THE NOKOMIS CLUB OF REDMOND
REDMOND’S HISTORIC FIRST LIBRARY
The historic Nokomis Building, Redmond, Washington’s first Library building, is scheduled for demolition although the facility is eligible for listing on both the Local and National Registers of Historic Places. Plans approved by the City of Redmond propose replacing the historic site at 16210 NE 80th Street with a 5-story building composed of 96 sleeping units of 200 square feet each, ground floor retail space of 730 square feet, conference room of 200 square feet, and 29 parking places. An appeal of the project is underway.
The Nokomis Club Starts a Library
Investment of their diligently earned funds in a project beneficial to the community was important to the Nokomis Club, a Redmond women’s club founded in 1909. Following several years of deliberation, the Club voted by secret ballot to establish a library on March 25, 1927, and opened the first Library October 9, 1927. The Library first located in a storefront on the main city thoroughfare, Leary Way, and then two years later relocated to a larger space across the street and one-half block north on Leary Way.
The Nokomis Club Invests in a Library Building
Unable to find adequate accommodations for its growing book, magazine, and newspaper collections and reluctant to assume a debt, considerable deliberation took place before agreement was reached to construct a facility specifically dedicated to library use. The Club found it could pay the cost in cash of $420 ($8,587 in 2010 $’s), and hired an unemployed carpenter to construct the new library on property donated by Alfred and Irene Brown. Located at 16210 NE 80th Street, the building opened for library service on March 1, 1933. It also served as the meeting place of the Town Council from 1933 to 1944. Throughout the 1930’s the circulation of Library items averaged 8,750 per year flourishing despite the severe lack of local jobs that reduced the town inhabitants to 460.
The Nokomis Club Constructs an Addition to the Library
Club members made the decision in January 1936 to build an addition to the Library that was built by Works Progress Administration (WPA) labor and financed by a loan. The construction cost of the new structure was $1,200 ($24,528 in 2010 $’s) which was paid-in-full in 1942 by the Nokomis women. Named The Clubhouse, the addition opened on November 2, 1937, and provided space for income producing activities that supported Library operations. The additional floor area enabled the clubwomen to serve meals to civic groups, and rent the space to individuals, community groups, and churches.
The Nokomis Club funded, administered, supplied, and maintained the Library from 1927 to 1947. When the town contracted with the Rural King County Library District in 1947 to provide a paid Librarian and supply the books, the Club continued to furnish, maintain, and repair the building and also paid the utility charges at no cost to the town.
By 1952 circulation of Library items climbed to 14,268, while Redmond’s population numbered 573. At the beginning of 1953 the Library had outgrown its original space, and its 6,000 volumes were moved into The Clubhouse area.
The Library Relocates
When the Library moved off-site in May 1964, 17,000 books were carted to the new location. Following the move of the Library from the premises, the property no longer had tax exempt status, and the Club was assessed $1,83l in property taxes. Nokomis members decided to sell the property, but were determined to sell the site to a group who would continue the tradition of allowing the public to use the building. The Redmond Chamber of Commerce had rented space in the Nokomis Building since 1968, and was the logical choice to buy the building.
The Redmond Chamber of Commerce Buys the Library Building
On October 27, 1971, the Chamber agreed to purchase the building with the conditions that they would pay the property taxes; pay $300 per year for 15 years for a scholarship administered by the Nokomis Club; and allow the Nokomis Club to conduct their monthly meetings in the building for 15 years. The Chamber President, Ralph Robinson, confirmed the Chamber’s intention in a statement to the Sammamish Valley News on January 26, 1972, when he pledged, “We will continue to use this building as a community service center and meeting place. We are very appreciative of the Nokomis Club’s activities and of this opportunity to serve the community from our own building.” The January 26th article further states, “The building will be known as the Nokomis Building in honor of its community-minded residents of many years.”
The Redmond Chamber of Commerce Updates the Interior
The Chamber of Commerce maintained the building in good condition. During changes in activities during the 1990’s, staff positions were increased that necessitated remodeling of the interior. Upgraded during the remodel of 1995-96 was the electrical system, and installations included a computer network, cable for the telephone, gas water heater, and gas furnace. The exterior has remained unchanged since 1937, but the Chamber, hoping to replace the building, declined to take part in the historic preservation program instituted by the City in 2000.
During 2010 economic development took a foothold in Redmond, and the Mayor formed a group, OneRedmond, composed of 35 private businesses and 5 public sector organizations, to promote economic development, which includes land development within the city. By March 2014 the interested members of the Redmond Chamber of Commerce were incorporated into OneRedmond, and the Chamber was formally dissolved. With that dissolution, OneRedmond apparently gained title to the Nokomis Building, and under the aegis of OneRedmond, the 5-story building project was proposed by a board member.
The Historic Nokomis Building
Nevertheless, the Nokomis Building remains one of the most historic properties within the City of Redmond. The building was inventoried in historic surveys conducted in 1998 and 2005, and both surveys recommend listing it in the Local and National Register of Historic Places. “In view of this recommendation, the association of the building with Redmond, early to mid-20th century history, and the association of the Nokomis Club with women’s history, this proposal [5-story building] would appear to have a negative impact on this historic property,” writes Gregory Griffith, Deputy State [Washington] Historic Preservation Officer, Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, in a letter dated February 26, 2015. Griffith concludes, “As a result, we recommend that alternative designs/site planning be explored that result in the building’s preservation/re-use on site.”
Invest in retention of community use and preservation of the historic Nokomis Building with your contribution to REDMOND’S HISTORIC FIRST LIBRARY.