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"Mercer Island"

From haunted wilderness to coveted community


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Mercer Island Historical Society

Founded 1954

Keeping History Alive on Mercer Island

A Washington State Non-profit Charitable organization with 501(c)(3) status.



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"Dawn on the Island"


A Video of Interviews about early Mercer Island



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In Honor of Women's History Month:
Recognizing Mercer Island Women
Who Have Made an Impact

Mercer Island High School and Stanford graduate, Jean Enersen was the first female local news anchor in the country.

She started her career as a reporter at KPIX-TV in San Francisco, returning to Seattle in 1968 for a job in the KING newsroom. She was one of only two women and has since recounted experiences of sexism from male coworkers.

After four years in the newsroom, Enersen became the first female local news anchor in the country in 1972. Even Dorothy Bullitt, the first woman to own a television station, was unsure how women would be received by audiences. Women, who had previously been limited to roles as clerical workers, "weather girls," and occasionally field reporters, slowly began to fill local anchor chairs.

Jean Enersen was the first local TV journalist to report from China in 1979, after the U.S. established diplomatic relations. In 1988, she was the first journalist to report from the USSR, appearing for both KING-TV and a Soviet morning show.

After 42 years, Jean Enersen retired as a news anchor in 2014, and from KING in 2016.



Virginia " Ginny" Barto married Tom Barto, a classmate at Leschi Elementary School, in 1947. Seeking a rural atmosphere, they moved to Mercer Island which was considered the countryside. The road to their house, East Mercer Way, was gravel.

In 1960, when Island incorporation became an issue, Ginny, always an activist, wrote to the Mercer Island Reporter (she later became the editor)..."There exists an apparent and too wide-spread apathy about local problems...Island residents need to cast a vote either on the side of purposeful, intelligent INVOLVEMENT, or on the side of political indifference and APATHY. What price the irrevocably lost potential of this unique bit of land?" On July 5,1960 the residents voted to incorporate.

Later in the year, when the Reporter was struggling financially, Ginny and two men pooled their finances and bought the newspaper. Both men had “careers,” so the job of running the newspaper and being editor fell to Ginny, who “only” had five children and a husband who also had a career and was on the new City Council. Ginny was the first woman editor of the Reporter. In 1963 the Reporter ...continued





Luther Burbank School for Boys
aka Boys Parental School

Article by Jane Meyer Brahm
Images courtesy of the Rand family

Boys' Drill In Front of the Admin Building
(Click for larger image)

If you walked around Luther Burbank on an afternoon in the 1930s or ‘40s, it would have been abuzz with activity. Morning classes were over and lunch had been delivered by heated wagons from the dormitories (cottages) where over 100 boys lived and ate.

Then the boys would be off to their various jobs on the working farm — weeding the vegetable gardens, moving hay, milking cows, feeding chickens, slopping the pigs, tending the orchards, picking grapes, tree fruit or berries, etc. Those who showed proficiency at the farm skills might get to go to the horse barn to tend the horses, and even take a ride.

It was a typical day at the Luther Burbank School for Boys (formerly the Boys Parental School), a residential facility run by the Seattle School District to handle boys committed there by the Juvenile Court of King County. The name had been changed to avoid the stigma of a “parental school” and to honor the memory of the noted horticulturalist.

Its longtime director, Willis Rand, added the farming component to the curriculum of the school, believing that it helped city kids learn about nature and farm work. “That connection with the realities of life and the pleasant associations with farm life had the effect of making boys think differently about their lives,” said Ted Rand, Willis’ son, who grew up at Luther Burbank.

The Parental School opened in 1905 serving, ...continued




"History at your fingertips!"

Thanks to community donations, we have digitized 26 years' worth of the Mercer Island Reporter, accessible for free on-line -- at mih.stparchive.com. The years currently digitized--and key-word searchable--are: 1968-1985, 1994, 1995, 1997-2000, 2004, and 2005.

A special thank you to the donors who've contributed to our digitization project thus far: Cyclemates Bike, the Kiwanis Club of Mercer Island, the Mercer Island Rotary Club and the Mercer Island Community Fund. We welcome individuals' donations on our "Donate" page.