120 years of Issaquah

April 24, 2012

Click on the image to view the full-size timeline.

1892

  • Issaquah is founded as Gilman. The city is named for railroad baron Daniel Hunt Gilman.

1893

  • The postmaster called for mail sent to Gilman to be addressed to Olney, Wash., to avoid confusion between Gilman and Gilmer, another city in the state.

1895

  • Townsfolk start calling the frontier town Issaquah, or “the sound of water birds” in the language of the American Indians native to the region.

1899

  • State lawmakers approve official name change from Gilman to Issaquah.

1900

  • Wilbur W. Sylvester founds the Bank of Issaquah in a clapboard building.

Read more

USA Today spotlights Issaquah Alps trails

February 28, 2012

Issaquah Alps peaks and trails garnered national attention Feb. 21 after USA Today featured the Eastside mountains in a travel piece.

The feature outlines trails and points of interest on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains — including the long-defunct Nike Ajax missile installation on Cougar Mountain and the paraglider launch site on Tiger Mountain.

“Hiking through Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, on to Squak Mountain State Park Natural Area and into Tiger Mountain State Forest adds mileage but provides a scenic route,” the guide notes.

Read more

USA Today spotlights Issaquah Alps hiking trails

February 22, 2012

NEW — 9 a.m. Feb. 22, 2012

Issaquah Alps peaks and trails garnered some national attention Tuesday after USA Today featured the Eastside mountains in a travel piece.

The piece outlines trails and points of interest on Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains — including the long-defunct Nike Ajax missile installation on Cougar Mountain and the paraglider launch site on Tiger Mountain.

“Hiking through Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, on to Squak Mountain State Park Natural Area and into Tiger Mountain State Forest adds mileage but provides a scenic route,” the guide notes.

The piece is the latest national recognition for the Issaquah Alps and the mountains’ namesake city.

Read more

Tomorrow turns 50: Century 21 Exposition, space-age celebration, reshaped region a half-century ago

February 21, 2012

In early Century 21 Exposition concept art, circa 1961, the monorail hangs from a rail rather than gliding along a track. MOHAI, Walter Straley Century 21 Exposition Photograph Collection

Opportunities seemed endless as Seattle prophesized a sleek future at the 1962 Century 21 Exposition.

In the years before the fair opened a half-century ago, local leaders imagined the fairgrounds along Lake Sammamish. Envision, as entrepreneurs dared to do in the late ’50s, Lake Sammamish State Park as a site for the still-embryonic exposition.

The fairgrounds showcase Cougar Mountain as a backdrop for the Space Needle. Or, rather than the bubbling International Fountain, placid Lake Sammamish defines the landscape. The monorail, all Swedish design and German engineering, connects suburban cities, not Seattle neighborhoods.

Organizers considered, if only for a moment, a fair situated amid farmland and forests, perhaps a Festival of the West set in Issaquah, a former frontier settlement.

“What if it had been in Issaquah?” asked Lorraine McConaghy, public historian for the Seattle-based Museum of History & Industry, or MOHAI. “What if 10 million people had come to Issaquah between May and October of 1962?”

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders proposed the then-300-acre state park as a possible fair site in July 1958, as boosters from the Puget Sound region urged organizers to consider locations outside Seattle.

Read more

Cougar Mountain and the Cold War connection

June 29, 2010

Missiles atop peak defended region against Soviet threat

President Kennedy had a bad cold.

The leader of the free world begged off public appearances in October 1962, blaming a respiratory infection. Kennedy skipped a planned appearance in Seattle to close the Century 21 World’s Fair.

Except, the president had no cold, bad or otherwise.

The discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba pushed the United States and the Soviet Union — both nuclear-armed superpowers — to the edge of annihilation. The ersatz illness provided a ruse for Kennedy to duck the limelight and address the crisis.

U.S. military installations around the globe operated at heightened alert in case a spark ignited the Cold War flashpoint.

Sidewalks that connected barracks 50 years ago at Cougar Mountain's Radar Park are among the few signs that remain of the Nike Ajax Integrated Fire Control radar site, now a King County park. By Greg Farrar

High above tiny Issaquah, anti-aircraft missiles sat poised on Cougar Mountain. Installed less than a decade earlier, the system had been devised to protect the Puget Sound region in case bombers came screaming across the Bering Strait from the Soviet Union.

The program debuted in the late 1950s as a technological triumph — the first operational, surface-to-air guided missile system used by U.S. forces.

The military positioned more than 200 Nike Ajax installations nationwide — including 13 around Puget Sound — near major cities and key military and industrial sites as a last line of defense against a Soviet air attack. The missile network defended the economic and political center of the Pacific Northwest, as well as Boeing aircraft factories, shipyards and military installations.

Read more