Constructed in 1922 by local craftsman for use as a meeting place by early island residents to gather socially and discuss community issues, the Keewaydin Clubhouse – from Longfellow’s Hiawatha, “…Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin…” – has since been used privately and by both local government and civic organizations. Purchased in 1966 by members of VFW Post 5760, it remains a central gathering place for community members, most of whom often share their personal reminiscences of favorite times spent at Keewaydin. Hence, this place matters to island residents because each generation holds it dear as a place of timeless unity and friendship.
The original Keewaydin Club was organized on November 29, 1921 by members of the Mercer Island Community Club. The club incorporated all of the Island’s north end improvement clubs, and was promoted as being formed “…for social purposes exclusively…” W. S. Foster and H. C. Raymer were elected to serve one-year terms as the club President and Vice-president, respectively. Under their leadership a lot was purchased and cleared the following year and on a single day, July 1, 1922, approximately 60,000 feet of lumber and 58,000 shingles were hauled up the steep slope from the barge that had brought the cargo from Seattle. A member of the club and Seattle Architecture, Ernest R. Williams designed the restrained Colonial Revival building which was subsequently completed in 1922 by volunteer laborers, many of them island residents.
The clubhouse continued to serve as a social center for the growing community of Mercer Island for the next 50+ years. During the 1930s and 1940s the organization shifted focus from exclusively social to community issues such as fire protection, water rights and transportation. Host to a monthly forum of many civic matters, Mercer Island residents and their clubhouse played an active role by hosting many county and state government policy meetings, most notably the planning behind construction of the Lacey V. Murrow floating bridge.
The clubhouse is currently used as a central meeting place for members of VFW Post 5760. Since purchasing the property in 1966, members of the VFW have utilized the building for a variety of activities ranging from social events to educational programs. Funds generated from clubhouse rentals to local businesses, civic organizations, social groups and individuals are utilized as resources supporting the organization’s many volunteer, relief, education, scholarship, patriotism, and citizenship programs.
Today, historic preservation grants are needed to help fund long overdue replacement of the original roof and siding of this beloved building. As documented in a 15 May, 2009 assessment report from the King County (Washington) Historic Preservation Program, the “…roof is reaching the end of its life span…” with siding and foundation siding recommended for near term (within one year) priority repairs. These areas form the basis of work to be conducted as part of the Keewaydin Historic Preservation Project (HPP).
The Keewaydin HPP is multi-phased, multi-year initiative by VFW Post 5760 for the long term preservation of a local, state, and nationally recognized historic landmark. Grant funds recently awarded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation – through the 2010 Partners in Preservation (PiP) campaign – will help fund the first of three phases for exterior roof and siding replacement. Additional funds are being sought through other granting agencies as well as private donations from local residents. Subsequent phases for the project – for which alternative fundraising efforts are being planned – include: Phase II – Exterior foundation seismic retrofitting, and; Phase III – Interior period renovation. Other projects lesser in scope are being pursued through VFW Post 5760 self-funded efforts, to run concurrently during the span of the project. These include routine maintenance and repairs to a wide range of building electrical, plumbing, and heating and ventilation needs.
The VFW recognizes its responsibility to the community in making our property available to citizens and veterans alike; for generations to come. The project initiative is an outgrowth of the VFW Post 5760 Strategic Plan, in which the “… historic preservation of the original Keewaydin Club House…” is a priority strategic goal.
With generous funding, all project work will be done in line with Department of Interior (DOI) Regulation 36 CFR 67 Ch I (7-1-03 Edition); § 67.7 Standards of Rehabilitation by Logan’s Hammer Building & Renovation of Seattle, Washington; owned and operated by Mercer Island’s own Sean Meek.
For more on the DOI, its regulations and standards, and the Historic Preservation Portal visit www.historicpreservation.gov. For information on Logan’s Hammer historic preservation methods and materials visit www.loganshammer.com.
"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid." - Dwight Eisenhower