Katharine Golding is renowned for letting people know that there are 37 different ways to spell Katharine — with an “a” and without an “a,” with a “K” and with a “C,” with an “i” and with a “y” — the list goes on. Rather than telling people her age on her birthday, she is also well known for telling them that she is celebrating the “xx” anniversary of her birthday.
Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Katharine is that she has been both a full-time and a summer resident of Vashon for over 80 years. Her story is the story of many islanders who initially come to the island as summer residents and then, when the time is right, become full-time islanders.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Campbell built a magnificent waterfront summer retreat in 1911 at Dolphin Point on the northeast corner of Vashon. She was the daughter of John Campbell, a wealthy Seattle lumberman, and his wife Mary Renton Campbell, sister of William Renton, who owned the Port Blakely Mill on Bainbridge Island. John died in 1903; Mary died in 1909, and her only sister, Margaret “Maggie” Campbell, lived in Nova Scotia. Lizzie built her new home on Vashon and lived there for the rest of her life.
The two-story house, with a full basement and a breathtaking view of the sound and Mount Rainer, was only accessible by water and was serviced by the Mosquito Fleet steamers that stopped at Cowley’s Landing (now Wingehaven Park), a short walk down the beach.
Lizzie never married, and when she died in 1938, the house was sold at a sheriff’s sale. Katharine Golding’s father purchased the property on the steps of the King County Courthouse at that sale. He was the only bidder.
Later she and her husband William Golding acquired the home, keeping it in the same family. This year the house sold after 80 years owned by Katharine’s family.
The photograph of Katharine standing on the front lawn of the home was taken when Katharine was 8 years old. The house has remained largely unchanged over those 80 years, although it has been updated, and the glass room on the left side of the photograph has been enclosed.
When Katharine was a child, coming to the island for the summer was a major undertaking. On Memorial Day Weekend, all the linen, all the drapes, all the bedding and all the clothes were packed into large crates and moved to the Dolphin Point house, where it would take days to unpack everything. Then come Labor Day, everything would be packed away and taken back to Seattle, where the next year the ritual would be repeated.
During those halcyon summers, the house was a whirlwind of activity, with people coming and going, and with the excitement of living just up the beach from Betty MacDonald and the raucous sophistication at her house.
Katharine’s 12th birthday was celebrated at Frederick and Nelson with Betty MacDonald and the book release of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.
Athenagoras, the Archbishop of North and South America, visited the house in 1944, and Katharine played croquet with him on the lawn. Four years later he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople and served until 1972. In 1964, Athenagoras met with Pope Paul VI, and they rescinded the excommunications of 1054, which began The Great Schism between the Eastern and Western church. This meeting started the reconciliation between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches.
The photograph of Katharine in the living room of her home — as she talks about the trip when she purchased the Chanel jacket on the table — was taken late last year and captures the indomitable spirit of Katharine Golding and her 80-year journey on Vashon Island.