Butzke Story

The story of Echo Lake is related to the history of the Butzke family.

For centuries, Echo Lake has been home first to Native Americans and then to European and Asian immigrants. Fortunately, the camera had been invented by the 20th century, and there is a pictorial record of activities on this busy lake!   Please see the previous pages, with photographs and stories. 

The Shoreline Historical Museum has gathered information and photographs of the Echo Lake area, from the 19th century until the present day. The curator of the museum, Vicki Stiles, worked closely with Florence Butzke who donated her family pictures to the museum and gave a lot of interviews. The photographs and information from the Museum are on the pages that follow. Florence's story is the story of Echo Lake. Nearly all the development of the area was in some way tied to the endeavors of the Butzke family.

The original beach is now the location of Echo Cove Condominium, built in 1968 (two years after the public beach closed). In 2001, the secretary of that Condominium visited Florence, who died a few years later.  Florence lived in the little house just north of the condo, on North 195th Street.

Florence Augusta Butzke Erickson was born in 1909. The family lived in Ballard, but when Florence was 3 her father bought 3-1/2 acres north of Seattle, on the south shore of lovely, Echo Lake, out in the country. They build a little (very little!) one-room house, but by 1917 they had enlarged to four rooms and a bath. Florence had no siblings, but her father had two sisters and one brother who made his fortune in Hawaii. At the time, Echo Lake was a 'working lake'. There was a sawmill at the north end; on the east side, down what is now 195th Street, loggers would slide cut timber down the skid road and into the lake, where the logs were floated over to the sawmill to make shingles.

On the west hill, near the lake, was the Firland Sanitarium (built to house patients with communicable diseases such as tuberculosis). One hot day the nurses asked Mr. Butzke if they might swim in the lake, using his property as access. The generous Mr. Butzke said yes, and then proceeded to build changing booths for the nurses and doctors who needed recreation away from the hospital.

Eventually, the beach became a lure for people all over the area. For 50 years, from 1916 to 1966, the property remained a source of income and enjoyment for the Butzkes. Not only the medical personnel from the hospital, but individuals and families sought the park-like setting to swim, boat, picnic and play. Admission was initially 5¢ for children and 10¢ for adults. That price gradually rose, and in the 1940s people could access the lake for 25¢ for children and 50¢ for adults. Florence recalls that in 1915, the property taxes for the 3-1/2 acres were $38; when the property was sold in the late 1960's, they were $1795. And Florence remembers with some smug pride that, every year, her father would buy her a brand-new, red wool, Jantzen bathing suit!

The family rented canoes and boats. The Butzkes also built a large floating dock in the lake, with a tall diving platform. Boats would tie up to it; people would swim out to it. As winter approached, the platform was towed nearer the shore to protect it from the elements. In the summer, it was towed back out into the middle of the lake.

Over the years, additional buildings were built. There was a small covered area for picnics in inclement weather. One building had changing rooms. On one end of that building was the small office where people paid their admission. They could also obtain checks for their clothing. Visitors would walk around the building and select a changing room. After changing into their swimsuits, people would bundle up their belongings and walk back around to the office, where the clothing would be checked and a claim stub given to them. There were only cubbyholes, and the visitor had to remember which one contained his things.

The beach welcomed up to 200 people in the summer. Cars came from all over the area, and there was no charge for parking. Virtually everyone drove to Echo Lake; there was public transportation nearby, but it was not so convenient. "The Interurban" (Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway) ran tracks up the east side of the lake. With glee Florence can still quickly recite the stops: North Park – Bitter Lake – Foy – Ronald – Richland Highlands – Echo Lake – Lake Ballinger! The Echo Lake stop was at north 200th street. Richland Highlands was at 185th Street, and Ronald was at 175th Street. The latter stop is the location of the Interurban Building on Midvale Avenue Street, just north of Shoreline City Hall, a short block east of Aurora Avenue. 

Every winter, the lake froze solid enough for ice skating. Florence guesses that the lake no longer freezes solid because the quality of the water has changed. There are now so many vehicles around, and chemicals running off from the land, that the water is no longer pure enough to freeze so completely. And has the wildlife changed at all? She spit out a one-word answer: Geese!

Florence attended Ronald Grade school. She was the only girl in her class, with 11 boys. When she was graduated from grade school, she enrolled in Lincoln High School in Wallingford. She had to take the bus every day. On her first day in the big city, as lunch was announced, she felt a tap on her shoulder from the girl sitting behind her. "Will you eat lunch with me?" That girl was Inez Carson, and they remained fast friends for 80 years.

Florence Butzke graduated from Lincoln High School and then from the University of Washington in 1931. She taught school. Eventually she married, and she had one daughter, and some grandchildren; her daughter lives in the house between Florence and Echo Lake, and a granddaughter lives just north of her.

Echo Lake has been a part of Florence from practically the day she was born, and she has been a part of the community. Only in 2001 – finally at age 92, with a broken arm – did she fail to swim in the lake. Until then, any time you saw a smiling face bobbing in the August water, it was likely to be Florence!