Tukwila’s first museum to open sometime early next year

Louise Jones-Brown

Tukwila has a place where it can gather its history now spread out in photo albums, attics and memories.

That history goes back to the earliest days of the white man’s first permanent settlements in the Duwamish River Valley in the mid-1800s.

Early next year, the Tukwila Historical Society plans to open the Tukwila Museum and Cultural Center in one of the city’s most historic buildings, the former Tukwila School and City Hall on 59th Avenue South.

The new museum is the result of months of talks with Tukwila Mayor Jim Haggerton and the City Council about using the one-story building with two big rooms and small spaces to display Tukwila’s past.

The historical society won’t pay rent nor pay utilities for the city-owned building, under a lease agreement signed in September.

“The city is totally behind us,” said Louise Jones-Brown of Des Moines, a historical society member.

The historical society has known for years there was pent-up demand for a museum, based on offers of artifacts, but there was no place to house them, said Pat Brodin, the society’s chairman.

There’s a practical side, too, facing the society, the reason for a membership drive.

“We need members to make this work,” he said.

Brodin and Jones-Brown recently requested $25,000 from 4 Culture, a cultural services agency, for some of the interior work that needs to be done on the building. As of Dec. 6, they hadn’t yet heard back from the agency.

To open, the society must upgrade the bathrooms to make them wheelchair accessible. Other improvements, including new lighting and an upgraded alarm system, aren’t needed to open.

Already hard at work is Jones-Brown, who is acting as the initial curator for the museum. She would like to become its first director.

She needed to look no farther than her own family for a piece of Tukwila’s history.

Jones-Brown learned in the mid-1990s just how deep her family roots go in the Puget Sound region. Her great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Maple, was a member of the first party of settlers in King County, landing on the banks of the Duwamish River in 1851. They arrived even before the famed Denny Party came ashore at Alki, in what become Seattle, although that is shrouded in historical debate.

Jacob Maple, a widower, his son Samuel and later son Eli would stay to begin building a new society along the Duwamish. They settled in what became part of Tukwila in 1990, on river-bottom land now covered by Boeing Field.

Jacob and Samuel are buried under the parking lot near the airport’s administration building, their graves noted by a marker.

It’s the paintings by Jacob’s great-granddaughter, Beulah Maple Norman, that showed everyday life in the mid 1800s along the Duwamish that will become a centerpiece of Tukwila’s museum.

Over the next several decades, other families arrived and became cornerstones of the community. Joseph Foster gave his name to a school and a golf course. The early families decided to formalize their relationship, creating a City of Tukwila in 1908.

What will become the new museum served as the city’s City Hall from 1947 to 1978. It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There’s not a lot of room in this one-story building with its tall roof. Already, the historical society has some artifacts stored there. Left behind and left open is the city’s old safe. No one dares close it because the key is missing and no one knows the combination. Finding a locksmith is on the to-do list.

On the west side is a bank of windows. The historical society would like to retrofit those with glass that would protect the displays inside, including Beulah’s paintings, from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.

Now, the historical society needs to find the history to put inside the museum. Jones-Brown will make appointments with donors at the museum; she can be reached at tukwilahistory@comcast.net. Brodin can be reached at 206-433-1861.

The historical society is planning a gala next June to mark the 160th anniversary of the arrival of white settlers in Tukwila and to raise money for operations of the new museum and cultural center.

Tukwila Historical Society dinner, auction

The Tukwila Historical Society is holding a major fundraiser on June 26, the First Annual Tukwila Historical Society Gala Dinner and Auction, to raise money for the new Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center. The center will house the society and will present historical paintings, photographs and memorabilia and will offer educational programs.

Ways to support the museum include joining the Tukwila Historical Society, donating to the Russell Bradley Memorial or sponsoring the dinner and auction.

The deadline to contribute is Jan. 31. For more information, contact Louise Jones-Brown, gala chairperson, at 206-755-4521 or by e-mail at ljbrown.1851@comcast.net or Pat Brodin, gala co-chair and chairman of the historical society, at 206-719-5148 or by e-mail at tukwilahistory@comcast.net.

How to become a member

To become a member of the Tukwila Historical Society, contact Pat Brodin at 206-719-5148 or by e-mail at tukwilahistory@comcast.net.

How to contact museum

Louise Jones-Brown or Pat Brodin will meet by appointment with individuals who have memorabilia they wish to donate to the museum. To set up an appointment, contact Jones-Brown at ljbrown.1851@comcast.net or Brodin at 206-719-5148 or e-mail him at tukwilahistory@comcast.net.


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