Larry Kangas, at work on the logging mural

Mill Street Logging Mural

Corner of Sunset Way and First Avenue NE

Logging Mural on Sunset Way

Larry Kangas painted this logging mural based on several photos from the Issaquah History Museums’ collection.

This 1998 mural depicts Issaquah’s logging industry circa 1900-1940. At this time, old growth cedar and fir logs were being cut from the hills surrounding Issaquah and milled in the town’s many lumber mills. There were a number of railroad spurs that made transport of lumber into town easier. The trees growing on the hills today are second and third growth.

Prior to 1960, Sunset Way was known as Mill Street, referring to mills that were located on either end of the street when the town was first incorporated in 1892.

Logging Crew with Steam Donkey

Larry Kangas drew inspiration from this photograph of a logging crew with steam donkey. (IHM 91-7-56)

Sponsoring organizations for the mural include: City of Issaquah Arts Commission, Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Issaquah Plaza, Issaquah Historical Society, Main Street Issaquah, Front Street Market, and Ben Franklin.

One of the original source photos used in the design of the mural.  According to Eric Erickson:  “The photo is of the Issaquah Mill Company’s yarding engine and logging crew taken in 1903 in the vicinity of what is now Overdale Park. People in photo are William Robert (Tap) Bush with beard in background at base of large tree, Ralph Darst holding two horses, Charlie Baxter in white shirt seated on donkey, Dave Hailstone holding white horse. The steam donkey was built by Washington Iron Works in Seattle and is a two drum yarder with 9 by 10 1/4 inch cylinders, manufactured on February 10, 1903, builders #632”.


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Pickering Barn*

Pickering Barn was the center of Issaquah’s largest dairy farm for many years. The land surrounding the barn was purchased from earlier homesteaders by Washington territorial governor William Pickering in 1867. Today the barn is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Nike Missile Sign

“Radar Park” at Anti-Aircraft Peak

Cougar Mountain Regional Park

Nike Missile Sign

Nike Missile sign. Photo courtesy of David Bangs, 2001.

Now an open field, “Radar Park” was once a military installation used to protect our area from air attack.  All that is left of the installation now is sidewalks (which seem to serve no purpose), cement pads, landscaping features and an interpretive sign.

The site is part of the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, at the very top of Cougar Mountain.  Amenities include restrooms, picnic tables, a playfield, wildlife interpretive signs, and access to a great trail system.
To reach Anti-Aircraft Peak: From I-90, take exit 13 and drive up Lakemont Boulevard. Turn left onto Cougar Mountain Way, then right onto Cougar Mountain Drive, which will become the park’s gravel driveway at the very top of the mountain.

Radar Park History

Here is the story as told on the park’s interpretive sign, shown above:

You are standing on the sidewalk of a former military base put here to defend Puget Sound from air attack. In 1953, this site was occupied by anti-aircraft guns. Then, from 1957 to 1967, it served as the “radar” portion of a Nike Missile Defense System. (Hence the names, “radar park”, and “anti-aircraft peak”). When more advanced missiles and jets made the Nike System obsolete, King County acquired the grounds for a park. This 17 acre site was the first “cornerstone” of what is now a 3,000+ acre regional park.

The large meadow in front of you was originally created for a ring of 90mm “Skymaster” anti-aircraft guns, and rubber-skinned “Butler Buildings” for the troops. Puget Sound was a center of commerce and population, and also home to important shipyards and aircraft industries, making it a strategic target. With the development of long range bombers there was a real need to protect this area, and the guns were the best thing available. The two photographs at left were provided by Peter Watrey, who was sent here as a raw recruit. (Perhaps as a security measure, most of the enlisted men came from east coast cities like New York, and had never seen the northwest before. Peter says that apart from the secrecy and the boring guard duty, it was “like being stationed in heaven”).

The “Cold War”, which followed Word War II, was dominated by fears of a surprise attack by high speed bombers, and this led the army to seek a new king of air defense system. The problem was that planes were becoming so maneuverable, and flying so high and fast, that the ground based guns could not keep up. The solution called for a supersonic missile which could be controlled from take-off to target by radar. In 1945, the Bell Telephone Laboratories were recruited for the design/development job because of their extensive prior work with radar and computers. Douglas Aircraft, Western Electric and hundreds of subcontractors labored for the next eight years to produce the missiles and construct the total system.

Each Nike installation consisted of two separate areas: A radar control site, (where you are now standing – “radar park”): and a launch site where the missiles were actually kept. (Cougar Mountain’s launch site is nearly a mile downhill to the southeast on 166th Way S.E. It is known as the “Nike Missile Site” on the park maps, and will eventually have its own parking lots and interpretive signs).

The Nike system required three separate radars all interlinked by a central computer. First was the Acquisition Radar which located enemy aircraft at long distance. Next was the Target Tracking Radar which locked-on to the attacker, despite any evasive maneuvers. Last was the Missile Tracking Radar, used to alter the course of the missile in flight and direct it to the attacker. (Our present day personal computers are said to have evolved directly from the interlink and control computers first made for missile systems like this). The adjacent map will help you locate the radar pads and other “Nike” remnants.

The large hill to your left is actually a man-made structure atop which an antenna tower was mounted. (Look for mysterious cement pads and a picnic table there today). Other concrete pads to the west of the antenna-mound are where Quonset Huts were located for living and working quarters. (It took 125 men to staff the radar and launch sites on a day and night year-round schedule). “Safe” housing for military families was located down the mountain to the north near 164th Ave. S.E. and S.E. 46th Street. The new radio tower near the cement radar pads at the top of the park is still run by the Army Corps of Engineers, but it is shared with the State Department of Transportation and services primarily peaceful purposes now.

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Linda Ruehle with Commemorative Statue

Statue and Bench At City Hall South

Corner of 1st Ave. SE and E. Sunset Way

Linda Ruehle with Commemorative Statue

Linda Ruehle, at the celebration of her retirement, poses next to a statue inspired by her long tenure as City Clerk. (Photo by Steve Gierke, 2001)

[The following article is adapted from the Washington Municipal Clerks’ Association (WMCA) Fall 2001 quarterly newsletter]

Linda Ruehle, City Clerk for the City of Issaquah retired on June 1, 2001, after serving the City and the community for 30 years.  On October 5, 2001, Linda was honored by her City during a dedication ceremony of a life-sized bench sculpture installed outside the City Council Chambers at the corner of 1st Ave. SE and E. Sunset Way.

The cast aluminum bench was sculpted by famous Pacific Northwest artist, Richard Beyer, who is most well known for his “Waiting For The Interurban” sculpture in the Fremont district of Seattle.  The bench features a “representation” of Linda sitting on a bench supported by ordinance books, as she looks through one of the record books (see photo).  The bench was paid for by the City of Issaquah Arts Commission and private donations.

According to Linda, “I’m very overwhelmed and very proud.  It’s a tremendous honor; and it’s very humbling to think the City would do this for me.  I have always felt appreciated by my City, but this makes me feel even more appreciated for all those late night meetings and long hours of hard work.”   City Administrator Leon Kos says the permanent honor is well deserved.  “She was an extremely devoted and loyal employee.  We really appreciated her thoroughness and knowledge,” Kos said.

Linda says that Issaquah has always been in the forefront on many things, and that perhaps this sculpture of a City Clerk is also a “first” in the State (or even in the nation).  “My greatest hope is that the sculpture will raise the awareness of the position of the City Clerk, in general, and the essential governmental services that the Office of the City Clerk provides,” said Ruehle.

Linda Ruehle with City Ordinance Book

Linda Ruehle at her desk (circa 1976) posing with the City’s original ordinance book. The book starts out with the hand-written Ordinance 1, dated April 1892. (Photo courtesy of Linda Ruehle).


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Triple X Drive In

Triple-X Root Beer Drive-In

98 NE Gilman Boulevard

Triple X Drive In

Triple X Drive In. (Photo by David Bangs, 1999)

The first drive-in restaurant in the Pacific Northwest was established in 1930 in Renton by A.H. Rutherford. The combination of Triple XXX Root Beer and food turned out to be a great idea which spread nationwide. Of all the XXXs that ever graced our country’s landscape, Issaquah’s is the only one left which sports the traditional barrel. Another Triple XXX still thrives in Lafayette, Indiana.

Issaquah’s original XXX Restaurant was located on Sunset Way near the location of Flintoft’s Funeral Home. That restaurant, which was known by locals as “The Barrel”, operated until the 1950’s when the location was needed for a car dealer’s parking lot.  Today’s XXX Root Beer Drive-In opened in 1968 at its current location.

The restaurant serves up 1950’s style hamburgers and dairy concoctions in large serving sizes, and is proud to host frequent gatherings of vintage automobile and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Now a family-owned business, the restaurant was purchased in March 1999 by José Enciso and his grown children. Originally from Mexico, Enciso has worked in restaurants since he was a young teenager.  He takes special pride in owning and improving such a visible Issaquah landmark and says, “XXX may not be the oldest historic building in Issaquah, but it’s probably the one which is most visited and enjoyed.”

Jose Enciso, Triple X Proprietor

Jose Enciso, Triple X Proprietor. (Photo by David Bangs, 1999).

And You Thought You Knew All About the Triple XXX
By David Miller & Sue Cameron  /  Past Times Autumn 2004
with Erica Maniez, Issaquah Historical Society Museum Director

Almost everyone in Issaquah is familiar with the Triple XXX on Gilman Boulevard near the intersection with Front Street. They know about its jaw-stretching monster burgers, icy mugs of root beer, and straw-bending shakes. They know about its 1950’s and 60’s pop music – provided by table-side mini-jukeboxes – and its cherry-red and creamy white booths. They’ve witnessed the army of gleaming “Rod-tiques” parked outside on weekend Summer nights.

But do they know that:

▪ The Issaquah Triple XXX is one of only two Triple XXX drive-ins still operating anywhere (the other is in West Lafayette, Indiana)?

▪ The barrel sign above the Triple XXX is the largest lighted Plexiglas sign in the West?

▪ CNN recently filmed the Triple XXX for a TV special on the Top 10 Most Fun and Entertaining 1950’s diners in America? (It’s true, although it’s not yet known when the spot will show.)

Triple XXX Root Beer was chosen the 4th-best root beer in the nation by Luke’s Root Beer Reviews, as publicized in a national magazine?

Even more important, do they know that the history of the Triple XXX Root Beer began well over a century ago?

According to the Triple XXX Family Restaurant website at, “in 1895, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association of St. Louis, together with local investors, established the Galveston (Texas) Brewing Company… The brewery had an annual production capacity of 100,000 barrels of beer which it sold locally under the name ‘Hi Grade.’ Interestingly, its keg beer was packaged in steel-banded barrels of oak which were marked with the ‘XXX.’”

The Triple X, circa 1940s

Linda Goben and her doll are pictured in front of the Issaquah’s original XXX Restaurant, which was constructed in the 30s or 40s on East Mill Street (now Sunset Way) near Flintoft’s Funeral Home. (Photo courtesy of Linda Goben).

Sometime between 1900 and 1908, the Galveston Brewing Company began to produce and sell a line of soft-drink syrups under the brand name “XXX.” In 1918, with the advent of Prohibition, the company changed its name to Southern Beverage Company and converted its brewing equipment to producing only soft drinks, primarily ginger ale and root beer. By 1923, Southern Beverage Company’s licensed distributors included about 150 Triple XXX bottlers and approximately 100 Triple XXX “thirst stations” throughout the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Northwest as far as British Columbia.

Leave it to an enterprising Washingtonian – a local, actually – to add food to drink. In 1930 Archie Rutherford opened the first Triple XXX Root Beer restaurant in nearby Renton. Along with his sons Joel and Jerry, Archie traded on his initial success by opening a chain of restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest during the late 1930s and early 40s.

During this period, Dave Morgan opened Issaquah’s first Triple XXX on East Mill Street (now Sunset Way). June Day Sandberg remembers: “Before the war we always went to Dave Morgan’s Little Barrel way up Sunset close to Flintoft’s. Depression time – if we’d bring our own bananas he’d make us splits! We loved it as kids.”

The Triple XXX was closed during World War II, but reopened in 1945.

“I worked at the first XXX on Sunset next door to Stonebridge Chevrolet,” recalls Phyllis “Fifi” Krumbah Laughlin. “It was a great place because everyone came by for something! Burger, cokes, root beer, or fries. Drive-ins were starting up and the owner wanted me to work outside. When someone drove into the lot, I was supposed to run outside and ask if they wanted to eat in their car. The trouble was the windows were so small it was hard to see people drive up.”

During the late 1950s business declined. Ted Stonebridge, owner of Stonebridge Chevrolet, bought the Triple XXX and demolished it to build a car lot.

Fast forward to 1968, when today’s Gilman Boulevard was still Highway 10, the primary route from Seattle to eastern Washington over Snoqualmie Pass. In that year, Jay Noel built the present Triple XXX on that route for its first owners, Dick Gilbert and John Wirtz.

In 1983 Norm Lipkin bought the Triple XXX from Dick Kadyk, the second owner. In 1996 he added a soda fountain counter and brought back the old menu of the Triple XXX chain. To make ends meet, he abolished the outside stalls where customers could drive up and order from carhops, and converted the space into an office building. Norm had already begun the practice of inviting vintage car owners to show the results of their restoration skills in the Triple XXX lot.

The restaurant hasn’t changed much since then, save for the addition of a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s memorabilia such as old radios, soft-drink bottles, license plates, posters of rock-‘n-rollers and movie stars – by José Enciso, who began leasing the Triple XXX from Norm in 1999. José and family members, along with other employees, deliver a friendly and informal hospitality reminiscent of the drive-in days at their peak in the 1950s.

The company behind the root beer has suffered a lot of changes. First the Galveston Brewing Company experienced a series of sales and name changes, eventually becoming the Triple XXX Corporation. Then in 1960, after the Food and Drug Administration ruled that sassafras (oil of saffron) was a suspected carcinogen, the Triple XXX Corporation scrambled to find a substitute with the flavor and foamy head characteristic of draft root beer, which the company was eventually able to do. Consolidation in the soft drink industry cut off many of the Triple XXX’s traditional direct-store delivery channels, and in 1985 production of bottled and canned Triple XXX Root Beer was suspended.

Today José gets his Triple XXX* syrup from the Coca-Cola Company which is honoring a contract made when Triple XXX drive-ins graced many a small town. Sadly, most Triple XXX restaurants eventually gave way to the onslaught of fast-food outlets.

There you have it – a brief tour of the history behind Issaquah’s own Triple XXX restaurant – long recognized as a community landmark. All that’s left to make your trip back in time complete is to drive over to 98 N.E. Gilman Boulevard, say hello to José, and indulge yourself in old-style root beer, golden oldies and memories of days gone by.

* 12/3/2008: To clarify, the Triple XXX here in Issaquah buys its root beer syrup from Coca-Cola. The Triple XXX Family Restaurant in Lafayette, IN is unique in that it uses the original Triple XXX syrup, and owns the trademark to the Triple XXX name as well.

Other XXX Restaurants
One other XXX restaurant is known to exist In Lafayette, Indiana.  This restaurant shares a common history with Issaquah’s, but is no longer affiliated in any way.

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Issaquah Rodeo, 1924

Veterans’ Memorial Field

130 Sunset Way

Police Station from Memorial Field

Police Station, as seen from Veteran’s Memorial Field. (Photo courtesy of David Bangs, 2000)

Memorial Field is a peaceful place in the heart of downtown Issaquah.  Come on a sunny day to enjoy the ball fields, playground, good views of the surrounding green hills.

The piece of land that is now Memorial Field was once owned by the Superior Coal Company. Superior Coal, a German-owned company, purchased the plot in 1913. When World War I began, their claim to the property was no longer recognized. The family who owned the field prior to its sale to Superior Coal was not able to reclaim ownership due to a tangle of mortgages and sales agreements. The field sat, neatly fenced and unused, in the middle of town. By 1918 it was a cutover woodlot.

Issaquah Rodeo, 1924

Issaquah Rodeo, 1924.

Issaquah’s ball team (who also happened to be the volunteer firemen) had their eye on the field, as it was tough to find a place to play ball that was not liable to snapped up for use as a homestead site or livestock pasture. They decided to take on the challenge of purchasing the field and clearing it of stumps, which involved fundraising and a lot of manual labor. The purchase of this field was a real community endeavor; most of the necessary funds were donated by coal miners, many of whom donated a full day’s pay to the venture. In the end, the firemen had enough additional capital to purchase an adjoining piece of land to be used for a new city hall. In 1930, City Hall was moved from the old Gilman Town Hall into a building on this site (today the site of the Police Station).

Memorial Field was also the home of the Issaquah Rodeo. In the early 1920’s a group of Issaquah businessmen promoted rodeos, held at first on the Fourth of July and late on Labor Day as well. Each rodeo kicked off with a parade through town; a photo of one such parade shows few riders and onlookers, indicating that the rodeo may not have been an event of great interest. While lack of interest among the citizens may have contributed to the end of the annual rodeos, photographs of rodeo riders in the midst of the action convey the thrill and excitement of the sport; a number of captivating Issaquah Rodeo photos are preserved at the Gilman Town Hall Museum.

Issaquah's War Memorial

This war memorial was dedicated on September 5, 1949. It was originally located about where the main steps go up to the new police station, and was later moved to its current location near the library. The memorial honors local residents who gave their lives in the 20th century’s major wars.
World War I, 1917-1918: Pete Erickson and Albert Larson
World War II, 1941-1945: Alfred Ambrose, Robert Baskett, Clifford Benson, Harold Gleason, George Larsen, Jack McQuade, Louis Petersen, Robert Philp, Raymond Smart, Joe Tondreau, Robert Watson, Elizabeth Erickson, Laurence Lortie
Viet Nam, 1964-1975: Robert Arndt, Robert Hoskins, Emmett McDonald, James Patrick Brady

Today Memorial Field is a public park administered by the City of Issaquah.

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