On Sunday, April 5, 1970, the Federal Way 320th Library is opened and dedicated. The new 10,000-square-foot library at 848 S 320th Street replaces a small library that has been located since 1956 in the Federal Shopping Way mall a few blocks away. The $440,000 brick structure is funded by a 1966 King County Library System (KCLS) bond issue and federal matching funds. After fire destroys the library in 1975, it will be re-built in 1976 and serve the community for more than 35 years before KCLS opens a new 15,000-square-foot Federal Way 320th Library on the same site.
Federal Way's Early Libraries
The southwest King County community that came to be known as Federal Way after federal Highway 99 was built through the area in the 1920s opened its first library in 1944 in the old Steel Lake Elementary schoolhouse, which had been built in 1893 at 28th Avenue S and South 312th Street. In 1948, the library moved into Machlett's Variety Store, owned by Harold M. (1905-1958) and Catherine M. (1917-1969) Machlett. In 1956, the library moved to the Federal Shopping Way mall, where it was located in one of several old log cabins in the mall's Historic Park area. The building was expanded by 172 square feet in 1957, but by 1961 the community had outgrown the library.
When its Federal Way branch opened a new building, Peoples National Bank donated the old bank building, a 28-by-38-foot structure on the northwest corner of Pacific Highway S and S 312th Street, to the library board. The building was moved to the Federal Shopping Way in 1961 and the library moved in. A $6 million KCLS bond issue that voters approved in 1966 included funding for a new library in Federal Way, one of the fastest growing communities in King County. Less than four years later, the new Federal Way 320th Library was ready.
The $440,000, 10,000-square-foot Federal Way 320th Library opened on Sunday, April 5, 1970 at 848 S 320th Street to a crowd of enthusiastic visitors. The community finally had a new library building with enough space and books. The library had room for 40,000 books, periodicals, records, and other items. It also offered special reference materials and was open longer hours and had more staff than the previous library.
At the dedication ceremony, the Invocation was given by Reverend Edwin Q. Hurd of Steel Lake Presbyterian Church. Boy Scout Troop No. 70 and the Color Guard of Mirror Lake led a "Presentation of Colors." Principal Frederick W. Root (1908-1990) of Federal Way High School served as M.C., and the school's Madrigal Choir performed. Archie Satterfield, an assistant editor at The Seattle Times, delivered the dedication address, in which he called libraries "reservoirs of human experience" and pointed out that all writers depended on libraries, stating:
"[A]s a writer, I wish to say, Thank You to those responsible for this new structure. More than 100 regional books were published last year and I am happy to say that fiction is coming back. I think it is a welcome relief from data statistics. The Northwest has never had one great writer and we haven't produced a novelist. Perhaps it is because we are still too young to have a set society which it takes to produce such a book. Most writers in the Pacific Northwest are women. The reason for it is probably that men must spend most of their time working to support their families. I'm glad to see the feminist movement, though let's put the women to work. The men can stay home, do the house work, put a cake in the oven, then sit down at their typewriters and do some writing' ("Public Library Dedicated ...").
Officials of the J .D. Stewart Construction Company presented the brick building to Clark Teegarden, project engineer of Bindon, Wright & Partners, who in turn presented the keys to the building to Mrs. Richard A. McMullin, Chair of the KCLS Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Durwood Cook, Chair of the Federal Way Library Board. KCLS Director Herbert F. Mutschler (1919-2001) introduced KCLS staff to the crowd and thanked the citizens for their support of the library system and, in particular, for approving the 1966 KCLS bond that funded construction of the new library and the materials to stock it.
Harold Watkins, a former member of the Federal Way Library Board, introduced the current board members and noted that many of them were instrumental in building support for the bond issue that made the new library possible. The board members included Mrs. Durwood Cook, Robert Perry, Robert Lockwood, Algie Martinson, Don Alexander, Muriel Haegele, Elsie Honebrink, Frances Murray, and Donald Simpson. The board members thanked local organizations such as the PTA, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts, and many others for their support of the library.
Four years after it opened, in 1975, the library was destroyed by a fire set by two 14-year-old students from Sacajawea Junior High who tossed a lighted box of matches into the bookdrop one night. The library was rebuilt and it reopened on May 23, 1976. Over the next 36 years the library remained a community center for the area's increasingly diverse population, providing multiple resources on a huge variety of subjects. The original building was demolished in 2012 and in 2013, after a year of construction, KCLS opened a new 15,000-square-foot Federal Way 320th Library on the same site.