Issaquah's library, drawing

Issaquah Library

10 Sunset Way

Issaquah's library, drawing

Architectural drawing of Issaquah’s library, courtesy of project architect’s Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

Issaquah’s 15,000-square-foot library opened June 4, 2001. Just west of the library, along Sunset Way, a new, two-level garage provides free parking for visitors. Construction of the new facility took 18 months and cost about $8.2 million. As of opening day, 28 “state-of-the-art” computers were available for research, writing and recreation.
The new building is twice the size of the previous building, which is located next to the Depot at Memorial Field. The old library building will be used as the Issaquah Visitor Center and Chamber of Commerce offices while the Alexander House is being expanded. If a bond issue passes in November 2001, the old library building will be remodeled to become Issaquah’s new senior center.

Issaquah's Library

Issaquah’s Library, from Sunset Way. (Photo by David Bangs, 2001)

About the Building
The following building description is from the Open House and Dedication Celebration program:
The Issaquah Library represents an expansion and modernization of library services for the Issaquah community in a more prominent and central location. While future downtown planning calls for multi-story urban structures, the library use dictated a single story. The cedar sided structure resolved this apparent conflict through the use of an exaggerated building height coupled with the use of a trellis and canopies to maintain a humane scale at the street level. These scale elements relate to the cornice height of the neighboring buildings and visually secure the building in its context.

Issaquah library entrance

Entrance to Issaquah’s library. (Photo by David Bangs, 2001)

Patrons approach the entry from the new parking structure, passing screens of greenery and artwork, and from Front Street past large multi-paned windows. On the corner is a large covered area, or agora, which serves as a sheltered gathering space and marks the entrance to the building. Activity in the multi-purpose room, adjacent to the agora, is visible from the streetscape.

Entering the building from the agora, one passes through a wood-lined lobby and under a pair of tilted columns into the main space. Additional round columns gently taper, accentuating their height, as they rise to meet the wood-line ceiling. Light filters in through the clerestory windows to highlight the delicate metal truss at the spine of the building, and bathe the space in natural light.

Custom maple desks and bookcase ends carry the warmth of wood throughout the space. Trellises at the children’s area and circulation desks mimic the exterior trellis. Artwork lines the entrance sequence from exterior to interior drawing one into the building and echoing the sense of discovery inherent in the buildings design. The library is a comfortable cousin to its historical neighbors and creates a fresh identity that is both timeless and welcoming.

Site History

The lot where the library now stands was known as “Cooper’s Roost” – a lounging corner adjacent to Cooper’s Saloon. Later the PASTIME Tavern & Sweet Shop was located there, followed by a service station, and, for many years, Union Tavern. The small building facing Front Street that had housed the Union Tavern was repurposed as an Italian Restaurant (Athen’s Pizza) for a year or two before it was demolished in 2000 to make room for the new library.

The Pastime

The Pastime Pool & Billiard hall once stood on the site of today’s Issaquah Library, at the corner of Front Street and Sunset Way. (IHM 89-40-1)

Library History

Issaquah’s first literary institution was a reading room organized by Enos Guss, a barber. In 1908 Guss, who had an interest in books and education, set aside a reading room in his shop for patrons and the community at large. The barber shop (and library) was located on Front Street, at the current site of Allen’s Furniture at 131 Front St North just north of old Bank of Issaquah.

By 1918 the library had been moved to the Town Hall on Andrews Street (now home of the Gilman Town Hall Museum). Enough books had been donated to fill the shelves allotted to the library in this building. In 1930, when a new Town Hall was built, the library was moved to the City Council Chambers. There was no real community support for a library at that time, so the books remained on the shelves largely unused until the close of WWII.

After the war ended, leftover civil defense funds were used to revitalize the library. These funds were used to hire Ruby Lindman, the town’s first librarian. In 1948 the city also signed a contract that made the Issaquah Library part of the King County Community Library System.

By 1961 the Library, still housed in the City Council Chambers, consisted of 140 square feet of shelf space. The City was in need of more building space for their own purposes, so the library would have to find a new home. John Fischer, of Fischer’s Meats, donated $680 to the effort.

Issaquah's Library

Issaquah’s Library, from “This Was Issaquah,” by Harriet Fish.

At this time the Issaquah High School and Issaquah Grade School shared a lunchroom building on “Schoolhouse Hill”. In 1962, since plans called for the new Issaquah Middle School to be constructed on the site, the lunchroom building was moved off the hill and placed on Memorial Field, just north of today’s police station. The library operated in this building, the first dedicated solely to its own use, from 1963 until 1983. This library also hosted historical displays, setting aside a corner for Harriet Fish to display local artifacts.

In 1981 the Issaquah City Council voted to build a new library on the northwest corner of Memorial Field, on the site of the old Volunteer Fire Department building. The building was completed in 1983, and was in use until the spring of 2001.

Issaquah Library, 1983

Issaquah Library, 1983. The old cafeteria structure was replaced with a new library building. This building was in service until 2001, when a new library opened on Front & Sunset. As of 2015, the old library now serves as Issaquah’s Senior Center.

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Issaquah Police Station

Issaquah Police Station and Jail

130 Sunset Way

Issaquah Police Station

Issaquah Police Station, (Photo courtesy David Bangs, 2000)

On April 8, 2000, the Issaquah Police Department had its grand opening and ribbon cutting at the new police station. Newscaster Tony Ventrella was Master of Ceremonies, and he brought two wonderful female singers to sing the National Anthem. Mayor Ava Frisinger and Chief of Police Dag Garrison both gave inspirational speeches regarding the new station. Following the ribbon cutting there was a reception and tours of the new station. The evening ended with the jailhouse rock dance, which was a lot of fun and well attended. The weather outside could not have been more beautiful for the occasion.


Design Goals

The ideals and goals of the Issaquah community were taken into account when developing the new Issaquah Police Station, which was designed by Easters and Kittle Architects and officially opened in 2000. A citizens committee met to determine priorities for the building design. One of the group’s goals was that the final building should blend into Memorial Park and allow for a public gathering area. This concept inspired the plaza on the north side of the building, as well as the spacious community room rotunda. Architects note that many police stations can appear foreboding; this police station was intended to welcome the community and make them feel included and welcome.

Citizens also felt that it was important for the building to orient itself to the public walkway, reinforcing the feel of a commons stretching from one end of the downtown to the other. As you can see, the sidewalk and garden next to the building fall naturally along the pedestrian walkway that stretches from the railroad depot to the Community Center. Project architects also enhanced the historical character of the building by including brackets around the eave lines and windows, utilizing brick, and adding divided lights and some trim-work in the lobby.

This is the fourth police station and sixth jail in Issaquah. You’ll be able to visit the second jail when you stop by the Gilman Town Hall, and the site of the first when you visit the Masonic Hall.

"A Valiant Effort"

“A Valiant Effort” is a sculpture created for Issaquah’s Police Station. Artist Doug Eck is a graduate of Liberty High School

“A Valiant Effort”

Dedicated October 6, 2000

By Doug Eck, Artist

I gave careful consideration in the design of this art piece.  I feel this monument must not only have a “Northwest” flare, but it must also reflect the spirit of Issaquah and our dedication to the preservation of our environment… I chose the Bald Eagle as my main subject for two reasons.  First, it is our National bird and represents freedom and power.  The second reason is because the eagle has made an incredible comeback and is recognized as a Northwest icon.

Another bit of criteria that had to be met was tying the sculpture to the City of Issaquah.  I feel I’ve accomplished this by having the eagle grasping a salmon from the water.  With the newly remodeled salmon hatchery just two blocks away, it makes for a perfect compliment.

The salmon is supported by a water “splash”.  Water is also associated with Western Washington and also represents the life-giving force of nature.  Imprinted into the bronze water are impressionistic human hands.  This accurately represents our dedication to the preservation of the environment by literally showing that nature is in our hands.

Lastly, there is a “twist” in the body posture of the eagle. One of its talons will have lost its grip on the struggling salmon, causing the great bird to be slightly off balance and leaving the viewer uncertain as to the outcome in this struggle for life.  I feel this will capture our human struggle to give 100% every day and in everything we do.  At the same time it is a sobering reminder that there are no guarantees in life, all we can do is try.

Doug Eck, artist, has lived his life within the Issaquah community and is a 1980 Liberty High School graduate. His work can be found throughout the United States. Special thanks to the Issaquah Arts Commission and the Police Facility Art Selection Committee for their dedication in selecting, purchasing and placing this beautiful piece of art here in Issaquah.  It’s presence at the Police & Jail facility will add to the charm and character of this unique building.

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Salmon at the Issaquah Hatchery

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

125 West Sunset Way

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery

The Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. (Photo courtesy of David Bangs, 2002)

With more than 300,000 visitors each year, the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is easily the most-visited hatchery in the state.  The best time to visit is September and October, when the salmon return to the hatchery up Issaquah Creek and when the Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (F.I.S.H.) offers public tours.

The facility is open to visitors year around and has very good interpretive signs and displays to help guests learn about salmon and their life cycles, and about the hatchery itself.  Inside the front door, there is an aquarium of fish which are the same age and size as the fish in the hatchery’s holding tanks.

The Salmon: Star of the Show

Adult salmon begin returning to the hatchery via Issaquah Creek in late August and early September. As many as 10,000 to 20,000 salmon may return before the runs are over in December.

Upon reaching the hatchery, salmon are strongly encouraged to jump up the fish ladder at the hatchery.  Once up the fish ladder, the fish wait in holding tanks. Large windows allow for public viewing.


This site was once part of “City Park”, which was connected to downtown Issaquah with a wooden bridge over Issaquah Creek.  During the 1920’s, the park was well used with a bandstand and speaking platform for large holiday celebrations; and there was much picnicking along the creek.

The hatchery was constructed as a Works Project Administration project during 1936-1937. Plans included: Hatchery Building (increased in size during late design phase from 90 feet long to 176 feet!), hatching troughs, deep tray troughs, hatchery baskets, egg trays, overseer’s residence, feed house, garage, rearing ponds, water system, and racks and traps.

In the early 1990’s, the State Department of Fish and Wildlife announced plans to close the hatchery due to budget constrains. But the City of Issaquah, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (F.I.S.H.), the Muckleshoot Tribe, and King County all urged the state to keep the hatchery open.  With a new focus on education, watershed stewardship, and bolstering native and threatened salmon such as the Lake Washington steelhead, the hatchery was significantly renovated and expanded in 1997 and 1998 with a new viewing pond, viewing shelter, four raceways, plumbing, stormwater systems, and a fish ladder. As of 1999, more significant improvements are still in the works!

The lands on which the hatchery sit are owned by the City of Issaquah which is leasing them to the State of Washington on a 99 year lease.

Building Description

From the 1998 “Issaquah Historic Property Inventory”:

The Hatchery, located just adjacent to lssaquah’s downtown district, is a site that includes a large intact W.P.A. built building, 19 rearing ponds in front and 3 holding ponds in back.

The site is located close to Issaquah Creek, its flow of water and attachment to Lake Sammamish, the slough and Puget Sound is the reason for the location of the Hatchery.

The main Hatchery building is a long narrow rectangular single story wood frame structure; its long (north) elevation is fully banked with windows horizontally divided into 3 panes. A hipped roof covers the enclosed entry which is centered on the front elevation. The building is clad in horizontal bevel wood siding.

Fish ponds on the grounds are surrounded by low chain link fences.

Bibliographic References

Issaquah Historical Society files. Issaquah Press newspaper articles from 1971; November 28,1935; and December 19,1935. King County Assessor’s Records.

Related Web Sites

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Issaquah Sportsmen's Club

Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club*

23600 Evans Street

Issaquah Sportsmen's Club

Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club. (Photo courtesy of Eric Erickson, 1999)

The Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club clubhouse was built during the great depression (1937), using funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The clubhouse has been continuously used by the Issaquah Sportsman’s Club, with many activities open to the public. The Issaquah Alps Trails Club was founded at the clubhouse in 1979, and the Boy Scouts utilize the facility for troop meetings and trainings.

In 1997, the clubhouse became a King County Landmark, and in 1998, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The present-day photograph, shown above, was taken over the fence which surrounds the facility.  Locked gates prevent approach of the building by non-members when it is not open for an event.


Issaquah Sportsmen's Club

Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club, 1940. Photo courtesy of the Washington State Archives.

The club we know today as “The Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club” was originally formed in 1921.  Some of its early names were the Issaquah Rod & Gun Club, the Issaquah Sportsman’s Association, and the Issaquah Gun Club.  The club leased 1000 acres of prime bottom land along Issaquah Creek near the present location of Newport Way, to set aside for bird hunting.  This parcel also included a small shotgun range. The Club’s membership lists read as a “Who’s Who” of Issaquah, including mayors, business leaders, members of pioneer families, and other prominent citizens, as well as mill workers and farmers.

In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, members became increasingly involved in fisheries conservation projects. In 1927, the Issaquah Club joined with sportsmen’s clubs in Bothell and Redmond to “lobby” county officials to open Lake Sammamish to year-around recreational fishing, to remove detrimental fish traps from tributary creeks, including Issaquah and Bear Creeks, and to restrict fishing on tributary creeks between November and April each year, to allow fish to spawn successfully.

All three of these goals were achieved, and in 1933 the Issaquah Rod and Gun Club reorganized as the Issaquah Sportsman’s Club, to serve as a local volunteer group to assist with state-sponsored projects such as the planting of silver trout (the famed “ancient” kokane) in local streams. Following the establishment of the State Game Commission in 1935, local sportsmen’s associations also acted as advisory groups to the state in the regulation of local seasons, catch limits, and other conservation measures.

As dairy farms surrounded the club’s shooting range and hunting land along the Issaquah Creek in the late 1920’s, the club purchased its own parcel of 10.7 acres at the foot of Tiger Mountain.

In 1937, the Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation, with the goals of promoting good sportsmanship and observance of state game laws, to work for protection and propagation of game and game fish, to promote recreational opportunities for members, and to construct a social clubhouse and other facilities for the enjoyment of members.

The club immediately achieved its goal of having a “social clubhouse.”  At the time, the federal government was funding projects through the Works Project Administration to boost the economy and put people to work.  Since all WPA projects had to be public, the club donated some land to the City of Issaquah, which in-turn constructed the clubhouse with WPA funds and leased the building back to the club ‘in perpetuity.’  Other WPA projects in Issaquah included the State Salmon Hatchery and Gibson Hall.

Building Description

The Issaquah Sportsmen’s Club is located on a level graded site  which drops off in a dense, young fir forest to the west. The façade faces south. The building was constructed on a site approximately 200 yards south of the current location, and was moved to the current site in 1993 to facilitate redevelopment of the original site for playfields.

The one-story clubhouse building is built in a vernacular rustic style. The use of inexpensive and locally-available lumber for the clubhouse construction is reflected in the vertical half-log cladding and the peeled logs that support the eaves and porch roof and compose the window and door trim. The building was constructed in two phases–an original rectangular hall with a side gable roof and a rear shed-roof addition which extends the full width of the building. The addition was built in the late 1940’s, to provide restrooms and utility rooms. When the building was relocated, the addition was rebuilt, reusing the original log siding.

The overall building dimensions are 40′ x 32’4″. The original section of the building has a side gable roof. The building is constructed of vertical half-logs averaging about 8″ in width. The logs are staggered, with the flat face turned into the wall. This wall system is structural. A standing-seam metal roof covers the entire building. The main section was originally covered in hand-split shakes, which remain under the metal roof.

A 21′ wide front porch with a prominent projecting gable roof dominates the façade. The original 4′ wide door remains centered under the porch. The door was built in three layers, with approximately 6″ vertical boards on the exterior and interior, and the same boards placed at an angle to form the hidden middle layer. Flanking the door are two pairs of casement windows, which are protected by solid wooden exterior shutters.

A substantial masonry chimney rises through the gable on the east side of the building. The chimney measures 8′ at the base. The present chimney was reconstructed following the relocation of the building. Stones from the site were used to build the chimney. A second, smaller chimney on the west end (which was originally used to vent a wood stove) was removed in the course of the move.

Building Interior

The interior of the building consists of a large one-room meeting hall which occupies the entire original portion of the building, and a hallway, restrooms and utility rooms in the shed addition.

The interior is finished in peeled logs, which are part of the wall system. The logs retain their original appearance; they have not been painted or otherwise treated. The stone fireplace dominates the east end of the meeting room. The fireplace has its original mantle, which is edged in peeled logs. The room has a wooden ceiling. The roof framing and rafters, which are not visible, are formed by peeled wooden poles.

Bibliographic References

King County Landmarks Registration Form

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Village Theatre's First Stage

Issaquah Theater (Village Theatre First Stage)

120 Front St. North

Village Theatre's First Stage

Village Theatre’s First Stage. Photo by Cole Good, 2015.

From the 1998 Issaquah Historic Property Inventory:
Mr. Rufus H. Glenn came to Issaquah in 1912 and opened a theater in town. And in 1913 he built the Issaquah Theater Building (called Glenn Theater at the time) at this site where silent films were shown. The theater has a flat floor, and originally had removable seats to make room for other activities held in the building. Basketball games, school dances, and commencement exercises were some of the events which took place there.

During the 1920’s when the coal miners were on strike, Mr. Glenn showed movies on Mine Hill to the strike breakers, or “scabs”, who didn’t feel safe coming into town. According to an Issaquah Press article, in July 1923, Mr. Glenn sold the theater to J.P. Devlin who renamed it the Issaquah Theater. Mr. Devlin made upgrades such as “installing opera chairs” and showed movies every night of the week. Sometime before 1932, John Brunberg bought the theater. Subsequent owners through 1977 were: Jim Brooks Sr. 1945-6; Keith Beckwith; Mr. Robert Catterall, who bought in 1967 from Mr. Don Rarey.

Mr. Catterall remodeled the theater and turned over the management to Reverend Gray of Pine Lake Presbyterian Church. A board of seven persons was elected from the church to direct the theater as a non-profit organization called the Issaquah Theater Group. Volunteers from the church congregation cleaned and repaired the theater and offered their services selling tickets, running the concession and ushering. Funds from the theater went to the church, and a source of entertainment was provided for young people in Issaquah.

After being closed for a time, the words “Unsafe-Do Not Occupy” adorned the front door of the building before it reopened in 1979 as the original home as the Village Theatre.

Now that the Village Theatre has moved into larger quarters at 303 Front Street North, this building is known as the “First Stage”, and is used for performances of the Village Theatre’s “Village Originals” series of plays.

The Issaquah Theater is an intact example of an early pioneer wood frame commercial structure in Issaquah’s original downtown. It is a 2 story rectangular form with a low pitched front gable roof and a western plain false front at the street; the false front also runs along the south elevation. The front (west) and north walls are horizontal flush board siding with corner boards. The parapet is decorated with 5 pairs of decorative scrolled brackets and a wide cornice and frieze. The wide 1-over-1 double hung wood frame windows and trim are original on the front (west) and sides. The street level has been extensively renovated from the original.

Village Theatre's First Stage

Village Theatre’s First Stage, prior to reconstruction. (Photo courtesy of David Bangs, 1999).

In 2004, Village Theatre began what was intended to be a restoration of the building. Once work began, it was discovered that the original building was too far deteriorated to be restored. Instead, the building was reconstructed as a slightly wider version of the original building.

Bibliographic References

Issaquah Historical Society files. King County historic survey completed by Kay Bullis, 1977. King County Tax Assessors records. Village Theatre promotional literature.

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Trails House/Sylvester House

Issaquah Trails Center/Reconstructed Sylvester House

11o SE Bush Street

Trails House/Sylvester House

This was the original site of W.W. Sylvester’s home. Sylvester was an early station agent, insurance agent, and founder of the Issaquah Bank. A reconstruction of his home is now used by the City of Issaquah.

The “Trails House” is owned by the City of Issaquah and used primarily as a meeting place and headquarters for the Issaquah Alps Trails Club.  The single cozy meeting room is used for committee and board meetings for various organizations and the City. The lean-to section in the back contains public restrooms (now closed to the public due to vandalism).

The Issaquah Alps Trails Club was founded in 1970 by Harvey Manning to preserve open space on Cougar, Squak, Tiger, Taylor, and Rattlesnake Mountains, and Grand Ridge.  This organization has been extremely effective, and is primarily responsible for the creation of a trail network and preservation of large wooded areas in the hills surrounding Issaquah. Members of the Trails Club initiated the Mountains to Sound Greenway movement in 1980.

This home was once the property of prominent early citizen Wilbur W. Sylvester. He was the third station agent at the Gilman (later Issaquah) Train Depot from 1895 to 1899. When he resigned as agent to found the Issaquah State Bank, Sylvester stated, “I am going to try and increase the business by building up the town.” In 1912 he ran for Representative of the 41st District, pointing out to voters that he was the only candidate who lived outside of Seattle and was uniquely qualified to represent interests of the County.

When the city decided restore this home to be used for civic purposes, the building’s condition was so deteriorated that the best option was to totally rebuild it from scratch.


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Masonic Hall, 1999

Masonic Hall

55 West Sunset Way

Masonic Hall, 1999

Masonic Hall, 1999

From the 1998 Issaquah Historic Property Inventory:

The Masonic Hall has played significant roles in the building of community in Issaquah. First, serving as a fraternal lodge, the hall was the site of socializing and the development of community ties.

A newspaper photo and caption in the Issaquah Historic Society files shows that this property had a false front until it was removed in 1965. A renovation also replaced original wood double hung windows with aluminum windows.

King County Assessor records show ownership in 1919 and 1923 by James E. Terry, Master Mystic Lodge No.108.  A 1940 Assessor photo of the building shows M.B. Castleberry Hay Feed Straw business at this site. The post office was located here for 22 years from 1940 until 1962. At other times the lower story has housed other businesses, such as theater, a plumbing shop, a TV repair shop, and a food market.

As of 2011, the upper story of the building continues to be used for Masonic Lodge purposes, and the lower story is used by the Issaquah Brewhouse.

Masonic Hall, circa 1940s

Masonic Hall, circa 1940s. At this time, the building was also in use as the Post Office.

Building Description

This large two story building is sited close to the main intersection of the current Front Street and Sunset Way. Originally a western false front faced the street; without it the building currently has a medium pitched 36′ wide front gable building that runs 90′ deep into the lot. Original pairs of double hung 1-over-1 windows have been unsympathetically replaced with aluminum windows. Flat horizontal wood siding clads the front façade; original rustic drop wood siding clads the side. The commercial storefront has been altered with new aluminum windows and brick veneer.

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Pickering Barn*

Pickering Barn was the center of Issaquah’s largest dairy farm for many years. The land surrounding the barn was purchased from earlier homesteaders by Washington territorial governor William Pickering in 1867. Today the barn is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Triple X Drive In

Triple-X Root Beer Drive-In

98 NE Gilman Boulevard

Triple X Drive In

Triple X Drive In. (Photo by David Bangs, 1999)

The first drive-in restaurant in the Pacific Northwest was established in 1930 in Renton by A.H. Rutherford. The combination of Triple XXX Root Beer and food turned out to be a great idea which spread nationwide. Of all the XXXs that ever graced our country’s landscape, Issaquah’s is the only one left which sports the traditional barrel. Another Triple XXX still thrives in Lafayette, Indiana.

Issaquah’s original XXX Restaurant was located on Sunset Way near the location of Flintoft’s Funeral Home. That restaurant, which was known by locals as “The Barrel”, operated until the 1950’s when the location was needed for a car dealer’s parking lot.  Today’s XXX Root Beer Drive-In opened in 1968 at its current location.

The restaurant serves up 1950’s style hamburgers and dairy concoctions in large serving sizes, and is proud to host frequent gatherings of vintage automobile and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Now a family-owned business, the restaurant was purchased in March 1999 by José Enciso and his grown children. Originally from Mexico, Enciso has worked in restaurants since he was a young teenager.  He takes special pride in owning and improving such a visible Issaquah landmark and says, “XXX may not be the oldest historic building in Issaquah, but it’s probably the one which is most visited and enjoyed.”

Jose Enciso, Triple X Proprietor

Jose Enciso, Triple X Proprietor. (Photo by David Bangs, 1999).

And You Thought You Knew All About the Triple XXX
By David Miller & Sue Cameron  /  Past Times Autumn 2004
with Erica Maniez, Issaquah Historical Society Museum Director

Almost everyone in Issaquah is familiar with the Triple XXX on Gilman Boulevard near the intersection with Front Street. They know about its jaw-stretching monster burgers, icy mugs of root beer, and straw-bending shakes. They know about its 1950’s and 60’s pop music – provided by table-side mini-jukeboxes – and its cherry-red and creamy white booths. They’ve witnessed the army of gleaming “Rod-tiques” parked outside on weekend Summer nights.

But do they know that:

▪ The Issaquah Triple XXX is one of only two Triple XXX drive-ins still operating anywhere (the other is in West Lafayette, Indiana)?

▪ The barrel sign above the Triple XXX is the largest lighted Plexiglas sign in the West?

▪ CNN recently filmed the Triple XXX for a TV special on the Top 10 Most Fun and Entertaining 1950’s diners in America? (It’s true, although it’s not yet known when the spot will show.)

Triple XXX Root Beer was chosen the 4th-best root beer in the nation by Luke’s Root Beer Reviews, as publicized in a national magazine?

Even more important, do they know that the history of the Triple XXX Root Beer began well over a century ago?

According to the Triple XXX Family Restaurant website at, “in 1895, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Association of St. Louis, together with local investors, established the Galveston (Texas) Brewing Company… The brewery had an annual production capacity of 100,000 barrels of beer which it sold locally under the name ‘Hi Grade.’ Interestingly, its keg beer was packaged in steel-banded barrels of oak which were marked with the ‘XXX.’”

The Triple X, circa 1940s

Linda Goben and her doll are pictured in front of the Issaquah’s original XXX Restaurant, which was constructed in the 30s or 40s on East Mill Street (now Sunset Way) near Flintoft’s Funeral Home. (Photo courtesy of Linda Goben).

Sometime between 1900 and 1908, the Galveston Brewing Company began to produce and sell a line of soft-drink syrups under the brand name “XXX.” In 1918, with the advent of Prohibition, the company changed its name to Southern Beverage Company and converted its brewing equipment to producing only soft drinks, primarily ginger ale and root beer. By 1923, Southern Beverage Company’s licensed distributors included about 150 Triple XXX bottlers and approximately 100 Triple XXX “thirst stations” throughout the Southeast, the Southwest, and the Northwest as far as British Columbia.

Leave it to an enterprising Washingtonian – a local, actually – to add food to drink. In 1930 Archie Rutherford opened the first Triple XXX Root Beer restaurant in nearby Renton. Along with his sons Joel and Jerry, Archie traded on his initial success by opening a chain of restaurants throughout the Pacific Northwest during the late 1930s and early 40s.

During this period, Dave Morgan opened Issaquah’s first Triple XXX on East Mill Street (now Sunset Way). June Day Sandberg remembers: “Before the war we always went to Dave Morgan’s Little Barrel way up Sunset close to Flintoft’s. Depression time – if we’d bring our own bananas he’d make us splits! We loved it as kids.”

The Triple XXX was closed during World War II, but reopened in 1945.

“I worked at the first XXX on Sunset next door to Stonebridge Chevrolet,” recalls Phyllis “Fifi” Krumbah Laughlin. “It was a great place because everyone came by for something! Burger, cokes, root beer, or fries. Drive-ins were starting up and the owner wanted me to work outside. When someone drove into the lot, I was supposed to run outside and ask if they wanted to eat in their car. The trouble was the windows were so small it was hard to see people drive up.”

During the late 1950s business declined. Ted Stonebridge, owner of Stonebridge Chevrolet, bought the Triple XXX and demolished it to build a car lot.

Fast forward to 1968, when today’s Gilman Boulevard was still Highway 10, the primary route from Seattle to eastern Washington over Snoqualmie Pass. In that year, Jay Noel built the present Triple XXX on that route for its first owners, Dick Gilbert and John Wirtz.

In 1983 Norm Lipkin bought the Triple XXX from Dick Kadyk, the second owner. In 1996 he added a soda fountain counter and brought back the old menu of the Triple XXX chain. To make ends meet, he abolished the outside stalls where customers could drive up and order from carhops, and converted the space into an office building. Norm had already begun the practice of inviting vintage car owners to show the results of their restoration skills in the Triple XXX lot.

The restaurant hasn’t changed much since then, save for the addition of a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s memorabilia such as old radios, soft-drink bottles, license plates, posters of rock-‘n-rollers and movie stars – by José Enciso, who began leasing the Triple XXX from Norm in 1999. José and family members, along with other employees, deliver a friendly and informal hospitality reminiscent of the drive-in days at their peak in the 1950s.

The company behind the root beer has suffered a lot of changes. First the Galveston Brewing Company experienced a series of sales and name changes, eventually becoming the Triple XXX Corporation. Then in 1960, after the Food and Drug Administration ruled that sassafras (oil of saffron) was a suspected carcinogen, the Triple XXX Corporation scrambled to find a substitute with the flavor and foamy head characteristic of draft root beer, which the company was eventually able to do. Consolidation in the soft drink industry cut off many of the Triple XXX’s traditional direct-store delivery channels, and in 1985 production of bottled and canned Triple XXX Root Beer was suspended.

Today José gets his Triple XXX* syrup from the Coca-Cola Company which is honoring a contract made when Triple XXX drive-ins graced many a small town. Sadly, most Triple XXX restaurants eventually gave way to the onslaught of fast-food outlets.

There you have it – a brief tour of the history behind Issaquah’s own Triple XXX restaurant – long recognized as a community landmark. All that’s left to make your trip back in time complete is to drive over to 98 N.E. Gilman Boulevard, say hello to José, and indulge yourself in old-style root beer, golden oldies and memories of days gone by.

* 12/3/2008: To clarify, the Triple XXX here in Issaquah buys its root beer syrup from Coca-Cola. The Triple XXX Family Restaurant in Lafayette, IN is unique in that it uses the original Triple XXX syrup, and owns the trademark to the Triple XXX name as well.

Other XXX Restaurants
One other XXX restaurant is known to exist In Lafayette, Indiana.  This restaurant shares a common history with Issaquah’s, but is no longer affiliated in any way.

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Issaquah Rodeo, 1924

Veterans’ Memorial Field

130 Sunset Way

Police Station from Memorial Field

Police Station, as seen from Veteran’s Memorial Field. (Photo courtesy of David Bangs, 2000)

Memorial Field is a peaceful place in the heart of downtown Issaquah.  Come on a sunny day to enjoy the ball fields, playground, good views of the surrounding green hills.

The piece of land that is now Memorial Field was once owned by the Superior Coal Company. Superior Coal, a German-owned company, purchased the plot in 1913. When World War I began, their claim to the property was no longer recognized. The family who owned the field prior to its sale to Superior Coal was not able to reclaim ownership due to a tangle of mortgages and sales agreements. The field sat, neatly fenced and unused, in the middle of town. By 1918 it was a cutover woodlot.

Issaquah Rodeo, 1924

Issaquah Rodeo, 1924.

Issaquah’s ball team (who also happened to be the volunteer firemen) had their eye on the field, as it was tough to find a place to play ball that was not liable to snapped up for use as a homestead site or livestock pasture. They decided to take on the challenge of purchasing the field and clearing it of stumps, which involved fundraising and a lot of manual labor. The purchase of this field was a real community endeavor; most of the necessary funds were donated by coal miners, many of whom donated a full day’s pay to the venture. In the end, the firemen had enough additional capital to purchase an adjoining piece of land to be used for a new city hall. In 1930, City Hall was moved from the old Gilman Town Hall into a building on this site (today the site of the Police Station).

Memorial Field was also the home of the Issaquah Rodeo. In the early 1920’s a group of Issaquah businessmen promoted rodeos, held at first on the Fourth of July and late on Labor Day as well. Each rodeo kicked off with a parade through town; a photo of one such parade shows few riders and onlookers, indicating that the rodeo may not have been an event of great interest. While lack of interest among the citizens may have contributed to the end of the annual rodeos, photographs of rodeo riders in the midst of the action convey the thrill and excitement of the sport; a number of captivating Issaquah Rodeo photos are preserved at the Gilman Town Hall Museum.

Issaquah's War Memorial

This war memorial was dedicated on September 5, 1949. It was originally located about where the main steps go up to the new police station, and was later moved to its current location near the library. The memorial honors local residents who gave their lives in the 20th century’s major wars.
World War I, 1917-1918: Pete Erickson and Albert Larson
World War II, 1941-1945: Alfred Ambrose, Robert Baskett, Clifford Benson, Harold Gleason, George Larsen, Jack McQuade, Louis Petersen, Robert Philp, Raymond Smart, Joe Tondreau, Robert Watson, Elizabeth Erickson, Laurence Lortie
Viet Nam, 1964-1975: Robert Arndt, Robert Hoskins, Emmett McDonald, James Patrick Brady

Today Memorial Field is a public park administered by the City of Issaquah.

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