Off The Press

March 19, 2013

By Debbie Berto

Memories move with us from Front Street

The boxes are packed, the old files emptied. It’s the last week on Front Street for The Issaquah Press and we’re going to miss it.

Unless you’ve been here for more than a couple decades, you are one of many who think 1) The Issaquah Press Building is very, very old and 2) the building is owned by The Press.

Debbie Berto Press publisher

Debbie Berto Press publisher

Neither is true. The building is only 25 years old and the newspaper has never owned it.

I started my career here 40 years ago, in the same location but in a single-story half-wood/half-cement block structure dating back to about 1925. For many years, it housed the printing presses here, too.

The office was not pretty, but when I came in 1973, it had just received new orange paisley carpet. The forced air furnace was very noisy while we wrote news stories on old Underwood typewriters, and then drove them to the typesetters in Seattle. Then-owner/publisher John Murray allowed us to add a striped awning and some flower boxes to dress up the building.

By the mid-80s, the old building was getting decrepit. When mice started drowning in the rain buckets, I called Murray, who also owned the building. I pleaded with him to move the staff.

He had another idea and told me to find him a partner. I found Ed Roberts, a local developer. In 1988, Murray put up the land and Roberts put up the building. We moved out during construction.

Demolition of the old building was a day to behold. We borrowed one of the early models of a “portable” suitcase-sized video camera from Alan Lidga, of City Lights Video (both now gone), to record the activity. We stood on the street and cheered as the jaws of a track hoe crunched the building into kindling.

Four months later, we moved into our current building, but occupied only half the space. Other offices were rented to a camera-repair store and an interior decorator. From the beginning, passers-by thought the new building had been there for years — a real testament to Issaquah architect Bob Leibling, who designed it to blend with the historic downtown.

Over the years, we started publishing Sammamish Review, and then the monthly Newcastle News, and five years ago, we added the weekly SnoValley Star. As our newspaper group grew, we added staff and eventually needed the whole building.

Meanwhile, Murray and Roberts sold the building to a local investor. We just paid rent, pulled weeds, washed windows, put out great newspapers and gathered memories

… Like the champagne cork marks on the ceiling tiles from our move-in party. Or, the times we have nearly tripped over homeless people sleeping on the back porch amid the leftover newspapers. Or, the great Salmon Days photos Greg Farrar has taken from the roof. Or, Santa and Mrs. Claus that we purchased when Ernst Hardware was closing and have waved from the front windows every Christmas season since. Or, the lunchtime stroll over to the fish hatchery on a sunny afternoon, and jaywalking to the Front Street Market for a snack.

Saying goodbye to this building is tough, but we are also excited about our move across town. We’ll keep the old memories and start making new ones. Come visit us — turn left just past the new Top Pot Donuts!

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