The Nokomis Club was one of Redmond’s first organized groups of volunteers. Taking their name from one of the important characters in Longfellow’s poem, The Song of Hiawatha, Nokomis began as a social club of six women and held its first meeting in June of 1909.
Since all were interested in reading, the group grew into a poetry and book club then into a service club. Their first community contribution was made in 1913 when they donated $15 to the high school for the purpose of buying reference books. In addition to school donations, the group also provided aid to the Red Cross and was requested by Mr. Bergum, president of the Redmond Commerce Center in 1930, to help “stamp out the nightly rowdyism of the town.” During World War II, the Club purchased bonds with their Club funds and volunteered for civil defense duties such as watching for and reporting airplanes and identifying shelter locations for residents in case of city evacuation.
One of their most enduring contributions was the Nokomis Club’s role in the creation of today’s Anderson Park, first known as Redmond City Park. Club members enlisted their husbands in 1936 to help clear land for the park improvements and held fundraisers such as farm dinners, quilt sales, dances, teas and card parties throughout 1937 to earn enough money to pay for all of the park’s plumbing fixtures.
A second significant contribution was the Redmond Public Library, which opened on Leary Way in 1929 in a structure next to the Redmond Trading Company (today’s Half Price Books) with 800 new and donated books, all catalogued by the Nokomis women – over 400 of these books were donated to the Club in 1927 alone. Club members took turns working as the librarian.
In 1933, Alfred Nobel and Irene Westby Brown donated land to the Club for a new library and clubhouse on NE 80th St. Later that year, the new library and clubhouse (today’s Chamber of Commerce building) was completed and the Town Council began to hold meetings there until 1950 when the first city hall and fire station were constructed (today’s Old Fire House Teen Center). The clubhouse was sold to the Redmond Chamber of Commerce in 1972.
In 1947, the Redmond Public Library became a branch of the King County Rural Library District. The Nokomis Club continued to provide a location for the library, while the City paid for utilities, the librarian’s (Mrs. Mamie Orr) salary and a fee to the County. The library moved to larger locations in 1964 (a storefront location) and 1975 (a dedicated library); this latter move followed a successful bond issue. The 1975 library was replaced with the current library (15990 NE 85th St) in 1999, after a land swap by the City of Redmond and King County Library System.
In addition to the accomplishments above, the Club has spawned a Junior Nokomis Club and has awarded an annual scholarship to a Redmond High School senior since 1950. The Nokomis Club is still active today and celebrated its Centennial in 2009. The Redmond Regional Library boasts an art piece donated by the Nokomis Club in honor of its centennial; the fused-glass piece, “Women of Vision,” can be viewed in the library lobby.
Books, note cards, free historic walking tour brochures, and the book, “Redmond Reflections”, are available in our office, which is open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9:30am to 4:30pm and by appointment.
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