Saturday, September 10, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hard work for history

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Eastside Heritage Center

Winters House

2102 Bellevue Way S.E., Bellevue; McDowell House, 11660 Main St., Bellevue.

Volunteer opportunities

Hosts at Winters House, collections and research assistant, oral history assistant, data entry, office and special events.


To donate items, including photographs, home movies or papers, call 425-450-1049.


$25 individual, $15 student/seniors, $40 family. (Additional levels of membership include friend, steward, sponsor and benefactor at $100, $250, $500 and $1,000.) For an application, call 425-450-1049 or go to

Heather Trescases followed the classic advice about finding a job in the field of her dreams. She volunteered.

After three years of donating her services, Trescases became the Eastside Heritage Center's permanent executive director last week. "I think it will be a great fit," said the 27-year-old Bellevue woman. "History is what gets me excited."

Stu VanderHoek, president of the center, agrees about the fit.

"We did look around at other people, but Heather's history with us and her background and network in the heritage community were ideal," he said.

The job comes with tremendous challenges.

Eastside Heritage Center was formed in 2001 when the Bellevue Historical Society and the Marymoor Museum of Eastside History merged. Almost before the ink dried on the merger, the group received an eviction notice from King County to vacate Clise Mansion in Marymoor Park.

Its collection of 35,000 artifacts has been in storage nearly three years, at a cost of almost $50,000 a year — about a third of the center's $150,000 annual budget.

Funds come from the membership base of 375, donations, bequests and grants. A volunteer board of directors oversees the nonprofit center.

Currently the center operates out of two city of Bellevue facilities: the McDowell House and the Winters House. Both are historic properties. There is some display space in the Winters House, but the McDowell House is strictly office and research space.

"A museum is our ultimate goal, but it's not happening tomorrow," Trescases said. "We need to build our membership base just to continue to exist."

A Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Trescases earned a master's degree in public history from the University of Waterloo in Ontario in 2002. While completing her master's program, she worked as a policy analyst for the Canadian government.

She and her husband moved to the Eastside in 2002 for his job at Microsoft. Because she did not have a work permit, she could only volunteer.

After she had put in just a few hours as a volunteer research assistant at the Heritage Center, the main research volunteer became ill — the same day the committee working on Bellevue's 50th anniversary celebration was to begin research on a book.

"It was my crash course in where things were, and I've been going strong ever since," Trescases said.

She volunteered to sit at the information booth for the group's 2003 Strawberry Festival and ended up being the co-coordinator for 2004 and 2005. She has worked tirelessly in research and archival preservation.

Trescases plans to continue the slow process of digitizing the group's collection of 10,000 photographs. One of her first goals is to set up mini-museum displays in storefronts. Other plans include increasing public exposure by providing historical programs to other organizations and events, building a larger volunteer base and developing corporate sponsorships to get historical presentations into schools.

"You should see the looks on the kids' faces when we let them grind corn or try our canning machine," she said. "You can make history as fun as any carnival game. Any hands-on activity gets people involved in what life used to be like here."

Trescases herself has been known to dress in period costumes at community events. She'll do so later this month when she takes a historical display to the Bellevue Farmers Market on Sept. 22.

To Trescases, it's one more opportunity to increase the public's awareness of local history.

"People say it here, and we Canadians say it — oh, we have no history," Trescases said. "But yesterday was history. Recent past is history. History gives us a sense of belonging to a place, of being attached."

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or

Heather Trescases

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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