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History’s Role in Issaquah is Preserved, Thanks to Many

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, May 14, 1997

Truly good leaders chart the course of the future with a strong sense of the past. Often, it is history that is the seed of our best ideas how to move ahead. Even when history has little role in forming future plans, it always is good to know what not to do, which no doubt is the origin of the time-tested adage, “experience is the best teacher.” After all, “history repeats itself.”

This isn’t to say our best leaders are historians, though we’ve had our share of CEOs, politicians and spiritual guides with deep roots in history studies and research. It is to say, however, that societies large and small, whether a country or a community, seem to hold up better when they are able to weave their heritage into the tapestries of the future. There is a sense of strength that comes from tying the resilient bonds of the past with the uncertainties of the future.

Certainly, our best leaders most often are not our best historians. The two roles are too commanding to find them on one desk. But you will find that our best leaders are patrons of historians — and for reasons greater than securing their own favorable place in history.

Issaquah should be proud that it has brought a goodly amount of its history forward. If you were to compare Issaquah’s downtown with those of like cities in western Washington — quaint communities that have boomed in today’s era of high growth — you’ll see what I mean. More precisely, look at our museums. We would be fortunate to have one, but we instead have two. Of course, the greatest blessing we have are the people who have built — and continue to build — the framework through which our history lives. A relative newcomer to Issaquah, I cannot draw on first-hand knowledge to relate how history has gained such a prominent role in our city. Nonetheless, I can marvel how it came about, and offer my — and The Press’ — congratulations to the Issaquah Historical Society on the eve of its 25th anniversary.

It was May 21, 1972, that a small group of people first gathered with Mayor Keith Hansen to discuss forming what we now know as the Issaquah Historical Society. Just nine days later, at the home of Floyd and Esther Bush, the group’s first meeting was held. Historical society records show that Harriet Fish, Marilyn Foley, Joe Peterson, Clark and Mae Darst, Al and Anita Page, Virginia Grant, Harriet Bush and Elizabeth and Jim Perry joined their hosts to map out this venture.

The group was summoned, figuratively if not literally, by Fish through word of mouth and her columns and news briefs in The Press. Her name appears in virtually all other records for years, and many historical society members today consider her the single biggest force in the group’s formation.

It was the writing of Harriet Fish’s husband, Edwards, who died in 1969, that first spawned widespread interest in Issaquah’s rich and diverse history. When published in 1967, “The Past at Present” quickly established itself as the definitive source for local history; its reprint in 1972 attests for that. Harriet Fish carried on the work of her late husband, but she modestly pointed out that they were only carrying a torch that had been ignited before them.

In her 1984 essay, “Development of the Historical Movement in Issaquah,” Harriet wrote that when she and Edwards arrived in Issaquah in 1948, “already, … some of the ‘old-timers’ were recognizing the need to preserve what was here. One such person was Carmen Ek Olson, whose ancestors had created much of the history in this area.”

I am proud to say The Press, the oldest newspaper on the Eastside, played a role in assimilating this “early” history through the 31 columns Olson wrote for the paper from Oct. 7, 1954 through May 19, 1955. “This material,” Harriet Fish wrote, “… attracted the attention of Ed and me, is still today the essence, the start and the stimulation for what has happened since.”

In 1960, Mayor Bill Flintoft appointed Olson, the Fishes, Roy Pickering, Ed Hendrickson and Andy Wold to the Centennial Planning Committee. The committee’s charge was three-fold as it prepared for the city’s 100th anniversary in 1962. It was to inform newcomers of its history; inspire pioneer descendants to step forward with their information; and preserve the history in writing. It was the writing part of the committee’s mission from which “The Past at Present” was born.

With momentum firmly in place, the historic-minded turned to Peterson for additional clout. “… Being active in city government, a historian and high school teacher, (he) now had taken the lead,” Harriet Fish wrote. After several meetings through the summer and fall of 1972, Mayor Keith Hansen and the City Council officially created the Historical Commission in November.

It’s original five members were Peterson, Harriet Fish, Mae Darst, Bud Settem and Jim Perry. Also that month, the city decided to buy the building that now houses the Gilman Town Hall Museum for $6,100. The rest, you might say, is history.

This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press.

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Upgrades on Track for Local Hatchery

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, May 7, 1997

The new state construction budget adopted last week by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gary Locke calls for the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery to receive nearly $3 million for major renovations.

The money will be used to construct new salmon-rearing raceways and fish-holding ponds, and to improve and expand visitor facilities. The hatchery, on five acres in downtown Issaquah, hosts more visitors each year than any other hatchery in the state.

“We’re extremely pleased that some much-needed improvements can now take place at this very important facility,” said Bern Shanks, director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Not only is the hatchery key in terms of fish production, but it also serves as a major cultural and educational asset locally and for the entire State of Washington,” he added.

The work to be completed with the new money is part of a larger plan to upgrade the hatchery during the next several years. Built during the Depression, the hatchery was scheduled to be closed in 1994 because of state budget constraints.

However, city, county and state leaders, local teachers and area residents argued the hatchery was a major community asset and fought to keep it open.

A decision to keep it operating was made in 1995 after the city agreed to match $500,000 in state funds. The money was used to install a new fish ladder and educational exhibits.

Last year, approximately six million coho and chinook salmon were raised at the hatchery.

Multi-role assistance
“I think everyone realizes and embraces not only the educational role this hatchery plays throughout the state and region, but also its role in restoring weak fish stocks in the Lake Washington watershed,” said Steve Bell, executive director of Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, (FISH).

The 250-member non-profit group was formed to save the 51-year-old facility and advocate watershed stewardship. The organization provides free educational services to local schools and the public.

Money allocated in the state’s next biennial budget will be used to rebuild two adult salmon ponds, six raceways and a pollution-abatement pond. A commons area will be constructed on the hatchery’s south side, and an existing pedestrian footbridge over Issaquah Creek will be replaced with a new bridge capable of handling more people and light vehicles.

In addition, roof and window repairs will be made to the hatchery’s main building. The west end of the main building also will be renovated to better accommodate visitors and educational exhibits.

Future plans call for additional improvements to enhance fish production facilities, as well as the construction of an environmental education center.

This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission

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Sportsmen’s Club Receives Landmark Status

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, April 9, 1997

The Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club on March 27 received landmark status from the county Landmarks and Heritage Commission, celebrating the architectural and social significance of the rustic-style structure built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1937.

Erik Erickson, club historian, said he was pleased with the commission’s unanimous decision. He said getting the distinction had taken several years.

“I think it’s a unique building, No. 1, and I think the structure was worth saving,” Erickson said.


This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission

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Historical Society Mobilized to Prevent Barn Dismantling

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, February 18, 1987

By Michael Landauer

Shocked that the city is considering a proposal to dismantle the historic Pickering barn, the Issaquah Historical Society is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.

Historical Society chairman Greg Spranger said he wants to be sure Issaquah administrators know exactly how strongly the society feels about any mention of dismantling the barn.

“We’re going to do anything we can do to prevent the barn from being taken apart and lost in the shuffle,” he said. “we need to make sure the city council is aware of the graveness of the situation, so we’re not just waiting for it come before them. We’re mobilizing.”

The barn is one of the few remaining structures originally built by early Issaquah area settlers, Spranger said. It was fashioned from Douglas firs harvested by two carpenters and their families camping on the current barn site around 1878, he said.

“Pickering made this a progressive area. Because of him, this was turned into an agricultural center, the milk shed of King County.”

Concern over the dismantling of the barn surfaced in late January when workers began taking plywood walls down that served as stalls for horses. Langly Associates, developers of a proposed 138-acre business park which would include a restoration of the barn, began the work before securing a demolition permit from the city. This prompted the city to issue a stop-work order February 2.

A the time, Langly president Lang Sligh said workers were careful not to disturb any of the historic building materials. He also said at the time nothing was done to upset the structural integrity of the barn.

City Code Administrator Scott Thomas said it does not appear that the removal of the plywood hurt the structural integrity of the building. He said a letter was sent to Langly explaining that the city believed temporary corrective measures would be advised to shore up the barn. “In the meantime, I would ask that you replace any materials that have already been removed and contribute to the barn’s stability.

Eventually, plans do call for the barn to be dismantled and put into storage until a foundation for the structure can be poured and other modifications can be made to strengthen the sagging structure. With barn restoration complete, it would be converted into retail space and possibly a winery.

Instead of dismantling the barn, however, Spranger said a better plan would be to shore up the existing structure until money becomes available for restoration.

But in a letter to the city, Sligh said “Let me first state that we do not plan to spend money to reinforce or stabilize the existing structure and then at a later date take it all apart.”

In the letter, Sligh said he felt the city was “making far too complex an issue of dismantling the barn.” He said two choices are open to the city: “Carefully document, dismantle and store the major elements of the structure. . . or take no action and risk structural failure, in which case the opportunity to rehabilitate the barn may be permanently lost.”

Spranger fears, however, that by dismantling the barn now it will become “out of sight, out of mind.” Because barn reconstruction is not planned for the first phase of site construction, he said the longer the barn is in storage the more likely people will be to forget the structure.

“What happens if it’s put away somewhere for 10 years? The longer it’s out of the public eye, the less likely it is that it will ever be put back together.”

Sligh said one way to insure barn reconstruction is to make Langly post bond or other monetary assurances that would make it cost prohibitive to keep the structure torn down.

The historical society meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 19 at 7:30p.m. in the Gilman Town Hall Museum, 165 Andrews Street.

The city council expects to make a decision on the proposal March 2.

This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission