City Has No Space for History

This article appeared in The Issaquah Press, December 3, 1997

By Stacy Goodman

History might just have to wait.

Members of the Issaquah Historical Society recently were told the city has no room or money for expanding the Town Hall Museum.

Members have been meeting monthly with a City Council committee regarding a need for additional museum space.

The 1,180-square-foot Gilman Town Hall building is too cramped for the number of people who come to visit, say members of the Historical Society. Also, the museum and Train Depot were not designed for storing the paper archives collected by the historical society during the past 25 years.

“(Town Hall) is not much bigger than most two-bedroom apartments in Issaquah,” said Eric Erickson, historical society president.

In addition to safer storage, the society would like a space in the 8,000-square-foot range for accommodating hands-on displays, research areas, a photo gallery and computers. It should be located downtown, as well, to be within walking distance of the depot and Town Hall.

The society had been eyeing the old library. That space becomes vacant after the new King County library is built in 2000, but has been reserved for a new Issaquah Valley Senior Center.

A recent survey of city-owned buildings downtown shows there’s nothing available for a larger museum:

City Hall South – The police department is temporarily housed there. Both floors are expected to be used for city offices after the new police station is built. Community Hall – This is the location of the meals program until the Senior Center moves to the old library, at which time the meals program will move to the Senior Center. Retail space in parking garage – Adjacent to the new library at Sunset Way and Front Street will be a two-story parking garage, possibly with retail frontage funded by the city.

“Realistically, the city is going to be cash-poor for five years,” said council member Harris Atkins said. “So we aren’t going to be able to take on any additional debt.”

Because the city has no space for the museum and is short on cash, Atkins encouraged the historical society to think about other options.

The historical society also is trying to get a new roof for the depot, but cannot apply for a King County grant unless the city cooperates. The society has been without agreements to use the city-owned depot and Town Hall buildings since last year. It took the city three years to get the new roof on Town Hall once the society received a $10,000 grant, according to historical society member Barb Justice.

“At this point, without a use agreement, we can’t even apply for a grant,” Justice said.

Atkins said the city should have a place in its budget for assessing the needs of city facilities.

“To say you have a roof problem is proof the process isn’t working,” Atkins said.

Erickson suggested the needs and vision of the historical society be included in the city’s Comprehensive Plan, possibly in the Cultural Plan now being developed. “We certainly should have our foot in the door after 25 years – some status,” Justice said. “It doesn’t seem like we do.”

This Article © 1997 Issaquah Press. Used by permission