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Got history? Federal Way sure does
"Most citizens would probably be surprised to learn Federal Way once boasted a brothel, an air strip and the 157-acre homestead of black pioneers, say local historians.But Arnold Rolfsrud, a member of the Historical Society of Federal Way, hopes people won't be surprised for long.The society wants to use its $5,000 allotment in 1999-2000 lodging tax money to install markers at four historically significant locations in the city. The City Council directed the society to use its share of money from hotel and motel taxes to promote historical tourism. The City Council's Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee will review the society's proposed use of the money at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The committee will forward its recommendation to the full council. The markers would be modeled after those at Dumas Bay Centre, which cost between $1,500 and $1,700 each and are large enough to tell a story, Rolfsrud said. The society hopes to add more markers - with more stories - after the first ones are installed.The markers would have information on their past and describe some of these interesting personalities, describe some of these key things that happened, he said. People probably have the feeling that there's not a lot of history to Federal Way, but there's a surprising amount of history here.Committee member Mary Gates says she's excited by the society's proposal for historic markers. They will benefit tourists, who will realize Federal Way is more than just a bump in the road, as well as residents, she said. They will be able to tell the story of their community and become (Federal Way) ambassadors, Gates said. Rolfsrud said society members used several criteria to decide where markers should go, including historical significance, public interest, visibility and access to the public, security, probable acceptability to the property's owner and the existence of original structures. By the end of 2001, the Historical Society of Federal Way wants to erect the first markers at the following locations:* The site of Federal Way Shopping Mall, the current location of Pavilions Centre at the corner of Pacific Highway and South 312th Street. Jack Cissna, whom Rolfsrud calls a major player in bringing commercial development to Federal Way, developed the mall in 1955. Cissna had purchased the lane from Francis and Ilene Marckx, other major players in the Federal Way's development.The first consolidated Federal Way post office opened in the mall on April 1, 1955. The Old World Square, consisting of small shops and a clock tower, was added in 1956.It was probably the first real shopping mall in the area, Rolfsrud said.* The site of Federal Way High School, 30611 16th Ave. S., is where the first elementary school building for the Federal Way Consolidated School District No. 210 was built in 1929. It opened in 1930, following the consolidation of smaller school districts located south of 260th Street, including Redondo, Buenna, Harding, Steel Lake and Star Lake.The school was the first institution in the area to be named Federal Way because of its funding from federal sources. The high school was built next to the elementary school in 1937. A junior high school was built to connect the two schools in 1944.* The BPA Trail carries historic significance in several ways. The society wants to erect markers at the trail's start at Celebration Park, which is a former air strip, and near its end above the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. The trail is an improved version of trails first used by American Indians and then by settlers.The Muckleshoots and the Puyallups used those trails to reach such spots as Dumas Bay for clam digging and other community gatherings. Settlers expanded upon the trails. Everything from pigs to goats were raised at farm sites all along the trail. A 157-acre homestead at the end of today's BPA Trail was settled by black pioneers John and Mary Conna in 1885. John, a Civil War veteran, became the first black political appointee in Washington territory when he was selected to serve as assistant sergeant of arms in the 1889 Territorial House of Representatives. ------------Future marker sites to considerThe Historical Society of Federal Way wants to erect additional makers besides the four society members plan for 2001. Future potential sites include:* The historic Barker and Denny cabins being restored on South 352nd Street next to West Hylebos State Park. * Brooklake Community Center, 726 S. 326th St., which was originally the Wagon Wheel Restaurant when it was built in 1920. It later served as a speakeasy during prohibition, a brothel, a restaurant, a gambling den, and beginning in 1940, a home to various community activities. The building is the original.* SeaTac Mall was built on the site where Taylor Webb acquired 80 acres during the fall of 1890.* Ross Plaza, on 324th Street near SeaTac Mall, is located where the Webb family homesteaded in the 1890s. The 40-acre tract was sold to Andrew Khristensen in 1925, and he built Webb Center Garage in 1928 on space now occupied by a Bank of America branch and 320th Street.* St. George's School, which stood on land that's now Gethsemane Cemetery, and St. George's Cemetery, which was east of the present cemetery. Both were built in 1888 through the fund-raising efforts of Father Peter Hylebos, for whom the state park and wetlands are named. * Steel Lake was the site for an early school and lumber mill. The original school was built in the 1890s.* Buenna School was built in 1890 on what is now Southwest 296th Street.* The 1906-vintage Parker carousel at Enchanted Village was used for many years in an amusement complex at Redondo before it was moved to Point Defiance Park for four years. The 50-foot diameter carousel was moved to the newly opened Enchanted Village in 1977. Dwight D. Eisenhower worked on the hand-carved horses when he was a 14-year-old boy in Abilene, Kan. "