyond. The history of the Issaquah plant is part of this wider story. The 1950's saw numerous plants closed and other closures followed during the 60's and 70's . But in 1970 the Issaquah plant took over butter production for the whole area; a spray dryer had been in operation here since 1957. During the 1990's the Issaquah plant produced butter and cultured products. Circa 2000, it produced all the Darigold yogurt distributed to Washington, Oregon and Idaho.


The view from the railroad engineer's perspective early in the century. The original creamery building can be seen on the left side of the tracks.  Darigold Farms was the last major railroad customer in Issaquah after the line was truncated in the early 70's.  Trains would make a special trip down the east shore of Lake Sammamish just to visit the plant until the tracks were abandoned in the late 1990's.
Issaquah Historical Society photo archives

Building Description


August 2000 photo by David Bangs

The current plant is a complex of buildings and additions accrued over the decades. An auxiliary wood frame building from the original plan is still visible in the complex adjacent to the railroad tracks on the west side of the site. Warehouse buildings with metal siding and multi-pane industrial-sash windows and covered loading docks were built in the 1930's; they are relatively unaltered today. The series of buildings and additions constructed in the later 1950's and early 1960's are of concrete block with low-pitched or flat roofs. The buildings on the site are generally plain, box-like and utilitarian, punctuated by the towering milk silos. There is a large truck staging area on the northern portion of the facility.

Bibliographic References

Issaquah Historical Society files; King County Tax Assessor records; Satterfield, Archie. The Darigold Story: The History of a Dairy Cooperative in the Pacific Northwest, Darigold, Seattle, WA, 1993.

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Photos on this site copyright Issaquah Historical Society, unless otherwise noted. USE PHOTOS ONLY BY PERMISSION.