Eastside Heritage Center
2105 Bellevue Way
Tuesday (10:00 am-4:00 pm), Thursday, Friday and Saturday (10:00 am-2:00 pm)
Tuesday is usually research day, but you can also make an appointment
As part of Historic Seattle’s “Digging Deeper” series of tours of locally available repositories, a group of ardent individuals visited the Eastside Heritage Center (EHC) to learn about the Center’s holdings, and archival and access policies.
First of all, you need to know that this was SeaFair weekend. That’s when the Blue Angels perform and cigarette boats race, entertaining hundreds of thousands of people along the banks of Lake Washington. To give you an idea of how big this is, they close down a section of I-90 for this event!
You also need to know that I live on the west side of Lake Washington and EHC, as it’s name implies, is on the east side of Lake Washington! A recipe for disaster, if not in the going to the Center then certainly for the return trip. That’s the bad news.
The good news was that I left for the east side prior to the closing of the interstate and, since most Seattle-ites sleep in on the weekends, I beat even the most rabid of the SeaFair fans. It was just the usual bad traffic on the alternate route home coming back home! Whew!
The EHC houses their collection in three different locations but their most publicly accessible is the Winters House, a 1929 Mission Revival and former home of Fredrick and Cecilia Winters, flower growers. Twisted columns mark the front entry to the house and decorative tile is under foot and around important features of the house such as the fireplace. Attendees commented about how the house was not so grand as to not feel like a home.
If you have any connection to the near east side communities of the Puget Sound area of Washington, I recommend you give Sarah Fredrick, Collection Manager of EHC, a call and discuss what the EHC has which might help you.
Here are some of the items that you might find of interest:
- The John Way collection: EHC has the papers and artifacts from Dr. Way’s long career as a medical practitioner and civic citizen in Redmond. This is a new addition to their collection.
- Textiles: Broadly defined, this collection includes linens and women’s and children’s clothing.
- Quilts: Many came into the collection in the 1970s and 1980s when the need for provenance was not as well documented.
- Photographs of the area: Many are located on King County Snapshot page hosted by UW but some are also located on their own website. If you are on the UW site and looking for east side photos, you can improve your chances by selecting the collection from EHC.
- Lake Washington/Bellevue Reflector: EHC has the only known complete set of this paper that was published until the 1930s.
- Oral Histories: EHC has over 300 and is still actively collecting these.
- Lakehill community: Lorraine McConaghy donated her research materials to the center after the completion of her academic work.
- The Colman Diaries (1886-1900). Check out Historylink for more information on the Colman murder and then check out the diary itself, which led to a renewed effort to attempt to resolve the murder. The diary when transcribed by EHC volunteers yielded clues that had not been revealed before.
- Organizational Archives: Included in the collection are a number of groups from the area including Bellevue Schools (some), Overlake Service League, Bellevue Chamber of Commerce (1954 — early 1980s), etc.
Sarah recommended researchers wishing to access the collections should call her first to discuss what the collection might contain. You then schedule an appointment to come in and review. Sarah and her volunteers will have the time between your call and your visit to pull relevant documents. Drop-ins, although possible, risk not getting the information that is stored in other locations and, therefore, are discouraged.
The research is conducted and the accessible collection is mostly stored at the Winters House; however, EHC also stores parts of their collection at the McDowell House and in storage. The Center does have scanning and copying capabilities. The house is not fully handicapped accessible; however, I am sure the staff will attempt to assist in any way they can to accommodate your particular request.
If you have ancestors who lived in the communities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland and even as far north at Bothell, I recommend a call to Sarah to find out what she might have.
My BIG take-away: there are thousands of small repositories like Eastside Heritage Center all over the US. Their collections are not accessible through Ancestry, Family Search. or even NUCMC, a national catalog for manuscript collections. Each of these little known repositories are cared for by passionate volunteers and staff people like Sarah. Each also holds a number of manuscript collections which we can only discover by calling and talking to a knowledgeable person. I want to thank Historic Seattle for bringing all of these important collections to our attention through their “Digging Deeper” series.
And, why don’t you make a call today to a historical society or repository in the town of your ancestors and have a chat! You never know what you might find! This is my guarantee: If you are not making site visits to the areas where your ancestors lived, you are missing significant numbers and types of records.
What I have done since the last posting: I have been consumed by my Fire Insurance Map presentation I am giving at the end of August and again in September. While I am developing that presentation, the use of maps for house histories becomes more apparent. I am adding more sources for my House Histories presentation, which I give on the 15th of August at the Northwest Genealogical Conference. I also worked on my webpage a bit. It is getting closer but for some reason it is not “playing well in the sandbox,” and I need a little assistance from my nephew who put it together.