If you’re slightly obsessed with Mercer Island history, as I am, you’ll want to check out this map from 1890.
I came across it again on the David Rumsey map collection, which has a number of old Northwest maps. You can zoom to many interesting features. Let’s start in North Island:
Mercerdale was the first neighborhood settled in Mercer Island. Here you can see it labeled “East Seattle,” with the large red square labeled “Caulkins Addition.” Thompson Ave, which I believe is now SE 24th St, is at the top of the main subdivision.
Mid Island was the next subdivision. The yellow is an area around the current library. It seems no coincidence that the subdivisions are about the size of our current parks: Island Crest and the three squares of Pioneer Park.
Ah, the ferries, always an interesting aspect of early Mercer Island life. Of course this was pre-bridge, so the Island must have felt much more remote then. This zoom shows the three ferries coming to Mercer Island: two to the landing dock just north of the Roanoke Inn, from Leschi and Bellevue, and a second ferry from Leschi straight into Mercerdale.
Fascinating. Check out the map on the Rumsey site, and go ahead and buy one if you’re so moved. And if you come across any other good maps or Mercer Island history, let me know.
The other night we watched Dawn on the Island, a video about the history of Mercer Island. Mostly it had interviews of people who had grown up on the Island. My favorite story was of the kids who took the Ferry Dawn across Lake Washington to Leschi every morning to go to school. The ferry sank twice, and a seaplane collided with it once, according to Wikipedia.
The former students seemed to take the sinkings in stride. Sometime after those mishaps, when the ferry was considered too unsafe- and it would be fascinating to know what impending disaster they expected, that had not already happened- the ferry was sunk off the southern coast of Mercer Island. If you know exactly where it is, please leave a comment, I want to know.
I couldn’t find much about the video online except this ad from the Mercer Island Historical Society.
I picked up Dawn on the Island at Island Books. I like this bookstore, which despite its location in a strip mall is a great bookstore that reminded me of Bailey Coy on Broadway in Capitol Hill and Elliott Bay Books in Pioneer Square.
Amidst the reminisces of former Mercer Island Youth, there was some overview of the history of the Island. Luther Burbank Park was featured prominently. But the video assumed a good knowledge of what happened when on Mercer Island: when the bridge was built, when development got serious, when the ferries stopped running. There was a sketch of that, but I needed more grounding in the history.
Watch it, if you get a chance. And let me know where the Dawn is.