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Historic Sites

Markers have been placed at multiple historic sites on Mercer Island, in recognition of people and events that contributed to today's Mercer Island. Many were sponsored by the Historical Society..

Slater Park / Calkins Hotel

East Channel Bridge Aerial in 1938
( Courtesy of MOHAI)

Roanoke Inn

Roanoke Landing

Keewaydin Club (V.F.W. Hall)

Luther Burbank Park

First Commercial Building in Town Center

Fortuna Lodge

East Channel Bridge

Lakeview School (Sunnybeam School)

Antiaircraft Gun Installation

Bicentennial Park

Mercer Island Craft Guild

Floating Bridge to Seattle

  • A historic marker tour flyer is available for printing.
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    Slater Park


    Looking west from Slater Park towards Seattle
    (Click for larger image)

    The sign at Slater Park
    (Click for larger image)

    Slater Park is located in the former East Seattle neighborhood on 60th Ave SE near SE 30th St. It is a small pocket park which borders Lake Washington looking toward Seattle. Once the home site of Loretta and Harry Slater, they willed the property upon their passing to the City of Mercer Island.

    To honor the history of the East Seattle community, the Society installed a commemorative sign with a pictorial presentation of the area's early beginnings. It shows the Water Tower, Calkins Hotel, early stores, and the Roanoke Dock, the nascent community's link to Seattle prior to the floating bridge.

    The Slater Park sign and its placing was made possible by Mr. Pete Mayer, director of Mercer Island's Park and Recreation Department who enlisted the services of graphics designer Jim Engelhardt.

     


    The Roanoke Inn

    The Roanoke Inn is located at 1825 72nd SE, on the corner of 72nd and North Mercer Way.

    When automobile traffic was off-loaded at Roanoke Dock beginning in 1914, there was nowhere to drive, nothing to do except return to Seattle. When Island roads improved enough, more brave tourists went exploring. To appeal to the visitors as well as to serve the community, a chicken-dinner inn was built not far from the ferry dock, on 72nd Avenue. George McGuire built the Roanoke Inn, which stands today well preserved and looking much the same as when it was built.


    The Roanoke Inn -- spring 2015
    (Photo by Bruce Jones)

    At first business was not exactly brisk, and McGuire lost the inn because of debts. A Mr. Green took over and operated it as a hotel. Subsequently it was sold several times, sometimes falling into ill repute, rumored to be a brothel, and a purveyor of illegal booze served in coffee mugs during prohibition.

    After prohibition when it was a tavern, groceries, ice cream and pop were also sold. But minors were not allowed inside, so a window to the right of the door provided access where children could buy ice cream cones or complete their shopping errands.

    In 1943, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin B. Reeck purchased the Inn. Ed and Laura made it a true inn, with meal service as well as beer and wine. As the gathering place for Islanders and off-Islanders, the Inn developed a friendly, homey atmosphere, with a working fireplace.

    After Ed Reeck died, Laura married Bill Bice in 1953, and they carried on the old traditions without the grocery store. Fifteen years later, after the death of Bill Bice, Laura's son, Hal Reeck, joined his mother as co-proprietor. Laura died in September, 1982 at the age of 88 years. Son Hal married Dorothy, and after his death she has continued the family tradition of running the Roanoke Inn.

    The marker is located to the left of the front porch stairs.


    Roanoke Landing


    Aerial of the landing in 1937
    The Roanoke Inn is at the bottom center of the photo
    (click for larger image)

    Small passenger boats were the first way to get back and forth to the island. As the automobile became available the need developed for car ferries. A main auto dock was at Roanoke Landing, located on a northwest point of the island, built around 1900. One early landowner near the dock remembers the first autos showing up around 1913 or 1914, but "the trail was so bad they couldn't go anywhere except back on the boat to Seattle."

    The last and largest of the ferries to serve the island was the steamer Mercer. It was put in service in 1938, and ran until 1940 when the first floating bridge to Seattle was completed. Shortly after that the car ferry dock was removed.

    The marker is located at the end of Roanoke Way, not far from the Roanoke Inn.

     


    Luther Burbank Park

    Luther Burbank Park
    The Boys Parental School at Luther Burbank Park

    Luther Burbank Park is located at  2040 84th SE.

    At this location from 1903 to 1943, the Seattle School District ran a school for wayward boys to help them get back on track. The boys spent half a day in classes, then spent the rest of the day farming. They gardened, fed the stock, picked apples, milked cows, and developed a prized Holstein herd. Over time the school became self-sufficient, housing up to 75 boys at a time.

    When the Seattle school system bowed out, King County eventually gained possession of the 80 acres and made it into a park. The park includes wetlands, a swimming beach, a picnic area, tennis courts, a pier for fishing, a dog-running area, and a parking lot.

    The Society installed a plaque in 2000 in the park near the entrance to the tennis courts, to commemorate the school and Willis Rand, its principal for 40 years. The plaque was made possible by a donation from Ted Rand in memory of his father, Willis.

     


    First Commercial Building in Town Center

    The first commercial district on the island was in the community of East Seattle, Mercer Island's first platted area with easy ferry access to Seattle. But after the Seattle floating bridge was completed in 1940, the new highway across the island now provided easy auto access to a level area in the central section of the island not previously developed.

    In 1947, on his own property located in the central section, Dick Anderson built a store that housed Art's Food Center, Gar Alm's Drug Store, and offices for Dr. Howard Eddy and Dr. Herbert Davidson, the first medical doctor and dentist to establish practices on the island. Known as Mercer Island Square, it was located on the southeast corner of SE 27th Street and 78th Ave SE. The building has since been replaced by the current Island Square Building.

    In May 2007 the Society provided a marker to commemorate this first commercial building in the new central business area.


    East Channel Bridge


    Approach to the first East Channel Bridge (1939)
    New bridge is under construction at left
    (courtesy of MOHAI)

    The first bridge to Mercer Island opened on November 10, 1923. It was a two-lane wooden structure across the East Channel of Lake Washington, located in the northeast part of the island (approximately where today's I-90 bridge to Bellevue is located). the bridge included a hand-operated mechanical opening device to accommodate marine traffic. It was a cumbersome unit and the bridge was not opened very often.

    In 1940 a new bridge with more lanes was built just north of the original, and the old wooden structure was removed. That new bridge was replaced in 1981. A second bridge was added in 1988.

    A historical marker was placed near the south edge of the boat launch under the current I-90 bridge to commemorate this first Mercer Island bridge.

    More: Historylink and the East Channel Bridge

     


    Antiaircraft Gun Installation During WWII

    AA plaque
    The Installation of the Antiaircraft Gun Plaque
    (click for larger picture)

    During World War II the general area of Wasson's Farm was the site of an US Army Anti-aircraft unit. Battery C 260th Coast Artillery included over 200 men, four 90mm guns, four machine guns, radar and barracks. This was an ideal location, as it was high on a plateau with an unobstructed view of the Renton airfield and the Boeing aircraft factory to the south, both of which were critical enemy target areas.

    The enemy never appeared, so the guns were just practiced-fired. The base was dismantled near war's end.

    In 2009, the Society placed an historical marker identifying the general location of this heritage site. It is located near 7801 79th Ave SE.


     




    Front Door of Craft Guild Hall
    (click for larger picture)

    Mercer Island Craft Guild

    Founded in April, 1940, the Craft Guild Hall was and still is a meeting place and workshop. It was established by a group of dedicated craftsmen, with the idea of offering their skills, talent, and tools to others at a time of national hardship. Their objective was to help residents complete the construction of their houses during the period of the great depression.

    The hall is located in the former East Seattle neighborhood at 2832 61st Ave SE. The Society has placed a plaque on the building just left of the front door.

    More: Mercer Island Reporter writes about the Craft Guild (2008)