Kemper Freeman Sr.

If you are from Washington, especially from Bellevue, you may know this name. Kemper Freeman Sr. is the man who is given credit for building Bellevue square and starting the economic prosperity that we know Bellevue has today. Kemper Freeman Jr. Is the current owner of Bellevue square.

Now, I love going to Bellevue square, I love the mall, I like Bellevue, but it’s hard going there and not thinking about the history. Often Kemper Freeman Sr. Is painted as this great man. Without him Bellevue would not be the city it is today. He is a business god some may say.

But, I see him in a different light. It turns out that Bellevue square, and most of Bellevue, is built on strawberry fields. Well what’s wrong with that you may ask? What’s wrong is that these fields belonged to Japanese Americans. Freeman did not get these fields in an honorable way. It was not a fair transaction. He might as well have gotten the fields for free.

He “purchased” these fields from Japanese Americans who were being forced into internment camps during WWII. He got the fields for basically nothing. The Japanese Americans who owned these farms really were pushed into a corner. They had no choice. If I remember correctly Freeman may have even told them that once they were out of the camps he would sell them the farms back to them. (This I need to confirm later)

So, Freeman started to build bellevue square right on top of these strawberry fields and his family continues to prosper off of it. While the Japanese Americans who lost their way of life got to be thrown in a camp. To add to all of this, it turns out that Freeman sr. was also the head of the local anti-Japanese league that was actually known as the ani-Jap league of course. Ouch

Bellevue city does have a Strawberry festival every summer as a reminder of the history of bellevue, but this doesn’t seem to do much to educate the public.