(click to enlarge photos)
If for your next road trip north to Everett across our rolling “North Plateau” you should choose Aurora – and we recommend it – keep an eye out for this by now cherished landmark. You will find it a few blocks south of the county line. If you pay attention, the two-story flatiron Echo Lake Tavern, will seem to be pointing it’s narrowest end at you just above and west of its namesake lake.
In the summer of 1905 construction on the Seattle-Everett approached what artful promoters called the Echo Lake Garden Tracks. For “$500 dollars, $50 dollars down and $10 a month” five acres parcels were plugged as “suitable for chicken duck and goose ranches.” Herman Butzke opened the Echo Lake Bathing Beach instead. Butzke had been admired as a singing bartender at Seattle’s famed “Billy the Mug” saloon. He was also a picture-framer, and finally before opening his resort, a plumber at the nearby Firlands Sanatorium. His first customers at the lake were nurses who paid a nickel to use his shelters for changing.
Click the Firland text below TWICE to enlarge.
This landmark tavern came later. After a new route for Aurora was graded here in the mid 1920s, Echo Lake resident Theodore Millan built the two-story roadhouse in 1928 on its triangular lot squeezed between the new Aurora and the old Echo Lake Pl. N. Here the latter leads to the canoes, tents and new beds of Scotty’s short-lived Paradise. With the uncorking of prohibition in late 1933, Millan rented his flatiron to Carl and Jane Melby, for their Tavern.
Vicki Stiles, the helpful and scholarly Executive Director of the Shoreline Historical Museum (nearby at 18501 Linden Ave. N.), had heard rumors that the florist Carl Melby had more than liked his booze during prohibition as well. The sleuthing Stiles discovered that Melby had been arrested at least three times transporting mostly illegal Canadian liquor. (We follow below with several Seattle Times clips on Melby’s career.) One night at Sunset beach near Anacortes he was chased into the Strait of Juan de Fuca up to his neck, collared and pulled ashore. In 1942 the then 56-year-old tavern owner was finally felled and also near Anacortes. While fishing off Sinclair Island, he was leveled by a heart attack. Considering Carl’s inclinations his death may have been mellowed by liquor – legal bonded liquor.
Anything to add, Paul? Yes, and starting with more Aurora by returning with the “Edge Patch” below to the extended feature we ran here on March 16 last, which was, I think, shortly before we started having consistent inconsistency from both our blog’s server and it program. So touch Signal Gas immediately below and repeat a variety of what are mostly early speedway views on Aurora.
(First appears in Pacific, July 7, 1985)
Almost half a century ago, it took a little over an hour to go from Seattle to Everett on the Interurban. The electric cars reached 60 mph on the straight stretches – an adventure still remembered by many. The Interurban stopped at North Park, Pershing, Foy, Richmond Highlands, A1derwood, Ronald – names still familiar. It also delivered passengers to several lakeside stations as well – including Martha, Silver, Ballinger, Bitter and Echo lakes. The name “Bitter” was misleading, however, because that lake was the spot for the decidedly sweet excitement of P1ayland, for many years the region’s largest amusement park. But few remember Echo Lake as it appears in this week’s historical setting.
Construction began on the Interurban in 1902, in Ballard. By 1905 it reached 14 miles out to Lake Ballinger, just beyond Echo Lake. The line prospered, at first not so much from paying customers as by hauling lumber and its byproducts and accessories. It’s a fair speculation that Fred Sander, the Interurban’s builder, hired Asahel Curtis to photograph this morning view of the new-looking pile trestle that spanned the swampy northeast comer of Echo Lake.
Sander soon sold out the streetcar company to Stone and Webster. By 1910 they completed the line to Everett and replaced Sander’s little passenger cars (like the one posing in the photo) with 10 long and plush air-conditioned common carriers. In 1912 the company also buried its Echo Lake wood trestle beneath a landfill.
The next year, 1913, Herman Butzke, his wife and daughter, Florence, moved into a two-room cabin they built at the southwest comer – or opposite shore from the Curtis photo – of Echo Lake. They were the third family to move to the lake, and Florence Butzke Erickson still lives there. [In 1985]
During the summer of 1917, nurses and doctors from the new and nearby Firland Sanatorium periodically escaped from their care for tubercular patients to swim in the clear waters of Echo Lake. With their help, Butzke built a few lakeside dressing rooms, and thereby began the half-century of the Echo Lake Bathing Beach. (It closed in 1966 for the construction of condos.)
The Seattle-Everett Interurban did not last so long, but When it did quit, it was one of the last of the nation’s rapid-transit systems to surrender to the new taste in transport: the car. The modern pathway for the auto was the Pacific Coast Highway – or, in town, Aurora Avenue. It, like the Interurban, also passed by Echo Lake, and in the late 1920s when it was being built, property lots about the lake were being pushed as the “highlight of Plateau Norte, the most beautiful and attractive homesite addition ever offered … A heavily traveled highway such as the new Seattle-Everett 100-foot boulevard is like a gold-bearing stream.”
Within 30 years, this gold-bearing stream would be stripped of its glitter and give way to the freeway. Now  Interstate 5 is in its third decade and looking, perhaps, for the relief of rapid transit. Much of the old Everett Interurban right-of-way is still intact: a grassy strip of power poles and little parks. It seems to be waiting for the Interurban.
2 thoughts on “Seattle Now & Then: Echo Lake Landmark”
My folks had a home on Echo Lake in the early 1960s, and I caught the bus to Butler and later Cordell Hull Jr. High Schools from the corner of the Melby Tavern. Haystack McCool, if I remember right, was in an accident at that corner. He was a professional wrestler who weighed between 400 and 500 pounds. He was driving a VW minibus and was pinned into the vehicle, although not badly hurt.
Larry E. Johnson, AIA
I live on echo lake right now in one of the condos, and I can tell you it is filthy, no clear bathing water here. Too bad this place ruined a good lake.