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.


Behind the Barbed Wire:
The Incarceration of Japanese Americans

Speaker: Judy Kusakabe

May 29th, 6pm
Mercer Island Library

From 1942-1945, approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to prison camps in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan.

Judy Kusakabe’s mother was pregnant with her while she and her husband were imprisoned on the Puyallup Fairgrounds during World War II. As a baby, Judy's family lived in a tiny barrack under the ferris wheel; but they were some of the lucky ones – others had to live in the filthy and smelly horse stalls. Soon, her family was sent to Camp Minidoka in Idaho. They eventually came back to Seattle in 1945.

Mercer Island resident Judy Kusakabe has been speaking about the incarceration for over 20 years to audiences of all ages. She will share the stories of her Japanese American friends and family before, during and after they were sent to prison camps by the U.S. government during WW II.


Speaker Kusakabe



May is Historic Preservation Month

Do You Know Where Mercer Island's Historical Markers Are?


One of the Marker Locations
(click for larger image)

May is Historic Preservation Month. There is more history on Mercer Island than most people are aware of and May is the perfect time to search out the 17 historical markers and learn about their history.

Everyone knows where the Roanoke is but what about the WWII anti-aircraft installation or the location of the first commercial building? Not only are we providing a list of the places and their locations, there is also a link to a map. With streets that suddenly dead end and may or may not start again, even with GPS it can be a challenge to find the markers.

Check here for the details!





In Honor of Women's History Month:
Recognizing Mercer Island Women
Who Made an Impact

When Lynn Oliver signed on as Mercer Island Fire Division Chief in 1983, she was rare enough as a female in a male-dominated profession, but she was also the first woman fire chief in the entire country. She oversaw a department with 21 full-time and 16 auxiliary fire fighters and administered the myriad of details involved in running a department.

As the first woman fire chief she felt the burden of being the first, of wanting to prove herself and and to be an example for women's abilities in the industry.

With a degree in education she started as an elementary school teacher. She moved to Seattle and although she planned to teach she took a job working on the City of Seattle's fire prevention staff and found she had a passion for fire safety education. When she became the deputy fire marshal for King County, she realized fire safety had become her career.

Oliver was Mercer Island's Fire Chief from 1983-1992, when she left to take a similar position in Kirkland.

Mercer Island's only female firefighter was Pauline Reed McKay who started as a volunteer in 1974, and later became an auxiliary firefighter.


Caroline Fraser was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for biography for "Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder." Her book also received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, the 2018 Heartland Prize for non-fiction and was named one of the 10 best books of 2018 by The New York Times.

The Pulitzer prize is considered the country's top literary award. Her book describes how Wilder transformed her family's story of poverty, failure and struggle into a tale of self-reliance, perseverance and a close family relationship.

Fraser was formerly on the editorial staff of ...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 mih.stparchive.com. 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.