End of the ‘60s the beginning of a new time in Sammamish

“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.”

In this, the second of a two-part series, the Sammamish Heritage Society’s Phil Dougherty takes a wander back through the Sammamish of the 1960s – ahead of the development which would change the look and feel of the Plateau in decades to come. Part one was published in the Feb. 19 edition of The Reporter.

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 1960s, the old schoolhouse survived through the decade and into the next, a silent sentinel to a far earlier time. 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.

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. This had been home to the small community of Sammamish in the early 20th 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.

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,” recalled 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.”

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, said “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.

Said 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 is a board member of the Sammamish Heritage Society