Mercer Island is both a city and an island in King County and sits on Lake Washington between Bellevue and Seattle. It is about 5 miles long and 2 miles wide and is the most populated island sitting on a lake in the United States. It is also one of the most expensive zip codes in America. Settled in the late 1800's and originally known as East Seattle, Mercer Island has gone from a small vacation town served by ferry boats to a thriving bedroom community of approximately 24,000.
Although it sits between two major metropolitan centers, the island itself has a rather laid back atmosphere. The downtown area is located on the north end of the island near interstate 90 and consists of independent shops, a grocery store, restaurants, apartments, condos and a few corporate office scattered here and there. The remainder of the island is residential with a small shopping area at the south end.
The best place to live on Mercer Island depends on your preference for light, views and proximity to the freeway.
The west side of the island along West Mercer Way tends to have the most light and will often have views of the lake, the I-90 bridge (pretty if you aren't close enough to it to hear the noise) and Seattle. Because it faces west, it receives the most late afternoon sun and is the place to live if you enjoy sunsets.
On the opposite side of the island is East Mercer along which runs East Mercer Way. This side of the island tends to be more treed and therefore a bit darker. It receives the morning instead of the evening light and the views will be to the east. if you are in to water sports, this side of the island tends to be calmer.
The interior of the Island is bisected by Island Crest Way and consists of many older neighborhoods. Homes may or may not have views, depending on the elevation but most do not. Island Crest Park and Pioneer Park are located along this route and provide areas for walking trails and sports fields. Luther Burbank Park, at the north end of the island has waterfront and dog park.
For mid-century modern home aficionados, Mercer Island is a treasure trove of homes. Some of the greatest architects of the 50's and 60's such as Fred Bassetti, Wendell Lovett, Paul Hayden Kirk and Ralph Anderson designed homes and buildings on the island. Paul Thiry was the architect for the unique Mercer Island Presbyterian Church. Additionally, many newer modern and contemporary homes have been built on the island and Mercer Island probably has the densest area of modern architecture on the Eastside. If you don't like modern, don't fret, there are many traditional homes to be found as well.
The Mercer Island School District currently oversees six schools on the island, one high school, one alternative high school, a middle school and three elementary schools. Currently a fourth elementary school is under construction at the north end of the island and is scheduled to open in the 2016-17 school year. According to the Mercer Island School District website, the district consistently ranks highest in the state in achievement scores for all school levels.
Mercer Island is generally a bedroom community but it does have a small downtown area with local restaurants such as Bennett's, The Roanoake Inn and the Islander. For more dining and entertainment you can hop over to either downtown Bellevue or downtown Seattle in a jiff.
Being surrounded by water certainly lends itself to boating, kayaking and paddle boarding however you can also take horseback riding lessons at the Mercer Island Saddle Club, play tennis at the Mercer Island Country Club or take a leisurely walk through one of the many parks on the island.
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