Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Kelly gets retirement send-off – an AKCHO Board Award
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With AKCHO President Alice Stenstrom looking on, Jim Kelly reacts to a standing ovation from the audience at the AKCHO Awards – photo credit Tyler Ray

by Pat Filer – AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

The AKCHO Board wanted Jim Kelly, one of King County’s most beloved and respected cultural leaders in King County’s thriving cultural community, to know how much the heritage community has appreciated his tireless efforts, by bestowing upon him their highest honor, an AKCHO Board Award. Kelly retired as 4Culture’s Executive Director as of March 31, 2018 after 25 years of advocacy for public investment in arts and culture.  Under Kelly’s leadership, 4Culture has become the largest cultural funder in Washington State. During his tenure, over $130 million has been distributed into the sector to 2,800 individuals and groups.

Kelly was hired in 1993 to provide funding and technical assistance to the King County Arts Commission and the Landmarks and Heritage Commission, then a small division of the Parks Department. Forging partnerships with elected officials, Kelly advocated successfully for increased cultural investment throughout the region and managed the County’s first wave of investment in cultural facilities. The Office of Cultural Resources was elevated to a department of the Executive’s Office in 1997 and Kelly was appointed Executive Director in 1999.

During the 2001 Dotcom crash, Kelly was asked to restructure and downsize. Instead, he seized the opportunity to propose a plan to transition the department to an independent public agency—known as a public development authority, or PDA—with an independent board, budget, and self-governance. Once approved, Kelly led the transition with grace and earned the confidence of the cultural community. The agency was moved to the newly renovated Tashiro Kaplan Building in Pioneer Square and was rebranded as 4Culture to represent the four program areas it supports: arts, heritage, preservation, and public art.

In 2007, realizing that 4Culture’s revenues would be insufficient to keep pace with the needs of a growing region, Kelly organized what would become a 7-year effort at the state legislature to extend the lodging tax to support arts and culture in King County.  With Kelly at the helm, King County was able to renew its commitment to support a thriving cultural community.

Recently, Kelly worked with Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council to leverage funds to create Building for Culture, a $28 million initiative that funded the development of cultural facilities county-wide, including KEXP and the Federal Way Performing Arts Center.

As King County’s population continues to grow and diversify, Kelly has pushed for equity and access to funding for communities that have been underrepresented during 4Culture’s history. Kelly is passionate about making it possible for everyone in King County to experience and participate in our rich cultural heritage.

According to Joe McDermott, King County Council Chair, “Under Jim Kelly’s leadership, 4Culture has become a trusted and respected resource, supporting the vibrant arts and cultural community that is a hallmark of King County.”


Susan Connole, Mikala Woodward and Eleanor Boba – Board Awards
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Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles presented Eleanor Boba, Mikala Woodward, and Susan Connole with Board Awards – and they are joined here by AKCHO President Alice Stenstrom – photo credit Tyler Ray

by Pat Filer, AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

Making the Cut was the brainchild of Susan Connole and Mikala Woodward who first met in November 2011 – the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Locks. They reunited in 2015 and began recruiting others to their shared vision of a regional centennial commemoration of the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Eleanor Boba led the Making the Cut Project when Woodward stepped down.

Mikala Woodward served as the initial administrative lead of Making the Cut, convening meetings, identifying key steps and recruiting individuals and organizations. Woodward has had a long career serving the cultural and heritage communities of the Pacific Northwest including a stint on the AKCHO Board and work with the Rainier Valley Historical Society. Now she serves as an Exhibit Developer and the Oral History Manager at the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

As one of the founders of The Friends of the Ballard Locks, Susan Cannole has dedicated herself to salvaging and preserving many historical records, photos and other historic artifacts at the Ballard Locks. She has been an interpretive guide there for 13 years. Her enthusiasm for the Locks and its centennial served as the magnet for the many groups which eventually participated in Making the Cut. She led with Woodward the first meetings held at 4Culture and coordinated the event and activities with the Army Corps of Engineers. Connole plans to develop historical displays and events for the Chittenden Locks and share them through research and regional presentations.

Eleanor Boba took the administrative baton for Making the Cut from Mikala Woodward making sure the projects underway received undivided coordination especially through the website and social media. Boba has worked with historical societies across the country including the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society and the Rainier Valley Historical Society. Her work includes collections management, exhibit development and articles on a variety of local history topics. She is well regarded as a public historian who values the details of industrial and neighborhood change. She is currently leading an oral history project for the Renton History Museum and writing for several historical blogs.

Making the Cut organizations, institutions, and individuals began meeting in the summer of 2015 with the goal of commemorating the legacy of the Lake Washington Ship Canal a century after it was completed.  The construction of the Locks, the Ship Canal, and the lowering of Lake Washington created enormous economic, ecological and social changes that shaped our region’s development.

The Making the Cut project sought to foster and promote a series of events, exhibits, installations, and other projects highlighting local stories about this moment in our region’s history. The centennial projects explored both negative and positive effects of the massive engineering project. The wide variety of activities addressed not only engineering challenges, but also the devastating impact of the massive changes to our waterways on Native American populations and over time to all the flora, fauna and people whose lives depended on them.



Barbara J. Nilson – AKCHO Legacy Award
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Barbara J. Nilson accepts her Legacy Award – photo credit Tyler Ray

Barbara Nilson is celebrating her 90th birthday in August.  Last year she completed her 4th local history book – one exploring the history of Allied Arts of Renton. Two of her earlier books have received the AKCHO Virginia Marie Folkins Award in past years. “Uncle Sam Wants You” featured stories about veterans from Maple Valley and Renton who served during World War II and “Ravensdale Reflections” explores the history of a small Washington state mining town. Other books include “Renton High School Centennial” and one celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Maple Valley Rotary.

While raising 4 children as a single mother in the 1950s, Nilson went back to college and received her teaching certificate. She was hired as the advisor for Seattle’s Franklin High School yearbook and highly regarded school newspaper. During this time, she became the Youth Director for NFPW (National Federation of Press Women) and expanded their annual writing contest to include high school students. She has been an active member of that organization for over 60 years. 

Nilson has been a member of and worked with many south King County Historical Societies over the past 40 years and she has served on the AKCHO Awards Committee for 17 years. 


Discovery Modelers Education Center – Long Term Project Award
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Clayton Naset and Colleen Wagner (center) of Discovery Modelers accept congratulations from King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles and AKCHO President Alice Stenstrom – photo credit Tyler Ray

by Pat Filer, AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

On July 4, 1917, the SS Roosevelt, Admiral Peary’s flagship on his historic 1909 trip to the Arctic, passed through the Locks and led a marine parade of some 200 commercial and pleasure craft through the Ship Canal to Lake Union and Lake Washington. A carnival and fireworks attracted an estimated 50,000 celebrants out to celebrate the opening of the new waterway.

One hundred years later Discovery Modelers committed to creating a scale model of the two-masted steamship for display during the Ship Canal centennial celebrations. Model maker Clayton Naset was recruited to carry out the work with his funding coming from King County 4Culture and others.

A reception was held May 7, 2017 at the Locks to honor Naset. Interpretive signage and brochures, funded by King County 4Culture, tell the tale of this storied vessel. The six-foot model is on long-term loan to the Corps of Engineers and on display in the Locks Administration Building. 


Long Term Project Award goes to three historical organizations that conduct mine hikes
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Keith Watson of Black Diamond Historical Society, Doug Bristol with Issaquah History Museums, and Russ Senger of Newcastle Historical Society show off their Long Term Project Awards – photo credit Tyler Ray

by Pat Filer, AKCHO Awards Selection Committee Chair

For those who appreciate communing with the Great Outdoors – as well as history — historic mine tours provide a personal view of the halcyon days of the King County Coal Belt.   Presented by the Black Diamond, Newcastle and Issaquah Historical Societies, residents of all ages from throughout King County and beyond participate in these enlightening and picturesque journeys into a noteworthy aspect of King County’s past.  

Although the lumber industry receives the lion’s share of attention, coal was once King County’s largest industry, supplying local markets as well as the rapidly growing town of San Francisco.   These areas are a vast source of labor and ethnic history, where many of the miners were recruited from Southern Europe.

The Issaquah Historical Society presents annual Historic Mine Hikes covering mining districts throughout the area.   These include Tiger Mountain as well as the Olde Towne neighborhood, Mine Hill and areas near the Issaquah Creek Dam.

Annual tours of the town of Franklin, located above the beautiful Green River Gorge, are presented by the Black Diamond Historical Society.   The town thrived for many years, reaching its peak coal production period between 1897 and 1908.   Many mining structure foundations remain, as well as the cemetery and other traces of the town’s past. The Society is 42 years old now and board member Don Mason (Also known as The Mayor of Franklin) has been the manager of the Franklin tours for almost that amount of time. The coal mining town of Franklin has been the object of archaeological studies and digs by the Green River Community College starting in 1985 and they produced an extensive, over 300 pages, report on this little ghost town.  Don Mason conducts tours with the help of volunteers from the Society and the last tour in March had an attendance of 250 people plus pets. 

The Newcastle Historical Society and the Eastside Heritage Center frequently lead tours of Cougar Mountain, Coal Creek, May Creek and other local mining districts. The Issaquah Alps Trails Club and the Newcastle Historical Society began sponsoring a “Return to Newcastle” event in the 1980’s. A “Return” or “Coal Mining History Hike” has been offered on the first Sunday in June ever since – 35+ years now! Those events generated public support for the creation of Coal Creek and Cougar Mountain Parks. Both are now large ‘wildland’ parks with many interpretive trails and signs featuring local coal mining history. King County was the major partner in acquiring land, providing park staff, and developing the trail systems. This also resulted in the “100 Years of Hidden History” book by Richard and Lucille McDonald. In recent years Bellevue Parks and the Eastside Heritage Center and the City of Newcastle have installed signs and provided school tours and indoor power-point programs as well. All of these efforts – a long history of dedicated work – are deserving of recognition.

The tours are led by knowledgeable guides who have researched their respective locales with the assistance and support of the three heritage organizations, who often share inquiries and research.

These long-term efforts of the Issaquah, Newcastle and Black Diamond Historical Societies have created awareness and presented people from all walks of life with a unique and engaging perspective on the era “when Coal was King.”



Heritage Advisor is published by the Association of King County Historical Organizations as a service to members and those who support its mission. We update our website continually throughout the month, and on the first of every month we e-mail a condensed version of Heritage Advisor to our mailing list – you can subscribe to this service by filling out the requested information in the right sidebar on this page.

AKCHO was established in 1977 to encourage cooperation among historical organizations; promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve; and support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

The Heritage Advisor welcomes submissions of news items, calendar items, and opinion columns from AKCHO members, HA subscribers, and readers. Articles are limited to 300 words and they should have a strong relevance to historic preservation and heritage issues in King County, Washington. Submission of an article does not guarantee publication. AKCHO does not pay for published submissions. All articles are subject to review by AKCHO staff. Please send your article within the body of an email (no attachments, please) to

AKCHO welcomes new members year round. Individual memberships are $25, and we have a three-tiered system for organizational memberships, with dues dependent on budget size. For more information and an application form, visit

More than 150 individuals and organizations support heritage work and historic preservation in King County, thanks to their membership in AKCHO. Please join us!




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AKCHO was established to encourage cooperation among historical organizations and to promote and encourage the study and preservation of the history and heritage of King County through member organizations, individual members, and the community they serve, and to support such preservation efforts through public awareness and understanding of legislative issues.

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