Beaver Lake on the Sammamish Plateau

  • By Phil Dougherty
  • Posted 2/19/2006
  • Essay 7615
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In the early twentieth century, loggers cleared the area around Beaver Lake on the Sammamish Plateau. Settlers soon discovered the recreational possibilities for the lake. Resorts thrived on Beaver Lake from the 1930s through the 1950s. After 1960, development slowly transformed Beaver Lake into another picturesque Seattle suburb.

Like so many other places on the Sammamish Plateau, Beaver Lake got its start from logging. Early in the twentieth century the Eastside lumber magnate Bratnober Lumber Company owned the land on the west end of the lake, and Weyerhaeuser Company owned the land around the east and south end. Between 1910 and 1920 both companies began actively logging around the lake. 

Bratnober’s operation shipped its logs to the mill in Monohon (near today’s East Lake Sammamish Blvd and SE 33rd Street); Weyerhaeuser logs went to the Snoqualmie Mill.

The logs were sorted in the millpond on the far eastern side of the lake, then inventoried and recorded in a nearby tally shack owned by Weyerhaeuser. The logs were next floated to a nearby spot, still on the far eastern side of the lake, where a spur of the railroad tracks went right into the lake. Here there was a clever setup for loading the heavy logs onto the railroad cars. The railroad car was parked underwater on the tracks and the logs were floated to the car and secured. From there the logs were shipped to the mills.

Bratnober cleared the west side of Beaver Lake before Weyerhaeuser cleared the east side. Thus the first scattered development on the lake was on the west side, probably around 1920. The first permanent residents on the lake were Jake and Nora Lott, who came from Vancouver, B.C.  The Lotts had a cabin west of present-day West Beaver Lake Drive, and by 1922 were renting boats to fishermen. They also operated a small store and dance hall. By the mid-1920s the Beaver Lake Amusement Park owned land on the southwest shore of the lake, but it is unknown whether there was an amusement park actually built there. If there was, it was gone by the early 1930s,  but there seems to be no evidence that an amusement park was actually built.

In the 1930s, more summerhouses began springing up along the west side of the lake, including a community known as “the Colony,” located near the south shore.  In 1932 Gus and Lulu Bartels bought a large piece of waterfront land on the southwest shore and established the Four Seasons Resort, also known as Bartel’s Resort. Jake Lott built or helped to build 15 cabins for the resort (including a new cabin for himself in 1937 after his first cabin burned). Many of the cabins were nicely decorated with rented Frederick & Nelson furniture. Around 1936 the Four Seasons Lodge was built on the lake.

The Four Seasons Resort also had small rental cabins and the Prescott family of Seattle spent several summers there in the late 1930s.  “The cabins were small,” recalled Charlotte Prescott Marsden of Beaver Lake.  “As I remember it they were just one large room with knotty pine walls. There were cots in the room to sleep on. There may have been a place to cook on the side of the room” (Interview).

Marsden fondly recalled summer outings at the lake in 1938 and 1939. “There was fishing and rowboats, of course, but there were also primitive paddle boats there. They were so low that you mostly rode in the water; only your head and chest stayed above water” (Interview). Tennis was another option offered at the resort if you preferred to stay on land.

The year 1939 was a pivotal year for Beaver Lake. Bratnober completed his logging operations on the west side of the lake by the late 1930s, and closed his Monohon mill in September 1939.  Meanwhile, Weyerhaeuser likewise completed its logging operations on the east side of the lake about this time and in April 1939 platted its Beaver Lake property on the east shore of the lake for residential and recreational use. Beaver Lake was now open for use and development, and in June 1939 the Red Cross Aquatic and Life Saving School held the first of many training schools at the Four Seasons Resort.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Bartel’s Resort was the place to be on weekends and in the summer. “It was great,” remarked Connie Del Missier of Mercer Island, who attended many a dance and summer event at Bartel’s resort during this time. “Everybody who went to high school in Seattle in the 40s and early 50s went to dances at Beaver Lake.”

“And in those days it was really going out in the country,” she added. “We called one road ‘whoopee road’ because it was like riding a rollercoaster” (Interview).  "Whoopee Road" was 228th Avenue SE, between SE 24th and today’s Issaquah-Pine Lake Road.

In July 1950 Dick (Andy) and Ruth Anderson took over operation of the resort and renamed it Andy’s Beaver Lake Resort, more typically known as Andy’s. Although records indicate that the purchase was not completed until 1956, Anderson actually ran the resort under the name Andy’s for six years prior to 1956.  Andy’s continued the dances, and “they were big” recalled Charlotte Marsden, who attended dances there between 1948 and 1950. Marsden added, “Quincy Jones was in my graduating class” (Garfield High School, 1950) “and his band played at our dances” (Interview).

In 1960 Anderson sold the resort to the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle for use by the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). The CYO established a youth camp there called Camp Cabrini. Camp Cabrini operated until 1985, when King County purchased the site for a park, now known as Beaver Lake Park.

But what may have been lost once the resorts were gone was made up by the work of the Beaver Lake Community Club, formed in 1955.  Ruth Shearer, now of Lacey, first moved to Beaver Lake in 1965 and fondly spoke of some of the activities the club put on. “The Beaver Lake Regatta (held every summer in July or August) was a big community event,” she said. “In the mornings there would be boat races around the southern end of the lake. There were canoe races, sailboat races, but no motorboats. There was also a raft race, but this was more for artistry.  Swimming races were in the afternoon” (Interview).

Beaver Lake now (2006) has the Beaver Lake Triathalon, usually held the third Saturday in August. It begins with a short swimming race, followed by a bike race and ending with a foot race.

The Beaver Lake Community Club was also instrumental in bringing good public roads to Beaver Lake.  Although a version of SE 24th from Pine Lake to the west end of Beaver Lake had been built by the early 1920s, only a few scattered roads served the east side of the lake for many years and those roads were bad.  In the 1960s, the Beaver Lake Community Club teamed up with the Issaquah School District and had King County build and improve the roads on the east side. By 1970 Beaver Lake also had its own water district and fire station.

Limited residential development began around Beaver Lake about 1960, though Shearer recalled Beaver Lake in 1965 with still more summer cabins than permanent homes. Development increased in the 1970s and the rural resort of Beaver Lake soon disappeared into another interesting chapter of Sammamish history.

Sources: This article is a reprint of Phil Dougherty's "The History Behind Beaver Lake," Sammamish Review, December 7, 2005, p. 21-22. It is reprinted here with the permission of the Sammamish Review. Ruth Shearer, Beaver Lake Stewardship Handbook (Peggy Baschen, 1994), p. 1-8; Sammamish Heritage Society, White Paper no. 19, May 2005; Phil Dougherty interview of Connie DelMissier, October 27 and 30, 2005, Mercer Island, Washington; Phil Dougherty interview of Charlotte Marsden, January 15, 2006, Sammamish, Washington; Phil Dougherty interview of Ruth Shearer, October 26 and 30, 2005, Lacey, Washington; Phil Dougherty interviews of Ruth Anderson, Doug Anderson, Judi Anderson and Lori Lenshaw, May 13 and 19, 2007, Sammamish, Washington. 
Note: This essay was revised slightly on June 17, 2007.

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