History: The Nile Shrine at Lake Ballinger: Part 2 of 2

Picnic on the ground beneath the trees circa 1926.

This is part 2 of two parts. You can read part 1 here.

Initial Construction and Progress on the Property: 1927-1941

At the beginning of 1927, the Nile Temple received the initial survey and drawings of the proposed layout for the Lake Ballinger property from Olmsted Brothers, the San Francisco-based landscape architects who had been chosen by the Temple’s leadership to provide them with their recommendations.

The plans called for a beautiful clubhouse with a large ballroom, kitchen area, restrooms and additional space for meetings and dining.  Beyond the clubhouse and supporting buildings, plans were laid out for tennis courts, a baseball field, croquet field, an outdoor dance area and bandstand. An initial conceptual drawing for an 18-hole golf course was also provided for future consideration.

After the membership had an opportunity to look at the plans and discuss the various options, the membership voted to expend $50,000 to cover the cost of construction of the clubhouse, access roads and necessary ground improvements.

The initial design layout for the property along with a topographical map circa 1927, provided by Parker and Hill Engineers in conjunction with Olmsted Brothers. (Courtesy of the Nile Temple)

By the end of the summer, the clubhouse construction was complete, including a large ballroom with hardwood floors and a beautiful dining room.

The 1927 clubhouse as it was near completion, taken from Lake Ballinger Road, now the Snohomish-King County line. (Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum)

In 1928, the groundwork continued, and flowers and shrubs were added throughout the grounds.

As the Great Depression unfolded, the property continued to be used by the membership for a wide variety of recreational activities, although the building of the golf course and other structures were put on hold. The Nile Temple’s annual picnic did continue every year throughout the 1930s, along with numerous other events.

The 1932 Nile Temple’s Survey of its grounds. The large clubhouse is surrounded by the driveway, and a few buildings and recreational areas are denoted. (Courtesy Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Richard Chung)
The Nile clubhouse circa 1935-1937.  The flag pole is present and possibly a water tower in the rear.  (Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum)

Despite the tough economic times, the Nile was able to pay off the mortgage on the property by mid-1935, an amazing achievement given the financial climate.

Toward the end of the 1930s and in the early 1940s, potential war clouds in Europe caused fear and anxiety as regarding America’s involvement and what the status of our national security would be.

World War II – 1955

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, the U.S. entered World War II in late 1941. Over the next four years, the Nile was heavily involved in the war effort, helping sell war bonds, gathering up scrap metal, rubber tires and other materials needed to support the country. Both male and female members enlisted in the armed services and/or entered the workforce for the first time.

Finally on May 8, 1945, victory was declared in Europe (V-E Day) and after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, victory over Japan was declared on Aug. 15, 1948 (V-J Day).

Despite the tremendous toll on the country and its members, the Nile emerged from the war financially sound and with a large increase in membership. One of the notable Nile members to be recognized for his efforts during the war was Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Gen. MacArthur later spoke to over 4,000 members at the Nile Temple after his successful endeavors during the Korean War.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur was a Nile member and spoke at the Temple. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Author’s note: By 1950, the membership of the Temple exceeded 9,000 and the Nile expanded the number of Children’s Hospitals it supported. On April 12, 1955, the Salk vaccine was introduced. This vaccine would lead to the eradication of polio in the world and resulted in the Shriner’s Hospital for Children moving into additional areas of pediatric care.

1956-1962: Facing a Potential “Double Whammy”

Whammy 1

With the Nile’s growing membership, the need for new and expanded space was obvious by 1955. Plans were put in place for a new headquarters at 3rd Avenue North and Thomas Street in Seattle, and a building permit was received from the City of Seattle in January 1956. Construction began quickly and the building was completed in October 1956.

Less than a year later — in fall 1957 — the World’s Fair Commission decided it was going to successfully stage a world’s fair in Seattle. It was necessary to condemn the new Nile headquarters and property, along with a number of adjacent properties.

Nile headquarters building in downtown Seattle in 1957. (Photo courtesy Seattle Public Library)

In response, the Nile offered to lease the building to the World’s Fair Commission for the duration of the Century 21 Exposition, but the offer was rejected. The matter eventually made its way to the Washington State Supreme Court, and the condemnation order was stayed after two years of legal proceedings.

In the end, the Nile leased the building to the City of Seattle and World’s Fair Commission at the end of 1961, and the building served as the Flag Pavilion during the exposition. Nearly 20 years later, in the early 1980s, an agreement was reached whereby the City of Seattle became the legal owner of the property.

Author’s note: The 1956 Nile Temple Headquarters is now the home of the Eve Alvord Theater – Seattle’s Children Theater.

Whammy 2:

In 1959, the State of Washington made its first attempt to condemn 35 acres of the Nile Country Club property for a new freeway to be built across the property’s central portion. The state’s proposed purchase price was $35,000. At the same time, both the downtown headquarters and property and a large chunk of the country club property were targets of condemnation by the state.

Although the Nile was able to get a stay on the downtown property, the state’s demand for the proposed freeway could not be stopped. In the end, after hard negotiations and extensive legal work, the Nile was able to sell the 35 acres for close to a quarter of a million dollars.

This photo was taken from almost directly above the Nile Country Club property, showing the construction of Interstate 5 as it headed northward. (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

With the interstate cutting through the property, 14 acres of the country club were severed from the main property. The Nile was able to sell those severed acres, situated east of the freeway, four years later for $151,000.

Expanded Use of the Country Club Property — 1960s-1980s

With the World’s Fair taking over the Nile’s Seattle headquarters, the members had to decide where to relocate. In 1963, after considering a few options, the membership chose to expand the existing country club clubhouse and also build a private nine-hole golf course on the adjacent grounds.

Plans were put in place to add a modern kitchen, a large dining room and lounge onto the existing clubhouse. By March 1965, the remodeling and additions were completed. Additionally, a contract was awarded for construction of a 9-hole golf course.

Clearing of the land and golf course construction took three years. The golf course opened on May 1, 1968, with Bob Tindall, a much-beloved Northwest golfer, as the head professional.

Bob Tindall, circa 1960, at the U.S. Amateur Golf Tourney. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

During the 1970s, with the golf course getting a lot of play by the members and guests, further improvements were made to the grounds.  New picnic tables with hardwood tables and benches situated on concrete slabs were added. A 10,000-square-foot maintenance shed was built, and a mobile camper area was added.

In 1983, a second enlargement of the clubhouse was approved and completed.  The groundbreaking ceremony took place on December 20, 1982. A two-story extension on the north side of the clubhouse was completed in July of 1983, providing additional office and meeting rooms.

1993-1996 Golf Course Expansion to 18 Holes

Plans were put in place for the expansion of the nine-hole golf when the Mountlake Terrace City Council voted 5-1 to give Nile a conditional use permit within a shoreline conservancy area (Lake Ballinger shoreline).

In 1995, permits for the golf course expansion were completed and contracts for timber cutting and removal. Once completed, an additional contract for the construction and installation of the new nine holes was awarded.

The construction was completed by August 1996 and a grand opening occurred on Aug. 11.  Although the golf course was still listed as private, it was open to public play.  The clubhouse was also remodeled to provide a large space for golfers to eat and relax before or after their round of golf.

Nile’s lunch room and coffee shop near the first tee of the golf course.

Present day

The Nile Shrine’s entrance with the driveway leading into the property at 6601 244th St. S.W., Mountlake Terrace.

Today the Nile offers a wide range of services to its members and to the public. 

Room rentals: Multiple rooms are available for full or half-day rentals. The Nile’s largest room can seat as many as 300 people at an event.

Catering: Full-service catering for both on-site and off-site events is available through Navi’s Catering Kitchen. Custom menus are available. For more information, email info@naviscateringkitchen.com, call 425-774-9611 ext. 411 or visit www.naviscateringkitchen.com.

Picnic shelter and temporary seating for an event.

Picnic areas: Three large picnic areas are available for rent from March through August. Call 425 774-9611, ext. 411 for information.

The Nile Golf Course: The Nile 18-hole golf course is open to public play. Reservations can be made at the pro shop or by calling 425-776-5154, ext. 512. Golf lessons are also available through Joe Korn, the head PGA professional, and can be booked at the same number as above. The course is also available for outside events Monday through Thursday and can be booked through Joe Korn.

Author’s note: The Nile Golf Course is not lengthy by today’s standards. It’s a beautifully maintained golf course that is very enjoyable for the mid- to-high-handicapped golfer.

The third hole at the Nile Golf Course features a 365-yard dogleg left. At the left, golfers tee off from an area that sits adjacent to Lake Ballinger. After a drive of 220 yards, the fairway doglegs left with tall trees lining the entire length of the hole. The next shot is 145 yards to a slightly sloping green. (Photos by Byron Wilkes)

This article was researched and written by Byron Wilkes.  Thanks go to the many staff members at the Nile including Dale Newman, Alisha Hofkens and Joe Korn for their assistance in researching and documenting the Nile’s history and current offerings.

Thanks also to the Edmonds Historical Museum, the Shoreline Historical Museum, the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society and Richard Chung for their help in researching Lake Ballinger and the Nile’s joint history.

  1. Byron, congratulations on another great story about our community. Countless people pass by the Nile every day, but few know what a jewel it actually is. The recent fireworks show celebrating the 4th of July Holiday is a great example. People were able to come to the Nile and relax on a shaded and well-manicured lawn on a pleasant evening and watch the show. Thank you, Byron!

  2. Great articles. Lake Ballinger is my favorite local swimming beach and learning the history is fun. Thanks, Byron!

    1. Thanks to everyone who said “thank you”. It definitely was enlightening to me as well, when I researched the Nile’s 100 year presence on the property and the travails they went through with the State on two separate issues.

  3. Those interested in the correspondence, drawings, cost estimates, and invoices for the Olmsted Brothers’ work on this project might enjoy the files found here: https://www.loc.gov/item/mss5257105778/

    Note the proper spelling of Olmsted, a small correction. Love this bit of local history!

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