Greater Kent Historical Society and Museum 25th Anniversary of Cultivating Kent’s History

By Cheri Sayer

In December 2018, the Greater Kent Historical Society (GKHS) will proudly mark their 25th anniversary!  There had been an “Old-Timers” group in Kent, WA, for many years, and it is still going strong with an annual awards event.  During a meeting in 1992, Rae Reitan, a native of Kent and the City Historian, suggested that Kent should have a legitimate Historical Society.  The idea was adopted, a committee was formed, and a campaign was held to collect artifacts and information about Kent and the surrounding area.  The Greater Kent Historical Society was formed and incorporated as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.  The next year a space at 209 W. Meeker in historic downtown Kent became the temporary home of the society and it’s collection for the next five years.  I remember well my visits to that small space with it’s artifacts and excellent exhibits.

Interest in a larger space eventually settled on the historic Bereiter home on Smith Street across from Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks Park.  The Society successfully lobbied the City of Kent, and in 1996 the house was purchased by the City to be the home of the GKHS and a house museum open to the public.  The City and the Museum have continued their cooperative relationship throughout the years, with the City providing funding support for a Museum staff person, and handling many major repairs and maintenance for the house.

The Bereiter House has an important place in the history of Kent and is the only historic house in Kent that is open to the public on a regular basis.  Built in 1908 by Emil Bereiter, the 3,500 sf house was built in the American Foursquare (or Box House) style, with extensive interior woodwork and a grand front porch..  Bereiter was the owner of the Covington Lumber Company, and a mayor of Kent in 1912.   Bereiter, his wife Bessie (Stewart), and their two sons Donald and Stewart, lived in the house only a few short years before he became ill and passed away a short time later.
                                   
Bereiter House Museum, Kent, WA
Another important family to live at the house was the Saito family, who were successful members of the active Japanese-American community in Kent before they were interned during World War II.  They never returned to the house after the war.

The museum has many rooms that serve as exhibit space, including the living room, dining room, breakfast room and kitchen, and back porch and laundry room, all downstairs.  The offices of the GKHS occupy two downstairs rooms, including Emil Bereiter’s original office space and a library room.  There are several musical instruments in the living room, including a player piano, antique record player, and others.  Upstairs are the main bedroom, the children’s bedroom, the bathroom, the small sitting room over the front porch, and three exhibit rooms.  The house has been designated a City of Kent Landmark and it is well worth visiting!

 Back Porch of Bereiter House
In addition, outside there are display elements on the grounds of the Museum, including the Veterans Blue Star Memorial By-Way Marker, the Japanese-American Memorial called “Another Time, Another Place”, plaques recognizing the river landings in the Valley, and several farm implements.

“Another Time, Another Place” (Photo credit GKHS)
In the Library you’ll find many resources of interest to genealogists.  Historic property maps (Kroll Maps) from 1867-1968, Family Histories, School Attendance Records, Obituaries, Yearbooks, Cemetery Burial Lists and Plot Maps, Marriage Announcements, Newspapers, Family Scrapbooks, History Books, and Photos.   The list goes on!

The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday 12:00 – 4:00 pm, or by appointment.  Their address is 855 E. Smith St. (parking at the rear of the house), email is kenthistoricalmuseum@gmail.com.  Their phone is (253) 854-4330.  Call ahead if you would like to do some research, or just drop in for a tour.  You can also learn more about the Museum and read their blog articles at http://www.gkhs.org.

On Saturday, December 15, 2018, there will be a Holiday Open House that you could attend.  It will be from 12:00 to 4:00 pm, with the house decorated and treats to eat!  It’s always a fun time to drop in and explore the Museum. 
                                                                         
Cheri Sayer 




Comments

  1. Love the photos! I too love this old house. I'll have to check out all those historical resources too!

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  2. I'm not a photographer but it would be so interesting if someone could put a book out with old Buildings, Schools, Churches and Homes etc. that are still standing (then & now) that have been here over 100 years in the Kent Valley downtown) City limits back in the Days early 1900's. There are so many that have been forgotten. Kent Jr. High, United Methodist Church downtown (Meeker & Central), Farrington Court Assistant Living use to be Kent School, Our Kent Medical Center on State & Smith will be forgotten soon. That old brown beautiful house on James & Jason a land mark. Use to be a cattle ranch & only the house is left. City Hall on the corner of 2nd & Gowe. etc.

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