Strawberry Festival Update

Dear friends of the Eastside Heritage Center and the Bellevue Strawberry Festival:

With no small amount of sadness, the board of the Eastside Heritage Center has decided not to produce the Bellevue Strawberry Festival in 2019. There is some chance that an outside event producer will pick up the event in the future.

The Bellevue Strawberry Festival has been an unqualified success over the years. In many ways the Eastside Heritage Center has become a victim of that success. As the festival became bigger and more popular, we knew we needed to up our game and professionalize the production to ensure quality, safety and an overall great festival experience. These requirements began to get way out in front of our capacities as a relatively small non-profit community heritage organization.

The success of the Bellevue Strawberry Festival has been due, in large part, to the quality of the vendors, musicians, suppliers, sponsors and other partners we have been able to attract. For your support we thank you. We recognize that the event has a great deal of community and brand equity and that it may be possible to restart it in the future, as the same great festival but with a far smaller role for the Eastside Heritage Center. If anything changes, our loyal friends will be the first to know.

And one last shout-out to Heather Trescases, who built the Strawberry festival from the ground up, and to Lexi and rest of the EHC staff and volunteers who put in so much time and effort to make it a success.

Thank you again for your support, and we hope everyone can fill that weekend with another great event.

Eastside Stories: The Ferries of Lake Washington

No. 1 | February 6, 2019

Eastside Stories

Subscribe to Eastside Stories by emailing us at:

Eastside Stories   is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Eastside Stories is our way of sharing Eastside history through the many events, people places and interesting bits of information that we collect at the Eastside Heritage Center. We hope you enjoy these stories and share them with friends and family.

Welcome to Eastside Stories, a new series from the Eastside Heritage Center. Through these periodic postings we will bring Eastside History to life and highlight the people, places and events that have shaped its remarkable evolution.

The Ferries of Lake Washington

We’ll begin our series of Eastside Stories with one of the things that made settlement of the Eastside possible: ferries on Lake Washington.

The earliest settlers got around by rowboat and canoe, but for the Eastside to grow as an agricultural area and as a commuter suburb, it would need reliable transportation to the burgeoning city of Seattle.

The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Leschi, in her early steam sidewheel configuration. She was later converted to diesel engines with propellers. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

By the 1880s, entrepreneurs had seen enough people settling around Lake Washington to justify ferry service. The first problem was to get boats onto the lake, since the Lake Washington Ship Canal was still just a pipe dream. Some early ferries were built in yards in Seattle and Houghton. Others were dragged up the Black River, which drained the lake through Renton.

Early passenger steamers, like Acme , Dawn and Elfin needed a place to land. King County built a series of wharves around the lake, and most residents lived within easy distance of a ferry landing. And there was always the option of flagging a ferry for an unscheduled stop at a private dock.

By the early 20 th Century, Seattle was growing like crazy—from 50,000 people in 1890 to 250,000 in 1910—and all those new people needed to eat. Eastside farmers could supply produce, but loading it on and off small steamers would not do the trick. So, ferries for wagons and the growing fleet of cars and trucks began to ply the lake. The vehicle ferries Kent , Washington and Lincoln served on the Madison Park-Kirkland route beginning around 1900.

The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The Ariel operated on a route from Madison Park to Houghton, serving wharfs on Evergreen, Hunts and Yarrow Points. She was owned by the Johnson brothers and was the only steamer on the lake that stayed out of the hands of Captain Anderson. She ended her days serving as student housing on Portage Bay. (Photo courtesy of Puget Sound Maritime)

The most ambitious ferry project was the Leschi, a steel-hulled ferry commissioned by the new Port of Seattle in 1912. The ship canal had still not opened, and there were no yards on the lake that could build a steel hull. So the hull was fabricated on the Duwamish, disassembled and re-assembled at Rainier Beach. The Leschi originally served Meydenbauer Bay and Medina (that's the Leschi in Meydenbauer Bay in the background of the the EHC logo) but the Meydenbauer stop was dropped in 1920. The Seattle-Medina route ran until the day before the new floating bridge opened in 1940.

Car ferry service kept going to Kirkland through World War II, mostly to get shipyard workers to Houghton. The last of the lake’s passenger steamers, the Ariel, which served the Points Communities and Houghton, retired in 1945.

The early steamers were lovely to look at, but like wooden steamboats everywhere, they often had short lifespans. Fires, exploding boilers, rot and sinking were the fate of nearly all of the lake’s small ferries. When Captain John Anderson began to buy up the ferries on the lake he brought some order to the chaos, but also took some of the fun and romance out of it. 

About once a decade we get another study of returning ferry service to Lake Washington. The economics have always been a challenge, and the slow speed limit in the ship canal makes for a long trip to Lake Union. A new service from Renton is now in the offing.

But Lake Washington is still full of passenger boats doing what those early steamers all did for extra money: sightseeing excursions on the most beautiful urban lake in America.


Our Mission To steward Eastside history by actively collecting, preserving, and interpreting documents and artifacts, and by promoting public involvement in and appreciation of this heritage through educational programming and community outreach.

Our Vision To be the leading organization that enhances community identity through the preservation and stewardship of the Eastside’s history.

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Eastside Heritage Center is supported by 4 Culture

Unlock the Past, Build the Future

2018 was a momentous year!

EHC 5-Photo Logo copy.jpg

· McDowell House Renovation: We celebrated the centennial of the McDowell House, home to our programming and administrative offices, following a four month renovation. We can now hold monthly programs on-site for the first time in over a decade. 


· 2018 Bellevue Strawberry Festival: We hosted the 15th annual Strawberry Festival to celebrate Bellevue's agricultural heritage. More than 60,000 people attended.


· Caring For Our Collection: In the final months of 2016, EHC secured a new storage facility for its archives in Bellevue, and in 2017 completed an inventory of EHC’s entire 60,000+ piece artifact collection with the assistance of two University of Washington Museology graduate students.  


· Educational Programming: Continued partnerships provide educational heritage programming for students in the Lake Washington and Bellevue School District. EHC interprets the historic 1888 Fraser Cabin at Kelsey Creek Farm, leads guided Early Bellevue Walking Tours, and at puts on our signature event the Bellevue Strawberry Festival.


· Hands-on History Programming: We partnered with the Pacific Science Center to launch a new spring and summer program series focused on the cultural uses of the Mercer Slough from the Duwamish to the present.


· Heritage Preservation: EHC, with the City of Bellevue Department of Parks and Community Services developed language to interpret the American Whaling Company’s whaling station located on Meydenbauer Bay. The whaling station and accompanying interpretation will serve as a new focal point for community engagement at the new Meydenbauer Beach Park, soon to open. 


· Heritage Online: EHC launched a new website. The website makes it easier than ever to see what events are coming up in the Eastside world of history and heritage. Our website also links to our online photo archive and other useful local history resources. You can make research requests through the website as well. 


Make your donation go twice as far!


 This year a supporter has offered to generously match the first $2000 donated to Eastside Heritage Center. 


Here are some examples of how your tax-deductible donation will provide crucial support:


$75 supports the preservation of a large 25'x10' canvas business directory that hung from the side of a large building on the road way between Kirkland and Bothell in 1937.


$120 funds the digitization of the business ledger from The Valley Hotel in Redmond that mainly served Loggers and the personal activities of the owner W.E. Sikes from 1881-1891.


$500 enables EHC to provide three free guided historic waking tour programs to the public.


$750 funds the digitization of one year of The Lake Washington Reflector, Bellevue’s first local newspaper, making it more accessible for researchers and prolonging the life of the physical items.


$1,500 supports EHC’s intern program, by funding a six month stipend for one student intern.


$20,000 allows EHC to display a never-before-seen Japanese war-time collection, which was given to EHC through the generous donation of a local Clyde Hill family.

$25,000 funds EHC’s annual collection storage cost.


Please consider making a financial contribution or annual pledge to Eastside Heritage Center this year, directly benefiting the very tangible pieces of community history that are in our care.




Mike Johnson                                     Betina Finley

Board President                                 Board Vice President

Parlor Re-Vamp

Earlier this year, we were temporarily moved out of McDowell House to allow for some maintenance to occur. As with any move, we discovered a lot of things we didn’t know we had or thought we had lost long ago. There was a significant amount of boxing and unboxing. We also had to come to terms with the way we’d been using the space.

Nancy Sheets, Steve Williams, Butter Ziegler, Barb Williams.JPG

As the move back in date approached we had a lot of conversations about how we wanted to maximize our use of this wonderful house and how we could use it to better serve our mission. We decided to convert the parlor from an exclusively research-based space to a multi-use space. This involved relocating a lot of furniture, files, and supplies. In the end we decided to work with folding tables and chairs, so the room can be easily emptied to accommodate programs, events, and other activities.

We also wanted to showcase some of our collections, so we moved in an exhibit cube. We’ll be using this for rotating displays throughout the year, highlighting particular areas of interest for our volunteers, members, and staff.

Finally, we installed some photo ledges to share our various educational boards. These boards are usually brought with us to off-site programs and stored out of the way when not in use. But we thought - why not store them and display them at the same time!


We can’t wait to share the new and improved parlor with you at our upcoming Membership Meeting!

100th Anniversary of the McDowell House

100th Anniversary of the McDowell House


McDowell House (Paxton House) circa 1918.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the McDowell House, one of the few historic houses in Wilburton that still retains most of its original structures. It’s a craftsman-style house with spacious square rooms, a cobblestone chimney on the southern wall, and a brick fireplace painted white. The roofs extend a couple feet out from the walls and over the west-facing porch, keeping the house dry. One of its more remarkable features are large multi-paneled windows with wooden frames, a luxury in that time. Surprisingly, most of the closets in the house have windows, reducing the need for artificial light.

The house was formerly part of a 5-acre property that contained the Cherry Hill and High Ridge Farm, which produced fruits including grapes, berries, and cherries. It was a few blocks north of the Wilburton historic town and conveniently close to the railroad. Many of the features of the property are now gone, including a barn and a windmill. Bellevue demolished a garage as well.

John H. and Ella McDowell owned land in Clyde Hill by 1905 and built the McDowell House in 1918 with cedar timbers from the Wilburton Mill. Watson and Wallace McDowell were most likely relatives to John and Ella, though the documentation is ambiguous. Watson was a Lieutenant serving in World War I – he returned to Wilburton by New Year’s Day in 1919. Wallace was also involved in the military, working in transportation in England and France in 1918.

The McDowell's sold their house in the 1920’s and from there the house went through many different owners. Thomas E. and Mary S. Paxton bought it in 1964, after which the house became known as the Paxton House. The City of Bellevue bought it from the Paxtons in 1988. Today, the McDowell House houses the Eastside Heritage Center’s administrative offices where staff, interns, and volunteers do outreach organization, event planning, and research.

Overall, information on the McDowell House wasn’t well-preserved; the Eastside Heritage Center has very few records on the house and its inhabitants. Despite its many mysteries, we are happy to celebrate the house and its heritage to remember Bellevue as it was.


By Alice - EHC Youth Volunteer

Dudley Carter: An Unusual and Forgotten Artist

Dudley Carter: An Unusual and Forgotten Artist


Dudley Carter's iconic Forest Deity carving, near Bellevue Shopping Square circa 1947.

Dudley Carter was Redmond’s most famous sculptor, working with cedars and redwoods to sculpt Native American-inspired works. His more prominent works include the Haida House at Slough Park and “Forest Deity” at Bellevue Square.

Carter was perseveringly productive and his lifestyle challenged many modern American conceptions of life. He got his first paid job when he was 6 and kept working until his death almost 95 years later. He reportedly took one vacation and never again, preferring to continue working. He never had a formal Western education because he grew up among Native American peoples such as the Kwakiutl, Haida, and Tsimshyan, far away from schoolhouses. He also believed modern medical practice was a waste of money. He avoided seeing a doctor, instead eating a minimalist diet and fasting when needed.

Carter didn’t start sculpting until he was in his 40’s; the Depression in the 1930’s decreased demand for his services as a logger and gave him more time to explore his self-expression. One of his first major pieces was “Rivalry of the Winds”, which the Seattle Art Museum bought in 1932. He later moved to California and there created “Goddess of the Forest” at the 1939-1940 San Francisco World Fair, which gained him more recognition. He moved back to Seattle in the 1940’s.

Kemper Freeman Sr., the developer for Bellevue Square, loved Carter’s work on “Bird Woman” at the Bellevue’s first arts festival in 1947 and commissioned a work for Bellevue Square. At the time, Carter had a day job as a forest engineer for a timber company. He worked on what became “Forest Deity” every night from 10 pm to 2 am in the Snohomish woods close to Granite Falls until he’d finished.

The finished work revolves around the serene face of the deity, who according to some interpretations is female. There’s a small wreath of dogwood blossoms on her head. At the top of the work, an eagle chick peeks out from under the large head of its mother. In both American and Native American cultures, the eagle represents power through its speed and majesty in flight.

Carter would first sketch his sculpture on paper, then model it in small scale with clay or wood. Only then would he use a chainsaw to build the general form of the work from a giant log. Finally, he would use a double-bitted ax and other traditional hand-held tools to create the character of his piece. He believed that electronic chainsaws, while fast, removed all the personality and idiosyncrasies that make a sculptor’s work special. Occasionally, he would forgo planning and sketching in favor of finding inspiration in the natural shapes of driftwood from beaches.

Carter’s work is also displayed at Chinook Middle School, the Redmond Senior Citizens home, the entrance to Marymoor Park, and the Seattle Art Museum. Despite living around his work, I had never noticed it. Next time I’m at Bellevue Square, I’ll be sure to look for “Forest Deity”.

For more information, a documentary titled “Dudley Carter” was made in 1982.


By Alice - EHC Youth Volunteer