Lizzie Wienke’s Story: From Coastside Teacher to County Politician (1)

I wrote this in 1999.

Lizzie Wienke followed in the footsteps of her dad, the “mayor” of Moss Beach

In the 1890s the guests came from all over to enjoy the Moss Beach Hotel, and they were enchanted by Elizabeth Wienke,  the resort owner’s precocious daughter. Later, Elizabeth used her positive impact on people in the bare-knuckle world of San Mateo County politics.

Called “Lizzie,” she was born in 1883, the only child of Meta and Jurgen F. Wienke, proprietors of the Moss Beach Hotel on the San Mateo County Coastside. The resort’s extraordinary location near the crashing surf allowed the child to wander on the nearby unique beach, playing among the exposed reefs at low tide. Looking back at the sea cliffs through the mist, she could barely make out the roofline of her family’s hotel, which resembled a large home.

On her way to and from school, Lizzie walked along the cypress tree lined avenue, planted by her father, and called Wienke Way in his honor.

As a young man, Jurgen Wienke worked as a gardener, landscaping estates in Germany, the place of his birth. On the Coastside, hotel owner Jurgen Wienke was so highly regarded that he was called the “mayor” of Moss Beach.

In the 1880s, the Wienke’s hotel was so remote passengers arrived by stagecoach. The coming of the Ocean Shore Railroad changed that, bringing guests from San Francisco and beyond. A tidy stone and wood train station, just steps away from a small commercial sign, directed passengers to the cypress tree-lined lane leading to the Wienke’s popular resort.

Some guests came tor relax in the refreshing climate, renting a rowboat at the Reefs, a seafood cafe situated on the sandy dunes. Others, like Stanford President David Starr Jordan, whose interest was marine biology, studied the varied and abundant sea life.

Whether lured by the crashing surf or the isolated beaches, coves and caves, all agreed you dare not miss the abalone, eel and fried chicken dinners prepared by Meta Wienke, assisted by her capable daughter Lizzie.

Part 2 next