From the lead paragraph in the Tacoma Daily Ledger’s 1889 Newspaper, promoting the sale of land in what became Lake City. “The Lake City Land Co. will offer for sale on and After May 1, 1889 lots in their Beautiful Suburban Townsite, Lake City on American Lake. The Tacoma & Lake City Railroad and Navigation Company have placed on the Lake a steamer and a fleet of row and sailboats and have commenced grading the Narrow Gauge Railroad from Tacoma to the Lake. For prices and particulars apply to: Ross & Naubert, 1001 A Street or Smith, Root & Jordan, 919 Pacific Avenue.”
Lake City, one of two communities in the state with that name: one’s north of Seattle; the other is right off Washington Boulevard; is marking a milestone in its history in May.
Along with Washington State, which officially became a state on Nov. 11, 1889, Lake City—founded six months earlier—also is celebrating that important date. Although it was just one of several areas around the Lakes District intended to become a city—it never did achieve that goal.
Like Lakeview, Custer, and Tillicum, Lake City today is a City of Lakewood Neighborhood—still, this upcoming occasion is all the more reason to learn about its history.
Back in the days when Tacoma entrepreneurs were casting their eyes toward the future of American Lake (one of the area’s dozen glacier-formed lakes), one enterprising gentleman bought ads in newspapers around the U.S., promoting the development of the area.
His name? Allen C. Mason—a man renowned in local northwest history for his many enterprises, from trolleys, to libraries, to land deals.
On the First of May in 1889, Mr. Mason and his supporters arrived in an area that was to become Lake City. An early edition of the Tacoma Daily Ledger carried that story. A Steam Yacht, named Lake City, was christened that afternoon with a bottle of Mumm’s Extra Dry Champagne. Even though the bottle was clumsily broken by Mason’s young daughter, Allen C. (the man who a few years later went to Egypt, and sent back a Mummy to Tacoma; but that’s another story) grabbed a glass and salvaged the remaining bubbly. He is reported to have tossed the empty bottle in the lake!!
(Do you suppose it’s still there?)
The boat ride’s purpose (50 cents per person) was to entice people to purchase property around the lake for homes. American Lake hotel was built nearby. One Tacoma businessman, Albert Abner Silcox, may have gotten the best deal when he purchased the 13-acre island that’s just off shore from American Lake Park in 1904 for $350!
Tacoma banker Chester Thorne built his home on the opposite side of the lake. Bill’s Boathouse—originally Garrison’s Resort—began in the 20s. In the 1940s, Dick White and Jim Hammond began a seaplane operation nearby …and so much more.
Mr. Mason’s dreams about Lake City, as was the case with many early communities established around the area, never materialized. It was a good idea, though, and might have succeeded if only the railroads hadn’t over-extended their plans in those days. Nevertheless, Lake City and neighboring Tillicum, as well as , Fort Lewis, Camp Murray and the Country Club areas, have done nicely for themselves.
If you’re a Lakewood (or Lakewood neighborhood resident) consider visiting Lake City this year. There’s a great city park just off Veteran’s Drive.
Lake City landmarks include:
- Lake City Elementary School, Lake City Community Church, Lakeside Country Club,
- Lake City Community Clubhouse, White’s Seaplane Base (later owned by Bob McMahon), Lake City Business District, American Lake VA Hospital
More information about Lake City and Tillicum, its nearby city across the Lake is the topic of a history book, scheduled for publication in September. Copies will be available from The History Press of South Carolina.
Lake City Trivia – The following states all have communities named Lake City:
- Minnesota (founded in 1680)
- S. Carolina
- S. Dakota
- Washington (2)
More information about Lake City and other Lakewood communities is available at the Lakewood Historical Museum, located at the Lakewood Colonial Center, 6211 Mt. Tacoma Dr., S.W.
The museum is open from Noon to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Phone 253-682-4380.