Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pioneer Hall turns 100

Madison Park’s oldest waterfront structure, Washington Pioneer Hall (1642 43rd Avenue E.), will be celebrating its Centennial tomorrow. Home of the Pioneer Association of the State of Washington, the building was opened in 1910 and may be the longest surviving commercial structure located in the neighborhood. It was built on land donated in 1902 by Madison Park founder, Judge John J. McGilvra, whose family home, Laurel Shade, was located to the south of the site (in what is now known as the Reed Estate). Loretta Denny of the famous Seattle pioneer family (Denny-Blaine, Denny Regrade, Denny Way, Denny Hall) bequeathed $20,000 for the construction of the building, which was dedicated on June 7, 1910.

The Hall is reputedly the only remaining structure in Madison Park that sat directly next to Lake Washington before the Lake was lowered in 1916 as the result of the building of the Ship Canal. When the Lake decreased in elevation by 8.8 feet that year, the building suddenly found itself sitting on a beach lot rather than waterside. This is the scene in the early 1900s (apparently post Lake lowering):

And this is what the back of the site looks like today:

Local historian Junius Rochester, who lives in Madrona, has a nice overview of the Pioneer Association on The bylaws of the Association make membership available to “lineal descendants of Pioneers who were residents of Washington Territory prior to statehood.” I’m sure we all remember that statehood occurred in 1889 (November 11, to be exact). I am told that there are approximately 900 members of the Association at the present time.

Pioneer Hall primarily serves as a museum of the history of Washington Territory and early Washington State, with exhibits of paintings, photos, clothing, furniture, and other memorabilia of pioneer families on display. There are also books, recordings and biographical material housed there; and since 1992, the Fiske Genealogical Library has been located in the basement of the Hall. In 1970, Pioneer Hall was entered into the National Register of Historic Places, a fact memorialized by the bronze plaque on the front of the building.

The Hall is open to the public on the second Sunday of each month, from 1 until 4 p.m. The Pioneer Association will be celebrating the building’s Centennial on Saturday, June 19 with a Salmon Bake at Madison Park. Information is available from or from Jeff Christensen (206-390-6810). Technically, the deadline for reservations (at $24 per person) was on Friday; but perhaps if you want to attend they will still let you in if you blame your recalcitrance on the Madison Park Blogger for failing to notify you in time.

[Historic photo courtesy of the University of Washington Libraries.]

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