Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island  

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"Mercer Island"

From haunted wilderness to coveted community

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Mercer Island Historical Society

Founded 1954

Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island

A Washington State Non-profit Charitable organization with 501(c)(3) status.

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"Dawn on the Island"

A Video of Interviews about early Mercer Island

What's Behind That Red Door?

In the middle of million-dollar homes in the East Seattle neighborhood of Mercer Island there’s a small bungalow; a 1,000 square foot structure with no running water and no indoor plumbing. It’s a curious anomaly and a well-kept secret – except among woodworkers. It has a history that reveals the roll-up-your-shirtsleeves pioneer spirit of early Islanders, the same spirit that prompted neighbors to come together to build the Keewaydin Club (now home of the Mercer Island VFW Post 5760) for a community club.

In the late 1930s, some neighbors on the north end wanted to pool their resources and share power tools for woodworking and boat building. That was the genesis of the Mercer Island Craft Guild, a still-thriving private non-profit cooperative in the East Seattle neighborhood.

According to records kept by the late Harry Slater, 10 men from the East Seattle neighborhood got together on April 4, 1940, and formed a co-op. They bought an undersized, 30- by 90-foot lot at 2832 61st Ave. S.E. for $50 at a tax sale. And they set about building a wood shop. They salvaged most of the wood for the building from the construction of the I-90 floating bridge, and hunted up second-hand power tools. They installed a 55-gallon chip-burning barrel, which is still the only source of heat for the 1,000 square foot clubhouse. And there’s still no plumbing. In fact, inside the place looks pretty much like it must have looked 70 years ago – except for some of the high-tech, computer-controlled tools and the ...continued

"History at your fingertips!"

Thanks to community donations, we have digitized 26 years' worth of the Mercer Island Reporter, accessible for free on-line -- at The years currently digitized--and key-word searchable--are: 1968-1985, 1994, 1995, 1997-2000, 2004, and 2005.

A special thank you to the donors who've contributed to our digitization project thus far: Cyclemates Bike, the Kiwanis Club of Mercer Island, the Mercer Island Rotary Club and the Mercer Island Community Fund. We welcome individuals' donations on our "Donate" page.