Seattle Now & Then: The Mukai Farm Matters

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: Twenty years ago the Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon Island was designated a King County Landmark.  (Courtesy, Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association)
THEN: Twenty years ago the Mukai Farm and Garden on Vashon Island was designated a King County Landmark. (Courtesy, Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association)
NOW: The “This Place Matters” enthusiasm of June 1, last, is wonderfully captured with Jean Sherrard’s big lens.  He is not of course as close to the Mukai farm house and garden as is the “then,” because of the fence.
NOW: The “This Place Matters” enthusiasm of June 1, last, is wonderfully captured with Jean Sherrard’s big lens. He is not of course as close to the Mukai farm house and garden as is the “then,” because of the fence.

On the recent sunny Saturday afternoon of June 1, about 200 enthusiasts gathered beside – but not on – Vashon Island’s landmark Mukai farm and garden for a “This Place Matters” celebration and, it turned out, protest.

The enterprising Mukai family built this family home in 1926, and began then the artful labor of fitting the grounds with an elegant Japanese landscape, winding waterways about carefully set rocks, appointed with appropriate plants.  The garden was supported by the success of B.D, Mukai’s strawberries, his nearby cold pressing process that packed the iced berries in barrels of his own making for shipment to distant markets.  It was an enterprise that in season hired four to five hundred workers.

The builder and keeper of this traditional Japanese landscape was not so traditional.  She was B.D.’s second wife, Kuni.  First studying the Japanese art of landscaping, Kuni then designed the garden and continued to develop and nurture it from the late 1920s until World War Two, which on the West Coast upset the lives of nearly everyone of Japanese descent including the Mukais.

By now our Jean Sherrard may be considered something of a seasoned group photographer.  On this occasion he was, however, surprised.  “I arrived at the Mukai farm to find several hundred people assembling on a country road that runs in front of the farm. A black plastic fence posted with No Trespassing signs and two sheriffs’ squad cars kept preservationists off the land, squeezed onto the pavement. Mounting a 12′ ladder, I used a wide angle lens to capture both the home behind the fence and the protesters squeezed in front of it.”

With an investigative spirit Pacific readers may wish to use the links below to study the explanations of those on either side of the fence.  On this side follow the Friends of Mukai webpage at http://www.friendsofmukai.org/   For the other side of the fence visit http://mukaifarmandgarden.com/.  A third study of these Mukai matters was covered earlier this year with a KOMO TV report.  The link for that story is http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Wealthy-Texas-couple-taking-advantage-of-Washington-taxpayers-191772911.html

WEB EXTRAS

Paul, I like to add in a few photos taken by my able assistant (and pupil at Hillside Student Community) Nick Anderson who, at 15, is not only a fine photographer, but an excellent actor and videographer as well. Here’s a few from Nick taken on that day:

The black plastic fence was liberally covered with 'No Trespassing' signs, warning off the peaceful crowd, lest they attempt to "storm the property". A couple of sheriffs' squad cars were also present.
The black plastic fence was liberally festooned with ‘No Trespassing’ signs, warning off the peaceful crowd, lest they attempt to “storm the property”. A couple of sheriffs’ squad cars were also present.

A wide selection of speakers encouraged the crowd:

mukai-7
Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, childhood friend of the Mukai family
mukai-2
Dow Constantine
mukai-4
Jean up on the ladder
Jean-on-Ladder-2
Another of Jean

mukai-6mukai-3mukai-1

Nick's shot from the Vashon ferry on this beautiful day
Nick’s shot from the Vashon ferry on that beautiful day

Anything to add, Paul?  How about something on First Hill – its history.  I have been asked (long ago) to write an introductory chapter for the Historic Seattle produced history of First Hill.  In this line I became so fascinated with what is not known of that hill’s early life that I am woefully behind in producing my contribution.  But now at last I have my motifs lined up and am writing.  And so for the additions here I’ll begin with a First Hill scene, but then quickly follow with a few random Vashon snapshots.

First hill's Coppins Water Tower and beyond it Central School taken from the highest point on the hill, Col.Haller's Castlemount - its central tower facing Minor just north of James.  This is from the 1890s.
First hill’s Coppins Water Tower and beyond it Central School taken from the highest point on the hill, Col.Haller’s Castlemount – its central tower facing Minor just north of James. This is from the 1890s.
The "Mosquito Fleet" steamer Vashon parked at the Tacoma Municipal Dock. (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)
The “Mosquito Fleet” steamer Vashon parked at the Tacoma Municipal Dock. (Courtesy, Murray Morgan)
The S.S. Vashon arriving at Burton.
The S.S. Vashon arriving at Burton.

 

The sternwheeler Vashon somewhere on Puget Sound.  (Courtesy Jim Faber)
The sternwheeler Vashon somewhere on Puget Sound. (Courtesy Jim Faber)
Here we need someone from the island to identify the dock and perhaps the donkey.  The banner flying may depict strawberries.
Here we need someone from the island to identify the dock and perhaps the donkey. The banner tied to the green arch may depict strawberries.
Another island scene having to do with gathering and celebrating strawberries.  This one ca. 1916 by Lewis Whittelsy.
Another island scene having to do with gathering and celebrating strawberries. This one ca. 1916 by Lewis Whittelsy.
We know no more than what is offered with this real photo postcard's own caption.
We know no more than what is offered with this real photo postcard’s own caption.
The Docton drydock (Courtesy, Dick Warren)
The Docton drydock (Courtesy, Dick Warren)
Mike Cirelli posing at the stern/bow of the Vashon on the Seattle waterfront.
Mike Cirelli posing at the stern/bow of the Vashon on the Seattle waterfront.
Frank Shaw's record of the Vashon on the waterfront, May 6, 1985.
Frank Shaw’s record of the Vashon on the waterfront, working as a hostel on May 6, 1985.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: The Mukai Farm Matters”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s