By Torie Kostender
She stands wonderfully preserved . a good example of many expert paint jobs and much loving care. In spite of her maturity, she peeks coyly around a giant green fan that half hides her from the curious glance of the passing throng . a fan that grew from a tiny thing into a natural giant monument to the men and women who have carved a niche in our local history. Although she is well past her Social Security age, she will never collect, because this lady” is a house . the old “Lake House” which stands at N. E. 50th and 102nd S.treet in Houghton and has been occupied continuously by members of the same family for 67 years.
The “fan” is a graceful Madrona tree that was no more than “knee high to a duck” when Ida Elizabeth (Bessie)) Fish arrived in Houghton 67 years ago at the age of 13.
There were five brothers, Frank, Will, Philo, Al and Wayne and three sisters, Elizabeth, Georgia and Mary in the Fish family, all living on a 200 acre farm in Maine, Perhaps they would have been content with that “rock ribbed” state if the two oldest boys, Will and Philo, had not had a desire to visit the . Northwest and while here were captured by its beauty. Their enthusiasm was contagious so the Maine farm was sold and the family started on their great adventure. They came as far as Vancouver on the Canadian Pacific then boarded a boat, the “Liza Anderson”, which took them to Seattle. It was Bessie’s first boat trip and a very thrilling one for her.
The Fish family, a cooperative working group, decided upon a hotel as a business venture and the “Lake House” was purchased from a man by the name of O’Connor. Bessie loved the Northwest right from the very start although the new venture meant plenty of work for this young girl, her mother and her sisters. The father was fast losing his eyesight, which meant increased work upon the family, but they faced their task and handled it admirably. The venture proved to be successful and their cash increase came rapidly. The ten acres and the Lake House had been purchased at a price of $3,000 and in less than three months, two acres of the land was sold for more than they paid for the original ten acres.
Mrs. Erasius Kirtley, whose children and grandchildren still live in the old Lake House on Lake Weshington Boulevard. She came to Houghton with her family from Maine in 1887. Mrs. Kirtley is now 80.
Not An Easy Job
Managing and running a hotel in the old days was not easy, Bessie’s mother was up at 5 a.m. and worked straight through until 9 p.m.. There were chickens, cows, pigs, and a garden to be taken care of in addition to running the hotel. Raising their own .food was a part of their success story. Everyone loved to eat at the Lake House. Mrs. Fish was famous for her delicious doughnuts and the Lake House prices sound unbelievably attractive 50 cents for a room and 50 cents for meal. There were five rooms upstairs, each room having two beds and many times when there was an overflow of customers, the neighbors would open their Home to take care of the guests.
Captain Anderson, the man who started the Shipyard, was a profitable and steady customer at the Lake House. He ran excursions across Lake Washington on Sunday and also maintained a large picnic ground nearby, however, it was his own personal pleasure to bring his friends to the hotel for some of Mrs. Fish’s delicious baked beans.
There was a mixture of Joy and sorrow in this pioneer family. Will Fish, who married beautiful Susie Houghton, lost both his wife and child during the first years of their marriage. Although he married again, the fame of his first wife’s beauty was to stay a reminder of her during the lifetime of those who had known her.
Little Bessie Fish, in spite of her busy time at the hotel, did manage to squeeze in a few parties and it was at one of these that she met her future husband, Erastus Kirtley. Mr. Kirtley had an intense dislike for the name, Erastus, and always referred to himself as E. Kirtley. Bessie Fish was married at the age of 19 to Mr. E. Kirtley. Her husband was in various types of business … logging, running a daily stage between North Bend and Houghton, and finally, when Mrs. Fish wished to take life a little easier, he and Bessie took over the management of the Lake House
Ladies Brought Horses
There were stables at the back of the hotel which housed not only the Kirtley horses, but these of the ladies from Snoqualmie and Duvall who would ride in on horse-back, their best clothes neatly packed in a pillow case. A room at the Lake House would provide a place for “dolling up” and from there they would board a boat for a two or three day stay in the big city of Seattle. At that time the road ran very close to the house and you could almost board a ferry from the front yard. . It was before Lake Washington was lowered.
As time went on Mr. and Mrs. E. Kirtley became the parents of Frank and Earl Kirtley, and eventually grandparents to eight grandchildren. The Frank Kirtley ‘family who occupy the old family home at this time is composed of Frank, Jr., Marlyn, Bob, and Wayne. The Earl Kirtley family are Donald, Jean, Janet, and Donna. True to their ancestory, all of them are residents of the East Side.
Yes, the Kirtley home was a hotel, •’but it bears no resemblance to one unless its spacious-
Gracious, dark-eyed Bessie Kirtley, who is now a mellow 80 years old, sits by a large window and looks toward her beloved Madrona tree and over Lake Washington. Close by is a handsomely carved marble-topped table, the first piece of furniture purchased by her husband after their marriage, same having been selected at an auction for a price of $5. It was from this same Lake House that young Bessie watched the smoke trail upward from the destructive Seattle fire of 1869, and it was within these same walls that the unfoldment of a dream took place.. the establishing of a home on the Northwest Frontier and the creation of a family to carry on a cherished dream.