Redmond is a century old this month, and many festivities are planned.
Ray Adams hasn’t been alive for the full 100 years Redmond has been a town, and then a city, with its own government.
But he remembers his big brother Ernie, whose birth helped bring the town into existence.
Born Nov. 24, 1912, Ernest Alexander Adams III brought the population of the settlement on the Sammamish River to 300 — the number required for incorporation.
At least Redmond’s founders thought there were 300 residents. One of the town’s most prominent citizens wasn’t so sure, according to a story retold by local historian Tom Hitzroth.
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William Henry White, Superior Court judge and former state Supreme Court justice, said in effect, “I think you’d better count noses again, because I think you’ve only got 299.”
“The community more or less said, ‘I think we’re good.’ “
Papers were filed for incorporation, and by the time it was official, on Dec. 31, the population count was 303. Redmond celebrates its 100th birthday this month.
Tolt, a nearby settlement now known as Carnation, was incorporated the same day.
Adams and his wife, Ruth — who grew up on a chicken farm in the Avondale settlement north of Redmond — marvel at Redmond’s maturation into a city of 55,000 and home of Microsoft. Redmond was in transition from a logging-based economy to agriculture as Ray Adams was growing up in a house one block from the railroad depot run by his paternal grandfather. His maternal grandparents operated a livery stable, and later, the hottest thing in public transportation and forerunner of today’s buses, an auto stage line.
Ernie, 10 years older than Ray, worked at Oscar Blau’s tavern and pool hall next to the post office, and would give his younger brother candy when he showed up on his early-morning trip to pick up the mail.
“I loved my brother,” says Ray, 89. Now severely hearing-impaired, he doesn’t converse as easily as he once did.
During the Great Depression, when few jobs were available in Redmond or the shipyard town of Houghton (now part of Kirkland), Ernie and some friends rode the rails to Nevada, where Ernie found a job and sent for his wife and two daughters. He died in 1992.
Ray was a newspaper carrier for The Seattle Star when people started placing bets on the bicycle races he competed in with friends.
In 1939 civic leaders transformed those races into a town festival, the Redmond Bicycle Derby, complete with a parade, boxing matches, dancing in the street, and a 25-mile bike race around Lake Sammamish on paved and gravel roads.
Seventy-three years later, Derby Days is still going strong.
Ruth’s family, who sold chickens and eggs, made Saturday outings to Issaquah, where they bought chicken and cow feed. “We had a cow. We made our own butter and cottage cheese. We had a garden and orchard, so we lived off the land pretty much,” she says.
Ruth remembers Redmond as a place people visited to “let their hair down and party hearty” during and after World War II. She was unaware of the “cribs” built for prostitutes and their customers on the second floor of former Mayor Bill Brown’s brick building that also held a saloon, soda fountain, dance hall and undertaker.
Ray and Ruth married in 1954, after his wartime stint in the Navy and his first marriage ended in divorce. The couple settled into a small house in Redmond’s Overlake area with his three children and their two kids. They moved a short distance away when the state bought most of their property in 1960 for construction of Highway 520.
Before that, many people saw Redmond and Kirkland as contenders to become the commercial center of the Eastside. “Bellevue wasn’t anything,” Ruth recalls her mother telling her. “She said Bellevue would be a nice little place to retire in.”
But when Allied Stores in 1968 announced plans to build a 120-acre shopping center in Overlake, between Bellevue and Redmond, it found a formidable adversary in Bellevue shopping-center developer Kemper Freeman Sr.
For 13 years, Freeman fought the Evergreen East project, which mall developer Edward J. DeBartolo took over. The battle ended in 1980, when King County denied a permit for the new shopping center — allowing Freeman’s Bellevue Square to grow into the retail heart of the Eastside.
A high-rise downtown grew up alongside the Bellevue mall, in what is now a city of 130,000.
But there was a silver lining for Redmond, when Microsoft moved to the Evergreen East property in 1986, gradually expanding its headquarters campus to both sides of Highway 520.
“If that area was a shopping center instead of a high-tech center, what a different community we’d be looking at, not just for Redmond but for the whole Seattle area,” said Nancy Way, author of the 1989 book, “Our Town Redmond.”
Now the city is changing again, as six-story apartment buildings sprout up downtown, facing the mixed-use Redmond Town Center on the other side of the former rail corridor that will be turned into an urban trail next year.
The city’s next makeover will probably be at Overlake Village, where the city is encouraging offices, hotels and apartments of up to 12 stories near a future Sound Transit light-rail station and the Highway 520-148th Avenue Northeast interchange.
A few miles east of Redmond, Carnation is celebrating its 100th birthday as a very different kind of city. The two cities are connected by winding, two-lane country roads.
Despite the big-growth dreams of some pioneers, the town’s population hasn’t yet reached 1,800, inhibited by its more remote location, floodplains and protected farmlands around it and, until four years ago, the lack of a central sewage system.
“I moved out here because I wanted to live in a small town. I think that the overwhelming majority of people who live here like it this way,” said Lee Grumman, a Carnation merchant, City Council member and organizer of a centennial-celebration summer picnic. Redmond’s centennial festivities, which have included commemorative compositions performed by the Eastside Symphony and the Redmond Chorale, will culminate Dec. 30 with a community bonfire on the City Hall campus.
Ray Adams remembers a time when, for him and his childhood friends, “The only place there was, was Redmond. … There’s a few old-timers left.”
He and Ruth live in Bellevue’s Sherwood Forest neighborhood a few blocks from Redmond, where they do most of their shopping and errands. “I can’t tell you when I last was in Bellevue,” says Ruth, adding that it has become “just another big city.”
Redmond, by contrast, “has done a good job of growing bigger and still keeping the small-town feel of the place.”
Story includes material from Seattle Times archives and the Redmond Historical Society.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org