Lummi History

A Brief History of Lummi Island

Lummi Island was a overnight stopping point for native fishers before white settlers came, but there was not a permanent settlement on the island. The settlers named the town Beach after John Wade Beach, one of the original homesteaders on the island. In 1882 he became the first postmaster, and because in those days, the name of the postmaster frequently became the name of the town, for the next 60 years the island was known as Beach, Washington. John brought mail and supplies from Little Chuckanut Village on his sailboat once a week, sometimes more, weather permitting. His office was in the headquarters camp for Bacus Logging Company, who logged island’s the old growth timber before the turn of the century.

The Beach Store Cafe (named after the town, Beach) was built just after this time. The cafe was at the hub of the island society, which was booming with three fish canneries and a new ferry dock located right across from the cafe.

The Beach Store has been an integral part in the Lummi Island community for nearly
100 years. It is the island's only historically registered structure (Washington State Register of Historic Places) and its past reflects its position at the hub of the island's society, economies, and community.

The period after the turn of the century was an exciting time the island. The salmon fishery boomed, bringing with it a big jump in population and general activity. A new dock for ferry service was built across from the Beach Store and eventually three large canneries, employing several hundred workers, were constructed. Several of the fish traps around the island were counted as the richest producing traps on Puget Sound.

The island's growth was reflected in the utilization of the Beach Store. The upstairs was converted into a dance hall and meeting place for box socials, grange meetings, fisherman's union sessions and political activities. The main floor served primarily as a grocery, but was also home to the post office, the fire station and originally boasted the only telephone on the island.) When the new ferry dock became operational, the store became a passenger terminal for people waiting for the ferry. For over 50 years it was the place to sit and watch folks come and go, get caught up on local gossip, and shop.

During the Depression the island's canneries closed and the population declined drastically. The remaining islanders limped along and early in 1945, as the war was ending, a returning veteran, Harold Long (called Shifty for reasons unknown) and his wife, Gladys, bought the store. They completed many needed repairs and during their tenure of 25 years, the Beach Store continued as an island center, but the name of the community was changed to Lummi Island in 1946. During the middle part of the century, the fields behind the Beach Store were known for the excellent hay they produced, and farmers drew lots to determine who would mow and buck the hay for their livestock.

The Beach Store property changed hands three more times, going into a period of decline
until Mark and Elisabeth Marshall, bought it in 1984 and began pursuing their goals of restoring and preserving the Beach Store, making it once again a self-sustaining and functional part of the community. The Beach Store Café is currently owed by Judy Olsen and Riley, the owners of the more up-scale Willows.

Over the past few decades, more and more residents commute off the island for work, so the island is in the midst of a shift from a land-based economy to a bedroom community.

Another WEBster Graphic © 2005