City’s history comes out on DVD

August 3, 2010

By Kirsten Johnson

Issaquah's Oral History Video Project

Six decades ago, Issaquah was a completely different city.

With fewer than 1,000 residents, zero traffic lights and acres of empty fields, the Issaquah of 1950 would be unrecognizable to those who know it today as the booming, fast-growing city of 27,000 people.

To tell its story beginning with the early pioneers of the 1920s, the Issaquah History Museums have partnered with the Issaquah Cable Station 21/61 to create the Issaquah Oral History Video Project.

The project includes 17 video shorts and 25 in-depth interviews with early, influential members of the community.

“It’s a really easy way to introduce history to people,” Issaquah History Museums Director Erica Maniez said. “History can be dry and unappetizing, but the videos are a way for people to tell the stories of their own lives. It’s a lot more personal and interesting.”

Ruth Mohl is one of the residents interviewed. She and her husband Marvin co-founded Gilman Village in 1972.

The two moved here in the 1940s, before the addition of Interstate 90, back when Issaquah was a rural farming community. They had doubts about moving to such a tiny town.

“There were no traffic lights, just one four-way stop,” she said. “We held back about moving here, because there was really nothing here. But my husband had just finished law school and wanted to mix it up by practicing in a small town.”

The Mohls moved into what is now the Sycamore neighborhood near Issaquah High School. As they built the first house on a generous amount of acreage, they started a prosperous neighborhood that now holds 80 separate households.

Mohl and her husband also began the Gilman Village shopping center by saving unwanted farming and mining buildings and renovating them into a centralized shopping center. Mohl and her family still own and run the village to this day.

Along with Mohl’s story, the video includes tales of Issaquah during World War II, the Prohibition era in Issaquah and the establishment of prominent places, like Pickering Barn.

“It tells the lovely story of a community and the way it started,” Mohl said. “Some of the early families who came here from Europe were living under difficult conditions. In the video, there are some wonderful stories about how they came together here and how it eventually became a larger community.”

Funding for the video came from sponsorship by local donors, 4Culture and the Kiwanis Club of Issaquah.

Get your copy now

The two-DVD Issaquah Oral History Video Project is available for purchase for $39.95. It can be bought online at or at either of the Issaquah History Museums.

Kirsten Johnson: 392-6434 or Comment at

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