A new park in Sammamish offers local residents a history lesson of what life may have been like nearly 100 years ago on the plateau.
Big Rock Park Central, Sammamish’s newest park, opened in June. It is one of three parcels of land that was gifted by long-time resident Mary Pigott to the city for the benefit of the community.
Among the three parcels, Big Rock Park Central was designed to bring the history of Sammamish to life for its citizens.
Two local nonprofit organizations collaborated with the city to create unique attractions for the community’s enjoyment.
The first is the historic Reard House, whose exterior was restored by the Sammamish Heritage Society and was designated as an official King County landmark. This farmhouse was built in 1890 by a German immigrant named Jacob Reard. It had also been used as a community dance hall and a bootleg distillery, according to the Sammamish Heritage Society. It is the oldest non-native building remaining in Sammamish.
In 1996, the development company John Buchan Homes bought the Reard House and its surrounding property to build The Crossings at Pine Lake neighborhood. But instead of tearing the historical farmhouse down, they chose to preserve it.
The Sammamish Heritage Society led the effort to relocate the house to Big Rock Park Central in 2012, and has been working on its preservation since.
Walt Carrel, the president of Sammamish Heritage Society, said their goal for restoring the Reard House is to help “future generations to be able to see what life was like here in the past,” especially when urban development has rapidly replaced many historic buildings. After the current interior renovation is complete, the house will be used as a museum.
Another attraction at Big Rock Park Central is the Heritage Garden, which is being maintained by the Sammamish Botanical Garden Society (SBGS).
SBGS designed the garden to be as authentic as possible to what a pioneer settler on the plateau would have grown in the 19th century.
“[House owners] did not have a good vitamin diet because of the limited scientific knowledge at that time. What they ate was either from hunting or planted themselves,” said Lena Wegner, the researcher and co-chair of the Heritage Garden project. “And we’re trying to show that in the Heritage Garden.”
SBGS members planted many species that are native to the state of Washington, including fruiting trees, vegetables, and shrubs. There are three herb beds—culinary, medicinal, and mixed—to ensure the variety and abundance of the plants. A part of the mixed bed was also designated to host plants grown by Native Americans, including corn, beans and squash.
“Part of our goal is to educate the general public about the importance and influence of plant diversity and their role in the health of our community and the world in general,” said Steve Marple, who designed the pollinator bed of the garden.
Since the majority of the plants grown in the garden are edible, the Heritage Garden also donates the produce. They have given over 100 pounds of food to the Issaquah Food Bank, according to SBGS member Sarah Cheng.
Big Rock Park Central is now open to the public from 6:30 a.m. to dusk. For more information about visiting the new park, please go here.