COMMENT: Retain the character of the house



Update (09/17/21): Due to bad weather, the dedication ceremony to rename Mukai Way has been postponed to a later date.

What distinguishes one community or neighborhood from another? Perhaps a name, for example “Little Italy” or “Quartier international”. Or maybe a street, “les Champs-Elysée” or “Canal Street”. The name immediately evokes a neighborhood, a boulevard, a city, or the experience one has lived there.

Preserving the identity of a place is not easy. Walk through Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood today and it’s hard to find the Troll or the Lenin Statue among the banks and high-tech corporate buildings that line the canal. Where is the trendy district with the Greek restaurant and the hippie shops?

Change is inevitable whether or not it is progress. But the character of a place can be preserved by making a conscious effort to do so. Friends of Mukai did this by working with King County Council to establish “Mukai Way†to honor the Mukai family. He recognizes the Mukai Farm and Garden of Historic Significance on 107th Ave SW. It joins many other places on the island that capture who we once were, but still cherish to this day.

Many years ago, when I was a child, my mother worked with other Islanders and the County to preserve the existing historic street names on Vashon. It was at this point that our rural road addresses were replaced with King County street grid addresses. Mother didn’t want to turn our street into an SW number instead of Cowan Rd. She wanted to preserve what was distinctive about the Vashon Island community – our history.

And what names have been preserved!

Chemin Lisabeula was named by a Vashon postmaster named Brink, for his two daughters, Eliza and Beulah. Reddings Beach Road. is named after the Reddings family, who settled there in 1884. And who knew that the name Tahlequah was chosen in a name contest in 1920 for the new South End ferry dock? The winner of the contest, a young woman from Burton, proposed to name the wharf after the city of Oklahoma which is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. She thought the word Cherokee meant “water view”. It is not, but the view is still beautiful from Tahlequah, all the same.

From now on, Mukai Way will pay homage to the Japanese immigrant Mukai family, who operated a hugely successful strawberry farm and keg factory from the 1910s to the 1950s. It is the first honorary street designation on Vashon to recognize the many Japanese-American fruit and vegetable growing families who settled here in the early 1900s, only to be exiled and imprisoned during WWII.

They deserve to be recognized for their cultural and economic contribution to a place called Vashon Island.

Kay Longhi is a member of the Friends of Mukai board of directors and grew up on the island.


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