Russell and Fay Cheetham smile in front of the historic Fortuna Lodge at the celebration of Covenant Shores’ 40th anniversary on Mercer Island. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

Russell and Fay Cheetham smile in front of the historic Fortuna Lodge at the celebration of Covenant Shores’ 40th anniversary on Mercer Island. Photo courtesy of Greg Asimakoupoulos

Covenant Shores celebrates 40 years on Mercer Island

The lakefront retirement community offers a unique lifestyle.

One of Mercer Island’s retirement homes, Covenant Shores, snagged prime lakefront property in the 1970s, and has been offering “a stimulating way of life in a spectacular setting” ever since. Operated by Chicago-based Covenant Retirement Communities, it is the only one of their 16 campuses on the water, with 700 feet of scenic Lake Washington shoreline.

Covenant Shores celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding on Sept. 9, with a gala dinner, music from Rat City Brass, a display of the Shores’ history and a silent auction benefitting the community’s benevolent fund.

History

The property, at 9150 Fortuna Drive, was once home to an amusement park called Fortuna Park. People from Seattle would take a ferry to the Island for recreation and dancing, as Fortuna Lodge (originally built in 1910, and still standing) was a dance hall at the time. It was also a meeting place, location for school celebrations and host to annual events such as the all-Island “bash” and “Firemen’s Ball.”

After World War II, Charles Clise bought the property and built several apartment buildings, including Upper Shorewood and Lower Shorewood, with FHA financing. In both 1964 and 1972, the North Pacific Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church of America unsuccessfully attempted to purchase the Lower Shorewood property, which they thought was a great location for a retirement community.

Clise died in 1973 and the property was sold to a Bellevue developer, though his plans to build upscale condominiums led to foreclosure during a Seattle recession in the 1970s. In 1978, the conference, through the efforts of Covenant leader Robert Larson, negotiated a purchase price of $2.4 million. At the time, the property featured eight apartment buildings and the clubhouse, which was renovated and turned into a dining hall, lounge and activity rooms. The complex was established as Covenant Shores.

Gilbert and Judith Otteson were the first residents, moving in to the Shores in 1978. Dr. John Lindberg joined the community as its first medical director in 1979, and still lives there, along with his sister and twin brother, said Covenant Shores Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos. Lindberg’s father-in-law, Doctor “Doc” Niels Hansen, was also a notable resident.

Later on, more facilities were renovated and an assisted living facility was constructed, followed by a skilled nursing center.

Early residents “suffered through” the construction of Interstate 90, though the new highway was “expected to benefit Covenant Shores in the long run, despite temporary inconvenience,” according to the April 1980 edition of the Covenant Shores newsletter, then called “Creative Living.”

Activities

Since its opening, Covenant Shores residents have enjoyed the waterfront with barbecues, boating, strolling along the lakefront and chasing away geese. Stories like these have been documented in several volumes of the Shores’ history, compiled by community members over the years.

“No story about Covenant Shores would be complete without mentioning our bird population,” which included “more than our share of mallard ducks and Canada geese,” Bill Curtis wrote in his history of Covenant Shores.

Throughout the years, the campus has undertaken efforts to mitigate the effects of the fowl, including building fences, assigning residents to be “scoopers” for their droppings and most recently, using radio-controlled drones to pester them.

Depite the geese, living on the lake has its perks. Shores residents get to watch the Argosy Holiday Ships in December and the Blue Angels during Seafair when they pass.

And the community offers other amenties as well. Many of the residents enjoy an active lifestyle, using the newly renovated fitness center, golfing on the putting green and even participating in line dancing with the Antique Kids group. Art and gardening are also popular hobbies. The campus has a robust spiritual life, including Bible study, prayer service and worship. Both men’s and women’s choruses participate.

Residents also enjoy frequent excursions to cultural and recreational activities in the surrounding area, including shopping, performances at the Seattle Symphony and other trips.

Rebranding

As of Sept. 18, Covenant Retirement Communities, Inc. has rebranded as Covenant Living Communities and Services. Covenant Shores will become “Covenant Living at the Shores.”

The announcement comes following unanimous approval by its board of directors for the new name and logo effective in 2019. The organization’s renewed name includes the tag line, “Live with Promise.”

For more information, visit www.covenantretirement.org.

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