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Restoring a Piece of History: The Lakeview School Teacher's Cottage

Article by Lisa Thompson
PPYC Board President

Above, l - r: Gary Redmond, Mayor Benson Wong,
Councilmember Craig Reynolds at the site
(Click for larger image)

Pioneer Park Youth Club (commonly referred to as PPYC) is the owner and steward of the 4.3 acre property located at the corner of Island Crest Way and and SE 68th Street. The property is currently home to Sunnybeam Preschool, The Children's Dance Conservatory, and Mercer Island Saddle Club and Pony Club.

In 1918, the King County School District built the Lakeview School. In an effort to attract a school teacher, a 2-room teacher's cottage was built at the same time. There were no bridges on or off the Island in 1918, and Island Crest Way was a dirt road, so commuting to and from the schoolhouse was not an option. The value of the property and schoolhouse in 1918 was about $10,000. The first year of operation, the Lakeview School enrolled 20 students in first through seventh grades. In 1941, Mercer Island formed its own school district and new schools were built. Lakeview students were merged into the newer schools. From its inception, the schoolhouse was also used as a community meeting center and was home to the South End Improvement Club for several decades.

The Lakeview School is the last historic school on the Island. The teacher's cottage is one of the few in the state remaining from the turn of the century. The Lakeview School (with the teacher's cottage noted) was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

In 1958, Sunnybeam Nursery School began to hold classes in the building and has continually operated as a preschool for over 60 years. The Children's Dance Conservatory has operated out of the building since the mid-1970's.

The Mercer Island Saddle Club began using the property for horse riding events around 1960. An estimated 50 horses were kept in homeowner's back yards at the time, and the horse owners would congregate at the outdoor riding arena at the Pioneer Park Youth Club Property. Stevenson's horse facility on Island Crest Way (at 61st) housed another 10 - 20 horses and ponies during that time. In the late 1960s Mercer Island Saddle Club built a 20-horse barn that has been in constant use ever since. In the 1980s the Saddle Club added a covered indoor riding arena for all horse owners on the Island to use during the winter months.

Andrea Lorig and Gary Redman view the Cottage
(Click for larger image)

The first Bylaws of the Pioneer Park Youth Club were written in 1974, signed by then-President Bruce Lorig and Secretary Andrea Lorig. PPYC was set up to operate as a non-profit operation. In 1996, Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State. The purpose of the Club was to "engage in the building of character in boys and girls under 18 years of age in such fashion that the general public good will be served."

After Lakeview School closed, there was no longer a need for a teacher on the property. Since the early 1950s, the cottage was rented as a residence. Once the horse barn was built in the late '60s, PPYC determined that a caretaker for the property was needed to help feed the horses, maintain the schoolhouse, and provide security for the property. For over 50 years, the caretaker of the property has lived in the teacher's cottage at no charge in exchange for their services. The caretaker has often been an employee of the City of Mercer Island, including a MI policeman, MI School District bus driver and a substitute teacher.

In 2018, the teacher's cottage suffered an interior fire and due to the extensive smoke damage, PPYC had to demolish the entire interior of the cottage. Fortunately, the exterior and roof of the cottage were unharmed. Unfortunately, the insurance proceeds from the fire were only $36,500. The cost to renovate the cottage will be close to $200,000. PPYC assigned a Cottage Committee to oversee the renovation of the cottage and raise the funds required. Because PPYC and MI Saddle Club operate as non-profits, both organizations only had $10,000 to donate toward the renovations. The Cottage Committee launched several grassroots fund-raising campaigns to generate community donations. Architect and MI Saddle Club member Suzanne Zahr donated her services for the designs and plans for the project. Island builder Redman Construction was contracted for the construction and owner Gary Redman is sourcing discounts for the projects from many of his vendors.

Lakeview Cottage -- Then and Now
(Click above for larger image)

PPYC is half-way toward raising the funds needed to complete the teacher's cottage renovations. Donations links, and more information about the project can be found at www.misaddleclub.org.