By Nancy Covert
(An excerpt from a 1959 Lakewood Log editorial)
The Lakes District’s largest Lake, American Lake, might have been named Lake Britannica, according to the speculation of the Lakewood Log Publisher Charles Mann. Fortunately, in the “diplomatic victory gained by the United States in the Treaty of 1846, the boundary between Britain (now Canada) and America was established at the 49th Parallel, and all that remains of the British presence is the now-historic Ft. Nisqually located at Pt. Defiance.
Mann’s editorial continues with a description of early aspirations for Lake City:
“Then in 1889, Lake City, Washington Territory was platted. It came into being as a main line railroad, but Fate decided otherwise.
The Lake City Land Co., headed by Frank C. Ross, C. A. E. Naubert and Fremont Campbell offered lots for sale at $50 to $100. They advertised about carriages always ready to show this property. The Tacoma and Lake City Land and Navigation Company was formed, and a railroad built between North Union and 26th St. and run through Oakland, Flett, Park Lodge and Sherwood to Lake City.
The road was Standard Gauge because they planned to continue the line from American Lake to the Sound and down through Olympia to Oregon. The approaches to the bridge that later became the Interstate auto bridge were no sooner built than they were sold to Union Pacific. In the meantime work progressed on the grade toward the Sound in 1890, and laborers were paid from $2 to $3 per day. The railroad had a good summer. The railroad charged passengers 50 cents for each run. Lake City became a popular resort, and many Sundays the cars were full, and people rode on the brake beams. There was a dance hall, a wharf and a boathouse. The Company had placed a steamer, “the Lake City” a 50-passenger boat, and a fleet of sail and rowboats on the lake.
In 1892 there were about 100 residents in Lake City. But Hard Times came, and the Panic of 1893, and the Union Pacific went into the hands of Receivers. The railroads continued to operate until 1897 when the rails were taken up. For a decade Lake City ceased to be a suburb of Tacoma. Then Pacific Traction Company built a track from South Tacoma to Lake City and ran electric cars. The place again became a popular resort, with huge crowds on Sundays. There was a privately owned amusement park, with a merry-go-round, swings and a policeman on duty. Lots were again in demand. There were a couple of general stores, a dance hall or two, a laundry at one time, and Martin’s Boathouse. The Lake City Church was started in 1922.
The US Government had leased a site on American Lake south for military maneuvers (Camp Murray) for many years. When the land was taken over for Ft. Lewis, during WW I many of the farmers moved to Lake City. After the VA Hospital was built in 1922 many of the employees made their homes in the vicinity. Then late in the 30s things started to boom. Since 1945 the population has gained at a faster rate.
Lake City School District No. 314 was organized in 1892. At first there was one room and one teacher. A new school was built in 1914. There were 40 pupils, but it could accommodate 120. The bell was taken to the new school. When the Army took over Camp Lewis, the little town of Hillhurst had to go. In 1921, members of the newly organized Community House paid to have a bell hauled from Hillhurst School. The school had been built in 1889, and it was said that the bell came round the Horn. To this day, residents of Lake City are proud of the bell.”