A speakeasy during Prohibition, a brothel on the second floor and a place where a man could gamble in peace.
The Brooklake Community Center in Federal Way was used for an array of vices before it was forced to turn over a new leaf by a King County Superior Court order in 1939.
Stories of Brooklake’s early history are sprinkled throughout the Historical Society of Federal Way’s new 173-page book, “The Brooklake Community Center,” written by Dick Caster.
“Dick did a great job, and he’s very detailed,” Historical Society Vice President Jerry Knutzen said.
Caster took nearly three years to write and compile the history of Brooklake, which includes 70 photos in the book. After the city took ownership of the center in 2014, the mayor and Historical Society requested the land’s history, which dates back to the mid-1800s.
“This book is a gift for the entire community,” Mayor Jim Ferrell said. “I thank Dick Caster and the entire Federal Way Historical Society for their hard work in helping Federal Way history come to life. While we’ve only been a city for 26 years, so much of our history has not been documented, and this is a great start to that project.”
While the Brooklake land was originally around 20 acres, it has since shrunk to three acres and is located about 100 yards west of Pacific Highway South and 80 yards north of South 356th Street.
The original clubhouse was built between 1929-34 and opened as the Wagon Wheel Inn in the early 1930s.
“Now, before you let the name Wagon Wheel Inn make you think it’s a family style restaurant, the facility was known for three things,” Caster told the Federal Way City Council on March 7, when he presented the book.
“One of those things was it became a speakeasy because during that time period, it was just about when Prohibition was about to end, and then Prohibition did end in 1933, but what I’ve learned is the sale of illegal liquor did not end in 1933.”
Located near a still, the sale of illegal liquor allowed businessmen to avoid paying federal taxes.
During that time, multiple small bedrooms made up a brothel run on the upper level of the building, which has two floors and a basement. Gambling devices were also found. According to one of Caster’s sources, there was a window on the outside of the building “where patrons were asked to check their brass knuckles, knives and guns.”
“So, that kind of tells you the type of people that were going there,” Caster told the council.
After King County deemed it an “attractive nuisance” and closed it, a “different class of people took it over.”
From 1943 to the 1960s, the center became a hub for local clubs, dancing and even a Class C county fair.
Caster said, although it wasn’t a full county fair, it was a very popular event that drew thousands of people from the South King County area. In the early 1950s, the owners built an extended 100-foot-long dance hall, which was used for dancing, dinners and auctions.
Caster said the 1960s brought about better roads and television, which, he said, led to less members, volunteers and money to pay for events. In 1985, however, the Federal Way Community Center Association took ownership of the center and began feeding homeless people a couple of years later.
In 1989, it became the location for the Federal Way Veteran’s Center but shuttered a year later.
Wendell Kuecker, the president of the Federal Way Community Center Association, gifted the center to the city after the association dissolved.
Since then, the city has proposed using the center as a mothers and children homeless shelter.
The facility requires renovations to be brought up to code before that becomes reality, however.
To read more about the Brooklake Community Center, purchase the book for $20 at the Historical Society of Federal Way’s museum and office, 2645 S. 312th St., which is open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.