Sammamish In The 1960's

SAMMAMISH IN THE ‘60s

 

No, there wasn’t a Sammamish in the 1960s, and wouldn’t be for decades yet.  But by the ‘60s there had been settlement for 80 years in what would become Sammamish, and by this time the Plateau had a history, first as a logger’s paradise, then as a resort paradise. However, in the 1960s many of the resorts would disappear and the Plateau would see the first hints of urbanization, which would eventually lead to the Sammamish we now know half a century later.

In 1960 what little development there was on the Plateau were ranches, farms, summer homes, and the resorts; the Plateau’s population was perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 people. But change was edging in from the south. The Sunny Hills Development was under construction as the decade began, first as a motley collection of dirt roads (loved by teenagers for dirt driving and parking) and soon followed by streets and houses. If you wanted to get there from Issaquah, you took Vaughn’s Hill Road (now SE Issaquah-Fall City Road) up from East Lake Sammamish Road.  SE 43rd Way, today’s primary southern access to the Plateau, wasn’t there in the ‘60s. 

Sunny Hills was the first development in Sammamish, but it didn’t really resemble today’s new developments. The lots were larger -- an acre and a quarter to two and a half acres -- while the houses were smaller than most new houses built here today. Jim Dilorenzo moved to SE 32nd Street in the Sunny Hills Development early in 1965 and quips “I had to pay an outrageous price for one and a quarter acres -- $3,600. The [cost to build the] house was $15,700; it was a rambler. It came out to about $11 a square foot.” (In 2010 dollars that equates to about $25,000 for the lot and $107,000 for the house.) Meanwhile, to handle the influx of families moving into the area, Sunny Hills Elementary, the first modern school on the Plateau, was built in 1962. 

And despite the development, Sunny Hills was still far more rural than it is today, with nearby swamps and woods and all kinds of trails for bike riders.  Since there were more woods and less people, there was more wildlife. This included chipmunks, which would sometimes visit Dilorenzo’s home for a snack. “We would hold our hand out the rec room window and shake our cup of cracked wheat, and they would come up to our cup and eat right out of it,” recalls Dilorenzo’s daughter Barbara Brueske.

Pine Lake Resort
Pine Lake Resort (Frenchy's), c.1958

Northeast of Sunny Hills, the southwestern edge of Beaver Lake featured Andy’s Beaver Lake Resort, which had flourished since the 1930s. But 1960 was its last year. Owner Dick Anderson sold the resort, and its small brown lodge burned down soon after. The site subsequently experienced the 1960s as a Catholic Youth Organization camp called Camp Cabrini. Farther to the west, the Pine Lake Resort -- more commonly called Frenchy’s, in a nod to Reiff French, who ran the resort from 1932 to 1957 -- lasted longer into the 1960s. And even in its final season it was still going strong, attracting happy swimmers who raced against swimmers from other area lakes. When Frenchy’s closed after the 1966 season King County bought the site, and by the end of 1969 had largely transformed it into Pine Lake Park, albeit a somewhat different version of the park we know today. 

Sadliers Store
Sadlier's, 1949 (but building looked this way through the 1960s)

About a quarter mile south of the entrance to Frenchy’s on 228th SE stood a grocery store.  It started the ‘60s as Braden’s, but by the mid-1960s was Stafford’s. About 1968 Joe Sadlier bought the place and renamed it Sadlier’s.  The store was a popular place that became even more popular once Sadlier bought it, maybe because Sadlier added a meat market to the store (in the early ‘70s) or maybe because of Sadlier himself, a gregarious man who during the Christmas season might invite some of his better customers into his store’s back room for a festive holiday drink. But he was no pushover -- he banned at least one smart-mouthed teenager from his store after she mouthed off to him.

Among Sadlier’s customers was an older couple who often rode their horses along the Plateau’s roads, accompanied by a sandy brown terrier riding its own horse.  “I had to do a double take when I first saw it,” says Dilorenzo. “The dog just stood up on that horse.  I’ve got to tell you, it was a strange looking sight.”  Others remember the equestrian dog too; actually, it seems to have left quite an impression. And if the dog ever visited Sadlier’s, there was a hitching post out front for him to tie up his horse.

Farther to the north on 228th, another Plateau icon disappeared in the 1960s:  the Sween (pronounced “Swinn”) Poultry Farm. In operation since 1914 and located just southwest of today’s intersection of SE 4th Street and 228th Avenue SE, the farm had been a steadily growing enterprise that during the ‘50s had processed as many as half a million fryer chickens a year in one of the largest such operations in the state. But owner Bill Sween retired in 1965, closed down his operations, and parceled the land out.

But even as some old icons disappeared during the ‘60s, new ones arose. One was the High Lonesome Ranch, located just east of 244th Avenue NE, about a quarter mile south of NE 8th Street.  In 1960 Chris Klineburger bought the 50 acres that became the ranch, and within a year or so had built a “frontier town” to provide people with an authentic Western experience. There was a saloon there, as well as a bunkhouse, a working blacksmith shop, and horse rentals, where people just could rent a horse and explore the countryside.

And there was plenty to explore. In 1965 Klineburger established the High Lonesome Riders club, and its members often took long horseback rides through the wooded Valhalla that was then the Plateau.  In the 1960s 228th Avenue NE ended at the intersection of Inglewood Hill Road, but that wasn’t a problem for the riders who were looking to go north through the area where Sahalee Way is today. Explains Klineburger, “There was a dirt road that went up the hill [north from Inglewood Hill Road] to an old boy scout camp. There was nothing left of the camp but a clearing. There was a horse trail from the camp that dropped down to the Redmond-Fall City Road -- it might have been an old logging road. We’d ride down that road to the Redmond-Fall City Road and ride into Redmond that way. We didn’t like taking 244th [then the northern access route to the Plateau] because we had to ride on the [main] road all the way.”

Inglewood Grammer School
Inglewood Grammar School, 1960s

Back at the intersection of Inglewood Hill Road and 228th Avenue NE, the old Inglewood Grammar School, built in the first half of the 1890s, stood on the northeast corner, roughly where the 76 station is today. Long since abandoned by the ‘60s, the old schoolhouse survived through the decade and into the next, a silent sentinel to a far earlier time, before it eventually collapsed sometime around the mid-‘70s. There was a small mink farm behind the old schoolhouse (on NE 8th Street) for a period of time that probably included the early ‘60s, but little else is presently known about it.

Sammaish 1960 Aerial View
Aerial view of northern end of the Plateau, later home to Sahalee, 1965

Up until the late 1960s, most of the Plateau’s development had been on its southern half, with the exception of the area on and near Weber’s Point, which had been home to the small community of Sammamish in the early twentieth century. But by the ‘60s there was only a wide scatter of farms north of Inglewood Hill Road and NE 8th Street; most of the area was just woods. So it was a bit of a surprise when in 1967 it was announced that a 27-hole golf course and development named Sahalee would be built in a forested area on the northern end of the Plateau.  The first 18 holes opened in August 1969, while construction of the rest of the course stretched into 1970. But even as the decade ended, most of the development in Sahalee centered around the golf course. Some houses had been built, but further development was coming to a screeching halt that would last for several years thanks to the Boeing Bust.

Along Lake Sammamish, near today’s SE 33rd Street, the Monohon mill was still operating, though it was a shadow of the large operation it had been in the early decades of the century. Farther south, near the southern end of today’s Sammamish city limits, was Alexander’s Beach Resort. In existence since 1917 and long a favorite for many Eastsiders (and some Seattleites), the resort remained a big draw through the 1960s, though visitors to the resort after the Alexander / Ek family sold the property in 1966 suggest that it wasn’t quite the same.

And there was another significant development on the Plateau in the 1960s.  In 1961 the Providence Heights College of Sister Formation opened on the southern end of the Plateau at 4221 228th Avenue SE.  Yes, that’s actually in Issaquah, but just barely -- you can walk across 228th Avenue SE from the entrance to the old campus and be in Sammamish. It merits a mention here because of its impact on Sammamish; this college and its successor, Trinity Lutheran College, provided a number of jobs for Plateau area residents over the next half century.

The college offered liberal arts degrees to women training to become nuns. It opened in June 1961, and “most people were very enthused with it,” recalls Jane Forbes, who in the 1960s lived on 212th Avenue SE near Barker’s Store. But the college was profoundly affected by the social changes of the ‘60s, and closed before the decade ended. A 1968 article in the Spokane Daily Chronicle announcing the closing probably explains it best:

“The college became obsolete after the second Vatican council
recommended sisters in training remain in contact with society.
It was built when the emphasis for sisters-to-be was on a strong
educational program coupled with withdrawal from the secular
world.”

The college closed in June 1969 and served as a conference center for nearly a decade. In 1978 the Lutheran Bible Institute (later Trinity Lutheran College) purchased the site and also agreed to dedicate a portion of the property to senior housing, which led to the development of Issaquah’s Providence Point.  Trinity Lutheran College stayed until 2008, and today the location is home to the City Church.

Still more rural than urban as the decade ended (the Plateau’s population in 1969 was less than 5,000), Sammamish in the ‘60s is remembered with great fondness by practically everyone I’ve talked to who was then here.  Granted that good memories look even better with time, and Sammamish is still a wonderful place to live. But there was a closer, more familiar feeling here then that isn’t here now.  Patty Gorman explains, “Overall it was very rural and laid back.  It wasn’t the speed people go today,” while Gary Lachance adds, “Everybody kind of knew everybody.  It was more like a family atmosphere.” Mark Powell, who was a youth growing up on Pine Lake in the mid and late 1960s, sums it up this way: “It was just a neat place to grow up. It couldn’t have been more fun.”  Yet in the ‘60s change was edging onto the Plateau, and most recognized that bigger change would eventually follow. Says Jane Forbes, “We always knew we couldn’t stay rural because we were too close to Seattle.  But it’s so interesting to see how things have developed. I just can’t believe it.”

Phil Dougherty
February 8, 2010

Sources:  “Beaver Lake,” “Klineburger Brothers -- High Lonesome Ranch,” “Sadlier’s Store,”  “Sahalee,” and “Sammamish In The ‘50s” (by Phil Dougherty), Sammamish Heritage Society website accessed January 15, 2010 (http://www.iinet.com/~shs/history.html);  HistoryLink Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Alexander’s Beach Resort,” “Pine Lake Resort,” and “Sammamish Plateau: Sweens Poultry Farm,” (by Phil Dougherty), http://www.historylink.org (accessed January 16, 2010);  “Nuns Seek Use For College,” Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 30, 1968, p. 6;  “CPI Inflation Calculator,” Bureau of Labor Statistics website accessed January 26, 2009  (http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm);  “Our Schools,” Issaquah School District website accessed January 20, 2010 (http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/schools);  “A Vision of Community,” Providence Point website accessed January 30, 2010 (http://www.providencepoint.com/History.html);  “Providence in the West:  A Timeline, 1856-1902,” Sisters of Providence website accessed January 23, 2010 (http://www.sistersofprovidence.net/150years/index.php?page=history&h=timeline);  “Mission, Vision, and History,” Trinity Lutheran College website accessed January 23, 2010 (http://www.tlc.edu/about_history.html);
Phil Dougherty interview of Barbara Brueske, January 24, 2010, Sammamish, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Jim Dilorenzo, January 24, 2010, Bellevue, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Jane Forbes, January 23, 2010, Camano Island, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Patty Garman, January 23, 2010, Woodinville, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Michele Hyatt, January 26, 2010, Cle Elum, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Chris Klineburger, January 19, 2010, Las Vegas, NV;  Phil Dougherty interview of Gary Lachance, January 30, 2010, Covington, WA;  Phil Dougherty interview of Mark Powell, January 26, 2010, Kirkland, WA.   

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