VFW Hall earns a place on the National Registry of Historic Places - 85-year-old building recognized at state, federal levels

By Ruth Longoria

The national acclaim of many of the celebrities who reside on our illustrious rock have nothing on one 83-year-old resident. The Keewaydin Clubhouse/VFW Hall just received an honor rare for antiquated buildings on the Island, within the state, or across the country.

Last week, the city received word that the old brick meeting place at 1836 72nd Ave. S.E. -- known now as the Veterans of Foreign War Post No. 5760 -- has been designated on the National Registry of Historic Places. The city plans to present a plaque in honor of the recognition on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, at the VFW Hall.

The VFW Hall is the second property on the Island to receive this kind of recognition, although previously thought to be the first. The Sunnybeam School (also known as Lakeview School) on Island Crest Way at S.E. 68th Street, was designated as such in 1988, according to the National Register of Historic Places' Internet Web site.

Although a good portion of the requirement to be on the list is achieved though longevity of the structure, the VFW Hall's honor came about through the dedication of retired Col. Carl Lind, the former post commander.

Gaining historical recognition takes a lot of work, said Phil Flash, 86, co-president of the Mercer Island Historical Society. ``It takes perseverance, time, and dedication to go through all the necessary steps involved in this,'' Flash said.

Lind, 76, of Olympia, was commander of the post from 1984 to 1985. Although he no longer lives on the Island, he's a lifetime member of the post. He's been the driving force behind the pursuit of historical recognition for the past year-and-a-half. Current VFW post commander Michael Cero also worked on the project until Cero was called into active duty in Iraq and handed the reins over to Lind. Now that Cero and Lind's dream of gaining national recognition for the post is a reality, they can start the process of applying for eligible grants for much needed repairs to the old structure.

The VFW Hall joins a group of notable properties in the Seattle area already on the national list, including the Eliza Ferry House, the Fox Theatre, Chief Seattle Statue at Tillicum Place, and the Pickering Farm in Issaquah.

The VFW Hall was built in 1922, and originally housed the Mercer Island Community Center. It became the VFW Hall in 1966. The clubhouse was built mainly by volunteer laborers who, during a one-day work party on July 1, hauled the 60,000 feet of lumber and 58,000 shingles up the steep slope from a barge that carried the building materials from Seattle.

City Manager Rich Conrad was surprised to learn that the VFW Hall was not the first Island property on the national registry; however, he said, he is happy that the VFW Hall has received some much-deserved attention, and should now qualify for federal grants to ``spruce up'' the building.

``I think it was very wise of Carl and the VFW to proceed with this,'' Conrad said. ``We may stand corrected on believing the VFW Hall to be the first Island property recognized, but I think that every Islander will react in a positive way about the VFW recognition. The VFW Hall is a landmark in one of the oldest neighborhoods on the Island -- I think this is terrific.''

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