Point Roberts’ White House

The white house next to South Beach House Restaurant was built by Steini Thorsteinson in 1933–34. Steini and his brother Arni had bought the holdings of Abner McKeen which consisted of a large crab cannery that sat right on the beach at the foot of the road, plus land including all of Bells Grove. Steini remodeled the west side into living quarters for his family of four, leaving a large warehouse on the east side. Dorothea Hecht, Steini’s daughter, remembers it as a wonderful space that had a trapeze, swings and enough room to roller skate on the smooth wooden floor.

The brothers proceeded to develop the area into a summer resort. There were nine cabins for rent, and a small grocery store. The first store was located at the present day corner of South Beach and Deer Lane. After the white house was built, the store moved to the east side of the new building where the porthole windows are.

Dorothea remembers being assigned, as an 8-year-old, to sit in the store and fetch her mother when a customer came in. Before long, they all felt confident enough to let her handle sales with regular customers. She especially enjoyed learning how to scoop ice cream cones by practicing on herself.

Milk and cream came from the farm of Steini’s father, Paul Thorsteinson, eggs from the Waters’ chicken farm and other groceries from Bellingham, transported on the “Tulip,” the mail and supply boat run by the Waters brothers.

The Hourston and Simpson families were among the first of the regular customers to purchase lots on South Beach Road. When the family decided to move to Bellingham, they sold their holdings to the Solomon family. Arni sold Bells Grove and purchased a farm off Boundary Bay Road.

The families moved on, but the house is still there. The landmark has always had white stucco and is used by fishermen to describe their location.

The Campbell family restored and renovated the house to its current glory and it is home to Max and Diana. A presidential-looking plaque near the entrance announces that it is still “The White House.”

  1. Stefan Jonasson June 26, 2015, 7:56 pm

    The White House was later owned by my great-uncle and his wife, Wally and Sigrid Vopnford, who also operated the store for a time. When I was young, Uncle Wally and Auntie Siggy were educators in Mount Vernon, but they returned to their beloved White House at the Point during the summer months. I remember many summer evenings there in the ’60s and ’70s, when Wally would break out in song – there was hardly anything that could be said to which Wally could not sing a response. I loved going to the White House as a child and, even today, I can see it my mind’s eye and remember going crabbing with Wally and clam-digging with his father-in-law, Thor Gudmundsson. Like so much of Point Roberts, the White House is a magical place.

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