Site of popular park and beach has served many purposes

Originally named Hammersmark Landing after Thorkeld Hammersmark — who homesteaded there in 1883 and had a float anchored out where the Mosquito Fleet boats could stop — Lisabeula on Vashon’s western flank is a unique name not shared by any other community.

In 1890 John Brink bought five acres up the hill from the landing and soon began to think about constructing a post office for the west side of the Island, since the nearest post office was at Quartermaster, more than three miles away on the other side of the Island.

Brink applied for a post office for the growing community two years later and became the first postmaster. In his application, Brink named the new post office Hopville, which was not accepted by the Post Office Department because there was already a Hopville Post Office in Washington. Brink told the Department any name would do and, according to Oliver Van Olinda, “the official who investigated the application ... glanced up from the paper, caught sight of two girls working in the office, one of whose name was Eliza, the other Beulah, and wrote in the name Lisabeula.”

And thus Lisabeula got its distinctive name, with the “s” pronounced like a “z.”

Seventy-five residents were served by this new post office, and the mail was delivered three times a week by the sternwheeler Mary F. Pearley. Several individuals served as postmaster from 1893 to 1904, when Anton Baunsgard became postmaster and moved the post office to the waterfront where Lisabeula Park is located today.

Anton and Emma Baunsgard and Anton’s brother Maurice came to Lisabeula in 1902, purchased the waterfront property at Hammersmark landing and built two large houses. Anton established a general store in one of the houses and, when he became postmaster in 1904, moved the post office to the store.

King County constructed the dock in 1907, and in 1912 Anton built a large two-story building on the waterfront to house the general store and post office with living quarters above. The original photograph was taken between 1907 and 1912, after the dock was constructed but before the waterfront store was built.

Nels Christensen, owner of the Virginia steamboats, married Anton and Maurice Baunsgard’s sister Margaret and purchased 23 acres of land just south of Lisabeula from her brother Maurice. Christensen moved his family to their new property in 1908 and, after becoming frustrated with steamer service on the west side, formed the West Coast Transportation Company. The company purchased the Virginia Merrill, which was renamed the Virginia.

The first of the Virginia boats that served the west side for the next 32 years. Christiansen built the Virginia II on the beach in 1912. Two years later he purchased the Typhoon and renamed it the Virginia III. Virginia IV was renamed when Christiansen purchased the Tyrus in 1918, and the Virginia V was built across Colvos Passage at Maplewood in 1922. Today the area where Christiansen lived and headquartered his ferries is named Christensen Cove.

The Baunsgards moved off the Island to Yakima in 1915, but the Lisabeula Post Office and store continued to serve the area until the post office was closed in 1935.

In the early 1920s John Webber purchased the waterfront property at Lisabeula to fulfill his dream of developing a convention resort. He was affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church of Seattle and took down the two greenhouses seen in the original photograph to construct 16 cottages.

Two conventions were held there, but in the mid-1920s the site was converted to a fishing and vacation resort. The wharf was expanded into a boardwalk along the beach, and boathouses were constructed for the small rental rowboats visitors at the resort could use. The resort was never a big success but continued to operate under several different owners though the mid-1970s.

In the 1980s the resort was in disrepair and in 1986 the Vashon Park District, which was formed three years earlier, acquired Lisabeula Resort as its first new park. The park district demolished the old cabins and houses and developed the site as a waterfront park with parking, a grassy lawn area and easy access to the beach.

As park board Chair Ruth Anderson remarked at the time, “Wouldn’t it be fitting if Lisabeula, a place that was born for the benefit of people, could come full circle and be that again?”

— Bruce Haulman is a Vashon historian and Terry Donnelly is a professional photographer.

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