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.
Most houses don’t have a website. Mine doesn’t. But The Coval House does. It’s an old homestead on 5 acres near Luther Burbank Park. According to the site, “There are four enduring qualities that the Covals held in highest regard: a passion for natural materials, an honesty and excellence in workmanship, a reverence for the past, and a desire for the understated.”
Photo from the Coval House website.
The Mercer Island Reporter has reported that the home, orchard, and rest of the grounds will go under for 18 homes after the owners failed to sell it. The Reporter included the plans and did a nice job of being objective.
Luckily, I don’t have to be objective. It’s a damn shame that a beautifully built and maintained house is going to go down. This isn’t about density or affordability. It’s about losing a distinctive piece of Seattle history to mega mansions. Look at the plat plan in the Reporter article– the homes are on top of each other.
If you went to the Mohia’s Celluloid Seattle exhibit, you saw a lot of before-and-after of great theaters in Seattle. Some are heartbreaking, like this one:
Photo from Mohai’s Celluloid Seattle.
To me this project is our equivalent of knocking down a theater house for a noodle joint in a strip mall.
Unfortunately, right now a rant is all I got. Except an appeal to the planning commission at their Jan 15 meeting: don’t let this happen.
In honor of Saturday’s Recycling Event on Mercer Island, here’s a recycled photo of the Mercer Island pipeline being laid across Lake Washington, 1956:
Things looked different in 1956. Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives.
As this pipeline shows, we are expert at getting things we need to our homes. Saturday let’s take some things we’re done with and dispose of them in a responsible way. Batteries, porcelain toilets, scrap metal— they’ll take it all.
And bring a donation for the Mercer Island Food Pantry, while you’re at it.
9 am to 3 pm Saturday at the MI Boat Launch, 3600 E. Mercer Way.
Ok, I’m late on this story. About 80 years late. The Seattle Municipal Archives just put up a photo of a proposed bridge to Seward Park back in 1927:
Looks like it was going to come in right around 50th St. Apparently they were investigating a tunnel at about the same time.
Either one of those sure would have changed the character of mid-Island. West Mercer would probably be a much more major thoroughfare if this had happened. I’ve got no info on why it didn’t.
A new post on the Mercer Island School District blog profiles Lakeridge 2nd-grade teacher Polly Giovanelli. The blog typically does great short profiles like this, great for parents and others interested in the MISD.
Interesting perspective on the development of Mercer Island housing styles from the Greater Seattle Homes blog:
The first floating bridge to provide a real path to the eastside was built across Lake Washington in 1940, about where I-90 is today, and development of Mercer Island and Bellevue commenced. From a housing point of view, most of the housing on the Seattle side of Lake Washington is at least 50 years old, built in the styles of those times, usually with nice formal rooms like living room and dining room, tending toward pretty utilitarian kitchens and baths, and often with a basement – usually finished out and incorporated into the living space by now.
Map for showing the housing development waves for the Greater Seattle area
Development on Mercer Island and Bellevue, including Medina and Clyde Hill, and Kirkland proceeded pretty rapidly during the 50’s and 60’s, and the typical housing style was a rambler, or a ‘daylight rambler’ on a hillside, and basements were uncommon in that era.
Housing styles changed rapidly in the 70’s with the popularity of natural wood (usually cedar), exposed beams, and big windows – perhaps influenced by the spectacular house in the great 1959 thriller film North by Northwest with Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.
The other major housing style to emerge on the eastside in the 70’s was the tri-level, a new design with the entry at mid-level, and living spaces either a half-flight up or a half flight down. Another common design during this period was the tri-level, a very livable and still popular design for sloping lots.
North by Northwest house image credit: Dailyicon.net
There were long-time residents, funny hats and picnic blankets at Sunday’s Mercerversary celebrating The Island’s 50th year as an incorporated entity.
Jean McTavish, who first moved to the Island with her father in 1942 and lived north of the East Channel Bridge.
It was at Mercerdale Park. “I was standing here remembering when there were tennis courts here,” said Maretta Holder, who’s been on the Island since 1970.
Maretta Holder and her amazing backpack– ask her about it if you see her.
Folks picnicing and enjoying the Mercerversary.
Bruce Bassett and Kris Kelsay celebrating 50 years.
And kids just hanging out.
Good weather, good music, good 50 years. Thanks to the organizers!
From Stephanie at the City:
Travel “Through the Decades” as Mercer Island celebrates the best parts of popular decades past at Summer Celebration!
In honor of those decades, here’s Mercer Island in the 1910’s from those local history junkies at historylink.org.
Continuing the relevant information:
2010 July 10 and 11 at various locations throughout the city. Festivities to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mercer Island’s incorporation and the 20th year of Summer Celebration! festivals include food, music, art, entertainment, children’s activities, a fireworks display, and more. Entry into the festival is free and open to the public.
Here’s the schedule. There is a street fair, but not there’s no Farmers’ Market this weekend. Enjoy!
This summer we’re celebrating the City at 50. In celebration of this event, here’s a photo from the Seattle Municipal Archives showing the Island in 1890.
Not much land was taken at that time– a little in Mercerdale and a couple of homesteads in the center of the Island. Renton had only a little land marked as used, as did Medina. Leschi had more.
The big Mercer Island at 50 celebration is on July 18th. This event is a great excuse to post more often on Mercer Island history. Though it seems from my site stats that most readers don’t love to read those posts as much as I love to write them. Luckily, I’ve got no editor or advertisers to answer to.
Did you know: according to the history on the Mercer Island at 50 website, for the first 10 years of the City’s life, it had a twin– the Town of Mercer Island, also incorporated. So it’s only been 40 years since the two merged and the City of Mercer Island became the sole government on our Island.
Gorgeous view of I-90 in 1959 from the Seattle Municipal Archives Flickr feed:
Thought I’d note Swedish Hospital‘s 100-year anniversary. Given that we there’s no hospital on the Island, Swedish and Overlake are our local hospitals.
They sent me this video of Mercer Island resident Leila Cathcart who used Swedish for in-home nursing.
Click to play.
And I’m partial to Swedish because Baby Blogger was born there. And, if it’s an emergency, you can get there in about 15 minutes with no traffic.