Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island  


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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

City of Mercer Island incorporates on July 5, 1960.

by Alan J. Stein

On July 5, 1960, Mercer Island citizens vote to incorporate the City of Mercer Island. The entire island becomes its own municipality, except for the business district, which votes one month later to become the Town of Mercer Island. The island operates under two local governments until a merger in 1970. Mercer Island is located in Lake Washington, east of Seattle and west of Bellevue and other towns of the Eastside.

Growth and Progress

For most of a century, Mercer Island residents enjoyed rural life, distanced by water from the hustle and bustle of nearby Seattle. The opening of the East Channel bridge in 1923 allowed easier access to the mainland, but the opening of the Lake Washington Floating Bridge on July 2, 1940, brought progress to the sleepy community. An attempt was made to incorporate the island in 1945, but voters turned it down.

After World War II, Mercer Island saw a rise in population. Removal of the floating bridge tolls in 1949 brought even more new residents. In 1940, there were 1,200 people living on the Island. In 1950, 4,500. Three years later, that number had nearly doubled.

As an unincorporated community, services such as police and fire protection, road construction and maintenance, and sewage disposal were handled by King County. Population growth on the island was spreading the County thin. County government at the time was set up to govern rural areas, and northern Mercer Island was rapidly becoming urban.

The Old and the New

The island was split into two factions -- newer, younger residents who wanted all the public amenities that post-war America had to offer, and older, “before bridge” residents who were reluctant to change. Some long-time residents didn’t even want a shopping center, opting instead to drive all the way to Bellevue or Seattle for goods and services.

In 1953, voters were again presented with possible solutions to the challenges facing their growing community: annexation to Seattle, incorporation, or maintaining the status quo. Most opted for status quo. Not soon after, crime increased, water pressure decreased, and sewage disposal issues became somewhat more “noseworthy.”

Nevertheless, more and more people and business owners saw Mercer Island as the premiere place to live, work, and raise families. It was close to Seattle, yet seemed so, so far away...[cont.]

Don't forget Our Book*

Available at Island Books
For details on our book click here

*Top 20 seller at Island Books
once again in 2019!

"History at your fingertips!"

Thanks to community donations, we have digitized 24 years' worth of the Mercer Island Reporter, accessible for free on-line -- at The years currently digitized--and key-work searchable--are: 1968-1983, 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.