During the first years of the 20th century, resorts were a haven for the settlers of Sammamish and visitors from Seattle who were attracted by its small lakes and secluded forests. Resorts grew slowly due to the lack of built roads on the plateau. When roads improved in the 1930s, it was a fun and busy time around Beaver and Pine lakes.
ALEXANDERS BEACH RESORT
In the twentieth century there were several resorts east of Lake Sammamish (located in eastern King County) in what is today (2006) the city of Sammamish. But none lasted as long or attracted as many people as Alexander's Beach Resort. Alexander's was the largest of all the resorts that were once in Sammamish, operating for 68 years between 1917 and 1985.
Alexander's Beach Resort was located on the southeastern shore of Lake Sammamish, where the
Alexander's–on–the–Lake development is today, just inside the Sammamish City
limits off of East Lake Sammamish Parkway. To enter the resort you turned in toward the lake just
north of where today 212th Way Southeast connects to East Lake Sammamish Parkway. Greeting you
upon your entrance to the resort from at least the 1940s through the 1960s was a huge 15–foot–long
metal rainbow trout hung over a sign reading "Alexander's Beach."
The property was originally purchased by Thomas Alexander, a native Scotsman who came to
Issaquah in the late 1880s to work as a "walking boss" for the Seattle, Lake Shore &
Eastern Railroad. In 1902, Thomas and his wife, Caroline, built a large house on their 160 acre
property which would later become known as the Alexander House (now located on Northwest Gilman
Boulevard in Issaquah and home to Issaquah's Visitor's Center and Chamber of Commerce). Thomas
died in 1910, and a few years later Caroline began running a bed and breakfast in the Alexander
House. The house was located east of what was then known as East Lake Sammamish Road. In 1917
Caroline decided to open a picnic resort on her property west of the road, closer to the lake,
and Alexander's Beach Resort was born.
The resort seems to have done well during the 1920s, although traffic was limited. A few small
cabins were built near the lake on the southern end of the property during this time, but most of
them disappeared after 20 or so years as the resort catered to larger crowds.
And by the 1930s those larger crowds were coming. Caroline died in 1932 and daughter Hazel
Alexander Ek (1897-1982) took over managing the resort. By this time better roads made getting to
the resort easier, and Hazel saw the opportunity. Along with husband George Ek (1890-1967) she
turned Alexander's Beach Resort into a mecca that many living in Seattle and on the Eastside in
the twentieth century remember. As the 1930s progressed the resort became the preferred site for
many company picnics, both local and from Seattle. Eastside historian Eric Erickson recalled
seeing both Democratic and Republican parties from the greater Seattle area hosting picnics at
Alexander's during the 1940s and 1950s.
Hazel's grandson Chuck Olson worked at the resort in the 1950s and early 1960s and lived on
the site for several of those years. He painted a vivid description of the summertime company
"During the summer the resort was usually booked both on Saturdays and Sundays. Some of
these picnics were huge. Rainier Brewery had their picnics there, and there was the Issaquah
Creamery (now Darigold) picnic and the Italian picnic. The Italian picnic was the biggest one –
it would bring in more than a thousand people."
Although groups could reserve the resort for picnics exclusively on the weekends – Olson
recalled the fee in the 1950s as being $200 on Saturday and $400 on Sunday – during the week
the resort was open to anyone, at a cost of a quarter per child and 50 cents for adults. Olson
said the dance hall was on your right when you first drove into the resort. It had a jukebox and
a stage and was a popular venue, though Olson did not recall any live bands performing there in
his day. As you drove farther in, you passed the concession stand on the right, which was part of
a building that housed Ek's woodshop. The road then forked to the left and right at a "T"
intersection in front of the "big kitchen." This was an open–air pavilion with a
huge 20–foot–by–6–foot oven and four green 40–foot–long tables
capable of seating hundreds.
The boat launch was on the northern fork of the road, and Alexander's also rented boats –
big wooden boats in the early years, but by the early 1960s the resort had switched to smaller,
lighter aluminum "john" boats. Hydro (boat) races were held on the southern end of the
lake during the summer during the 1950s and 1960s, but Alexander's did not actually put the races
on – people simply used the boat landing there as a launching point for their boats.
Additional pavilions and a smaller kitchen were also located along the northern end of the resort.
The swimming dock (complete with a 15–foot–high dive) was along the lake on the
southern fork of the road, south of the big kitchen. The house dock was just south of the swimming
dock. The house dock was popular with people who fished at the resort during the winter, as
they could stay warm inside the dock's cabin while they waited for the fish to bite their lines
left outside on the dock.
The resort was open year-round for many years, though the winter months were much tamer than
the summer. Most of the activity in winter came from people trout fishing from the house dock.
But it was the summertime swimming at Alexander's that many remember, whether it was swimming out
to the log booms 50 feet from shore or just hanging out on the sandy beaches that George Ek made
sure were kept in top shape. Since sand was not naturally occurring at Alexander's beach,
Ek routinely brought in truckloads of fresh sand to replace sand that got washed away.
Ek sold the property in May 1966, but Alexander's Beach Resort continued to host large
gatherings into the 1980s. In 1985 a developer bought the resort, closed it, knocked down the
buildings, and turned the property into today's Alexander's–on–the–Lake development.
Sources: This account of Alexander's Beach Resort, prepared by Sammamish Heritage Society
historian Phil Dougherty, is based on Dougherty's 2006 interview of Chuck Olson, whose family
owned the resort until 1966. It reprints Dougherty's article, "A Historic Getaway: Alexander's
Beach Resort On The Lake" (Sammamish Review, August 2, 2006, p. 21), and appears here with the
kind permission of the Sammamish Review. "Alexander House," Issaquah Press, June 29,
1988, p. 12; "Issaquah Family Album," Ibid., May 23, 1990; Phil Dougherty interview of
Chuck Olson, February 26, 2006, Issaquah, Washington; Phil Dougherty interview of Eric Erickson,
February 26, 2006, Sammamish, Washington.
NOTE: The Sammamish Review owns the copyright to this article. If you ever wish to reprint this article, you must first obtain the permission of the Sammamish Review and acknowledge in the reprint that it?s reprinted with the permission of the Review. Contact the Review editor for more details.
By Phil Dougherty, December 04, 2006
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