Issaquah’s unique heritage is on display for History Month

May 6, 2014

By Joe Grove

“Every community has its own weird, wild and wonderful stories, and Issaquah is no exception,” according to Erica Maniez, director of Issaquah History Museums.

This is the fourth year the museums will spotlight Issaquah’s unique heritage throughout the month of May for Local History Month.

The organization operates two museums people can visit, Gilman Town Hall, 165 S.E. Andrews St., and the Depot Museum, 78 First Ave. N.E.

Town Hall has exhibits on display that show the history of the town; the Depot Museum highlights the role the railroad played in the town’s development.

The museums’ plans for May go beyond the exhibits in the two facilities. The first is a Historic Pub Crawl on May 8, starting at 6:45 p.m.

“It is the second time we have done it,” said Lissa Kramer, program coordinator for the museums. “The first one was last September, and it was a lot of fun.”

During Local History Month they try get more of their general messaging to the membership, volunteers and the general public, and “our pub crawl is a vehicle for getting out a larger historical story, and a way for us to be getting to different audiences than we might normally get,” she said.

The group is working with the Downtown Issaquah Association on the Pub Crawl.

“Our goal is to get as many people involved in local history as possible,” Kramer said. “So, our purpose in the Pub Crawl is to show how interesting it can be.”

The crawl is a walking tour with groups of 10 to 15 people, led by a museums’ staffer. In some pubs, patrons will be served a drink and in others they will be given an appetizer.

“We have a lot of experience with interpretive walks,” Kramer said, “so we tell some juicy stories thrown in along with the general history, a little murder and mayhem, along with the prohibition thing. But it has to connect directly with Issaquah. That is the essential piece.”

Tickets for the Pub Crawl are $45, which includes the drinks and appetizers, and can be purchased on the museums’ website,     www.issaquahhistory.org.

On May 31, they will wrap up the month with Olde Town Mine History Hike, led by volunteer Doug Bristol from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bristol will lead hikers through the story of Issaquah’s coal mining past. The hike requires advance registration at the museums’ website.

“Issaquah is very unique in its coal mining history,” Kramer said. “If you look at the history of Washington state and how Seattle developed, Issaquah was really pivotal because of its coal fields. We try to get a little more into that, as it is another interpretive walk.”

Laura Hall, administrative coordinator, said the museums have been around since 1972. Gilman Town Hall was built in 1898; much of the interior finish is from the original era.

“We do a lot of programs with children and have a great set of docents, some who have lived here their entire lives,” she said.

Gilman was the name of the town when the building was built. It housed the mayor and sheriff, who were one and the same at times. Before it was called Gilman, it was Squak Valley.

“There is a fourth name that I am missing sandwiched in there somewhere,” she said.

She said both the Town Hall and the Depot Museum are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Maniez said the mission of the organization is to help people in the community discover, preserve and share the history of Issaquah.

With one full-time employee and three part-time employees, the museums organization has four people with graduate degrees in museum studies to carry out their programs.

Both Kramer and Maniez said they are striving to expand the kids portion of their audience.

“We want to get kids engaged when they come in,” Maniez said. “It is fun to understand why things are the way they are in the community in which you live, but it also gives a hometown pride in knowing the story of your hometown.”

May 1 was the launch of STQRY, a new mobile phone app that helps users find out about nearby points of interest. The public can use STQRY to learn more about the museums’ buildings, rolling stock and outdoor exhibits. Download the app at www.stqry.com.

Maniez said they just received a grant for a pilot program that will allow them to develop a summer camp for middle school students. But why should kids care about history?

“Because it is your home and you want to hear the story of how it became the place it is today,” Maniez said.

She said one of the mysteries kids might see at the museum is a glass jar of home canned green beans preserved in 1922.

“They still look green, but I wouldn’t vouch for the nutritional value of them,” she said.

Or they might learn how Poo Poo Point got its name.

“It was named by Harvey Manning and was named after the sound of a steam donkey, which whistled ‘poo poo’ before it started pulling logs into a central point. It’s not scatological,” Maniez said.

Exhibits at Gilman Town Hall are open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and at the Depot Museum from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The historic Issaquah Valley Trolley will start running Saturday and Sunday May 17 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Information about the Local History Month highlights and activities can be found on the museums’ website.

 

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