Looking for Local History: Fun with GIS

May is 
local history month! All month long, we’ll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah’s collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!

Many of the research requests we receive revolve around questions about where things used to be located, or what the area looked like before. One of the niftiest features of the King County iMap is it’s ability to layer different information onto one map. Using iMap, it’s possible to look at a current road (and parcel) map superimposed with the 1936 aerial image, to see what changes have occurred in the roads or landscape.
1. Start iMap and locate the property you’re interested in (see our previous blog post for more information on how to find a property using iMap).

2. Once you’ve found the parcel map for your property, take a look at the checkbox options on the left. You can experiment with these options to increase or decrease the amount of information that is layered onto your map. At the bottom of the list is “Imagery.” Expand this item so you can see your options. Select 1936 aerial view.

3. Here we see current parcel boundaries laid over a 1936 black and white aerial photograph. See that large property with the two diagonal sidewalks? This is the Issaquah High School in 1936. Today, the Issaquah Community Center is located on this lot.

4. Here we take a look at the Issaquah Highlands. In the first map, current roads are laid over the 1936 aerial image, and contour lines have been added to show elevation differences. In the second map, parcel boundaries have been added to show properties:

Looking for Local History: Property Information

May is local history month! All month long, we’ll be sharing bits and pieces of Issaquah’s collection, as well as tutorials to help you find local history on your own. Enjoy!

One of the most common research questions we receive is, “How can I find out more history about my house?” The best place to start is with the Puget Sound branch of the Washington State Archives. During the Depression, WPA workers took photographs of each property in King County. Using the parcel number, you can ask the archives to pull the property description for your home. The description will probably list the ownership of the property starting in the 1930s, along with structural and value changes to the property. You will need to make a research appointment with them, and you’ll need your parcel number. You can probably find your tax parcel number on home purchase or mortgage records, but here’s another (possibly easier) way to find that information:
1. Go to Click on the Start iMap button (If you’re using dial-up, click on the Parcel Viewer link below the map.)

2. Click on the “Property Search” button and enter your address; iMap defaults to searching by parcel number, so make sure you have checked the box for searching by address. For this example, you can see we’re using the address for the Gilman Town Hall.

3. iMap will zoom in on your parcel, and the parcel number will be displayed in the block below it. This is the number you’ll need to take to the archives.

4. Click on “Get Assessor Report” to see the County’s description of your property.

5. You’ll notice that the “year built” date is 1914. Construction dates on these records are not always accurate; the Gilman Town Hall was constructed in 1888.

Still A Little Wild

Pre-Lake Washington bridge, and especially pre-railroad, Issaquah was considered to be located in the middle of the wilderness. Apparently it’s still a bit wild around the edges here — Julie Hunter, our collections manager, spotted a coyote from the window of the Gilman Town Hall’s upper office yesterday!
For more information about Issaquah’s origins as a wilderness, you can look at digital images of the original 1864 surveyor’s field notes for Township 24, Range 6 East Willamette Meridian — also known as today’s Issaquah.
(click on images to view full-size)
Some of the notes made by Edwin Richardson, Surveyor, are understandable only to folks who know surveyor’s jargon, but the notes under “General Description” give hints at what the area looked like in the early 1860s.
Click here
for a menu of survey records from a variety of years; these and thousands of other images are available at the Bureau of Land Management’s web site.

Township 24 North, Range 6 East

While looking for a township/range map for the Issaquah area, I stumbled across this fabulous web site, Historic Mapworks.The site features old maps from all over the country, including some of the old insurance maps that show the owner of many larger properties. The site has maps available for Issaquah from 1907 and 1912. One of the questions we get from researchers most often is, where did my family live? These maps can help some folks answer that question.