Who are Mercer Island Places Named After? Calkins, Deane, Davis, and More

May 1, 2023 | by Naomi Tomky

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Photo by Flora Latifi for My Mercer Island

Every day, islanders play at Aubrey Davis Park, visit Clarke Beach, and return home to Faben Point, but few stop to think about the people behind those names.

The Duwamish called Mercer Island TsEjtsEjka’bats, or “Place Where Gooseberry Bushes Grow,” but in 1854, friends at a July 4th celebration suggested the island take the name of their host, Thomas Mercer. While the judge and early Seattleite was known to enjoy hiking there, he never lived on what soon became known as Mercer’s Island. Neither did Luther Burbank, for whom the beloved park on the north end is named (read more about where the name came from in our feature on the park).

Plenty of others whose names now are part of the local lexicon for familiar parks, streets, neighborhoods, and buildings on the island did, though. Read below to learn who they are, from the earliest entrepreneur, C.C. Calkins, to still-living local sports legend Mary Wayte Bradburne.

Knowing the stories and people behind the names islanders say each day helps add to the sense of community and carries on the city’s unique history – one that expands and evolves each day. Most recently, the cove running from Luther Burbank Park to the street end landing at the north end of 72nd St. SE officially took the name Riley Cove in 2022, celebrating decorated hero of World War II and lifelong Mercer Island resident Houston Riley.

Aubrey Davis Park

Photo by Flora Latifi for My Mercer Island

Politician and transportation advocate Aubrey Davis served on the city council and then for two terms as mayor, leaving as his lasting legacy the way I-90 flows across Mercer Island. “The Lid Park,” as it was originally called, was a major part of that, turning the space over the freeway into a sprawling public green space. When Davis passed away in 2013, the park was renamed in his honor.

Calkins Point Beach

Calkins Point Beach and Calkins Landing, at the northern tip of Luther Burbank Park take their name from the island’s original entrepreneur, Charles Cicero Calkins, who came to the island in the late 19th century with grand plans. He built a stunning hotel and swanky resort on the island, but quickly lost it, in large part to the debt he took on to build it. By 1908, a fire destroyed the building, but Calkins’s legacy in developing the island lived on, and so did his name – on this parcel of land where he had built his own home.

Clarke Beach

Grass lawn at Clarke Beach

Mabel Clarke, with her husband Fred, came to the island from Iowa around 1906 and quickly established herself as a pioneer and pillar of the community. In 1969, a year after her death, the city purchased the beach and turned it into a park named for her. For the next 50 years, her grandson, the late Nile Clarke, carried her spirit on when he led the annual New Year’s Day polar bear plunge at the beach bearing her name.

Clise Park

The Clise family legacy starts when James Clise arrived in Seattle following the Great Fire in 1889 and opened a real estate office. His son, Charles, continued the business, including developing the Shorewood Apartments in the old Fortuna Park on Mercer Island in 1949, kicking off a population boom on the island. Charles’s son, Alfred H. Clise, eventually took over the family business, and in the early 1970s, donated the 1.5 acres now called Clise Park, located at the intersection of 40th Ave SE and Island Crest Way, to the city.

Deane’s Children’s Park

Dragon Climbing Sculpture at Deane’s Children’s Park

The original Children’s Park opened with its 50-foot, six-ton dragon in 1965, thanks in large part to the Mercer Island Preschool Association, and community activists Lola and Phil Deane. The Deanes first moved to the island in 1957 and immediately got involved in the community for the three decades they lived there. Lola opened Island Books, founded The Mercer Island Community Fund, and started Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS). She returned to the island in 2019 and still volunteers at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop, which supports the MIYFS organization she helped found.

Faben Point

Commodore Vince Faben is on record as disliking the 1906 Labor Day Regatta’s planned course, as his boat, Dolphin, was too fast to nimbly navigate all the sharp corners around Mercer Island. Now, one of those corners is named after the attorney, judge, and boat racing enthusiast with a summer home there in the early 20th century. The stretch of waterfront homes north of the bridge on the island’s west side make up the “Gold Coast,” and that northwest tip takes its official name from Faben, whose property was divided into multiple parcels and sold after his 1927 death.

Fleury Trail

The Alfred and Olive Fleury Trail is named in honor of the work that the Swiss-born Alfred did for Mercer Island over the years. When he first moved to Seattle in the early 1930s, he worked for the WPA clearing brush on Mercer Island, and in 1933, moved there. He worked as secretary-treasurer for the fire district, pressed for the town’s incorporation, and then served on the first city council. He was also a prolific contributor of Letters to the Editor of the Mercer Island Reporter, sharing his opinions on local development and a variety of other issues. The Reporter called him their “indefatigable correspondent.” When the Fleurys moved to a retirement home in Seattle in 1977, the city named the trail after the couple.

Greta Hackett Outdoor Sculpture Gallery

Photo by Flora Latifi for My Mercer Island

Margaret “Greta” Hackett devoted much of her time to helping make Mercer Island a more beautiful and better place. The cellist and painter served as president of various school PTAs, on the board of the Mercer Island Community Fund, and worked hard to get the Sculpture Gallery funded and open. The Gallery opened in 1995, and in 2017 the city honored the force behind it by renaming the park after her.

Kirk Robinson Skate Park

Photo by Flora Latifi for My Mercer Island

Skateboarding was a passion of Kirk Robinson’s, which he shared with his sons – spending hours at the local skate park at Mercerdale Park. Robinson grew up on Mercer Island, and with his wife, Jessie, returned to the island to raise his family. He was a volunteer firefighter on Mercer Island, an EMT for Mercer Island’s Marine Patrol, and served the Bothell Fire Department for 18 years. He was also a “prodigious” community volunteer, always looking to offer a helping hand to friends and neighbors – honored with a “Pathfinder Award” by the Mercer Island School District and as a “Hometown Hero” by the City of Mercer Island. After a courageous battle with cancer, he passed away in 2019 at the age of 42. In July 2022, the City re-dedicated the local skate park in his memory, naming it the “Kirk Robinson Skate Park.”

Lucas Hill

The Lucas family’s dairy farm once covered more than 140 acres, including today’s Mercerdale park. Eugene Lucas purchased the first 80 acres, what’s now Mercerdale, in 1889, and he and his wife Josephine grew it until his death in 1907. Josephine and her children eventually subdivided the property, and much of it became known as Lucas Hill, the neighborhood just uphill of Mercerdale and north of Homestead Field.

Mary Wayte Swimming Pool

Mercer Island’s most famous Olympian, Mary Wayte Bradburne, won two gold medals in the 1984 Los Angeles games, and a silver and bronze in Seoul in 1988. Now, the pool with her name on it continues Mercer Island’s long tradition of producing excellent competitive swimmers.

Proctor Landing

Gardiner and Ellen Proctor were among the first settlers on the island, arriving in the early 1870s and building a log cabin. Gardiner claimed to have chased a bear off his property and into the lake in 1873. He died in 1889, and his wife returned to her family home. Their name endures on the island at Proctor Landing, a street-end waterfront park on the north end of Mercer Island.

Slater Park

Long-time islander Harry Slater served as fire chief for 14 years before retiring in 1962 and was one of the co-founders of the East Seattle Craft Guild in 1940. So, when he and his wife Loretta planned their wills, including a donation of their waterfront property to the city continued the good work they did in the community. However, when the gift happened in 1985, it caused controversy among neighbors unhappy with the city’s plans. The park eventually opened in 1991, with the compromise of it having no dock, despite the shore access.

Stroum JCC

Stroum Jewish Community Center

Samuel Stroum, sometimes called the “Godfather of Seattle Giving,” for his generous donations to the local arts scene, left his and his wife Althea’s name on the island’s Jewish Community Center. He first came to the area during World War II as a flight engineer, then later settled here during his career as a businessman. When the JCC faced a financial crisis in the early 1980s, Stroum both played a role in negotiating a path out of it and in contributing to the fund allowing it to do so.