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Mercer Island VFW Hall is finalist for National Preservation funding

The Mercer Island VFW Post has a new sign, April 9, 2010. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
The Mercer Island VFW Post has a new sign, April 9, 2010.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Mercer Island's VFW Hall, the Keewaydin Clubhouse, has been named one of 25 historic places selected to participate in the Seattle-Puget Sound area Partners in Preservation initiative by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The community is invited to vote on which building or place they believe should be awarded a grant. With 24 other finalists, the Keewaydin Clubhouse was selected out of 150 applicants from the region, said Post Commander Bob Brahm.

Today, American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust's Western Office in San Francisco announced 25 projects that will compete for funding as a part of the effort to preserve and enhance historic places throughout the Puget Sound region that reflect the area's diverse heritage. The public is invited to vote online from April 15 to May 12 for the places they would like to receive preservation funding. The winner of the public vote is guaranteed to receive a grant. The remainder of the $1 million in available funding will be distributed among a yet to be determined number of projects by American Express, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and an advisory committee comprised of Seattle-Puget Sound area civic and preservation leaders taking into account the results of the public vote. The final grant decisions will be announced on June 15.

To vote, go to: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/vote.html.

A cornerstone of the Mercer Island community, Keewaydin Clubhouse has been a place for the community to gather for generations. Home to the members of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5760 since the 1960s, the clubhouse’s name alludes to Longfellow’s poem Hiawatha: “I am going, O Nokomis / On a long and distant journey / To the portals of the Sunset / To the regions of the home-wind / Of the Northwest-Wind, Keewaydin.” Today, a Partners in Preservation grant is needed to replace the original roof and siding of this beloved building.

Constructed in 1922 by local craftsmen as a meeting place for Mercer Island residents to socialize and discuss community issues, the Keewaydin Clubhouse has been used as a gathering place ever since by local government, civic organizations and members of the community. Purchased in 1966 by members of VFW Post 5760, it remains the central meeting place for veterans and community members alike, and each generation holds it dear as a place of timeless unity and friendship.

The property is currently used as the home for meetings and social gatherings for members of VFW Post 5760. Since VFW purchased the building, it has hosted a variety of activities ranging from social events to educational programs. The Clubhouse also serves as a rentable event venue, and revenue generated from its use by local businesses, civic organizations, social groups and individuals supports funding for the Veterans' Volunteer, Relief, Education, and Citizenship Programs such as the Voice of Democracy and Blue Star.

As the longest serving owners of the Keewaydin Clubhouse, the members of VFW Post 5760 have given much to keep the original club members' spirit of unity and friendship alive. Saying "As in the past we've fought our nation's battles, in the present we strive to preserve our community's history," the veterans of VFW Post 5760 see the Clubhouse as the embodiment of their bond both with each other and with the past. Replacing the original roof and siding will protect that bond and allow the clubhouse to function as the heart of the community for years to come.

To celebrate this distinction and show the public the recent efforts to upgrade and maintain the building, two days of celebration and tours are planned.

May 1: Welcoming and flag raising at 10 a.m.; "Keewaydin Clubhouse: Mercer Island Landmark" lecture at noon; "Service in World War II & the Korean War" lecture at 2 p.m.; showings of documentaries throughout the day.

May 2: "Reminisces of Keewaydin" ceremony at 1 p.m.; "Service in the Vietnam War & Current Conflicts" lecture at 2 p.m.; showings of documentaries throughout the day.

For information, call (206) 232-6390. The clubhouse is located at 1836 72nd Ave. S.E, Mercer Island.

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