This coming November—Nov. 11, 2014, to be exact—Washington State will commemorate its 125th anniversary.
Lake City, one of two communities in the state with that name –one’s north of Seattle—the other is a few blocks off Washington Boulevard—also marks its 125th anniversary year.
Among all the dates folks are expected to remember: anniversaries, birthdays, national holidays, etc., it’s not surprising this one is likely to slip by with little notice. Still, if you’re a Lakewood-area resident, you might be curious about the origins of a small community on the West Side of American Lake.
This Lake’s formation, according to knowledgeable hydrologists and geologists, began about 14,000 years ago when a mile-high glacier covered the area. Eventually, the glacier receded, creating not only a dozen lakes in this region, but also Puget Sound, and much of the unique Pacific Northwest landscape.
Jump ahead, though, specifically to after the Americans formally settled the area in the 19th century.
Shortly after Tacoma, promoted as the “City of Destiny” came into being, Tacoma entrepreneurs began casting their eyes around for development ideas. American Lake was one of the areas ripe for development.
Enter Allen C. Mason, a man known for his various contributions to his adopted city, from trolleys to libraries, to land deals and more, grabbed headlines in the Tacoma Daily Ledger, encouraging residents to purchase land around the lake. Anything Mason did usually was done with a great splash.
On May 1, 1889 Mason and his supporters arrived in an area that was to become Lake City. A Tacoma Daily Ledger article published the news about the enterprise. A Steam Yacht, named Lake City, was christened 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 traveled to Egypt, and sent back a Mummy to Tacoma: but that’s another story) grabbed a glass and salvaged the remaining bubbly—tossing the empty bottle in the lake!
The purpose of that steam launch was to provide a cruise around the lake, for 50 cents apiece, and entice people to purchase property around the lake for home sites. A hotel was built nearby.
Albert Abner Silcox purchased the 13-acre island, just offshore, in 1904 for $350! Dick White and Jim Hammond began a seaplane operation here…and so much more.
Lake City’s dreams, like those of so many early communities established around the area—Lakeview, Custer and others—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 Camp Murray and the Country Club areas, have done nicely for themselves.
Those who are interested in local history should take note of a few Lake City landmarks, including the:
- Lake City Elementary School
- Lake City Community Church
- Lakeside Country Club
- Lake City Community Clubhouse
- The Seaplane Base, originally sited at American Lake Park
- Lake City Business District
- American Lake VA Hospital
…perhaps Mason’s champagne bottle is still in the lake!
The city “that never was” is worth a visit, especially in this, its 125th year. Visit Lakewood Historical Museum’s Lake City History Display later this summer.
More information about Lake City and Tillicum, its sister city across the Lake, can be found in a history book scheduled for publication in September. Lake City resident/writer Nancy Covert began the history project in 2012, and copies of the book, published by History Press of South Carolina, will be available at that time.
Covert, a South Sound resident since 1991, has co-authored several books about area history, including “Steilacoom Historical School District No. 1: 150 years of Educating Steilacoom Students” and “Mrs. Orr’s Pear Tree.”