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This busy little town is by Moss Bay on the east side of Lake Washington; the Indian name for the site was Sta-lal. The town, founded in 1886, was named in honor of Peter Kirk, a British-born millionaire, who envisioned a huge steel plant here, because of the iron ore discovered in the Snoqualmie River headwaters 60 miles away. Lots were platted and new buildings were constructed. Kirk and L. S. J. Hunt, owner of Seattle’s Post-Intelligencer, organized the Kirkland Land & Improvement Company and the Great Western Iron & Steel Company. Mining the ore, however, proved too expensive to be practicable; the industrial bubble burst in the financial panic of 1892, and Kirkland was nearly deserted for several years. The town later became the stable center of a prosperous agricultural district.

Now Kirkland is a popular residential location because of its proximity to Lake Washington, and a few relics from the early years can be found.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Cannery Building

This WPA-constructed building opened in 1935 as a resource for the community to can the produce being grown on farms in the city.

Tugboat Arthur Foss

The 1889 tugboat Arthur Foss, formerly called Wallowa, is owned and maintained by Northwest Seaport, Inc. as an operating preserved historic vessel, and an excellent example of a typical late nineteenth to early twentieth century American tugboat. Arthur Foss is the only known wooden-hulled nineteenth century tugboat left-afloat-and in operating condition in the United States. Built in Portland. Oregon for a seemingly local use, Arthur Foss’s career was associated with trading and events of significance to the nation. Foss towed lumber and grain-laden square-rigged ships across the treacherous Columbia River Bar and was a key participant in the nationally significant Pacific coast lumber trade and the internationally significant grain trade. Foss played an important role in the transportation of people and goods to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Foss served as the set for filming the MGM classic motion picture Tugboat Annie (1933), a film that epitomized tugboats and tugboating for a generation of Americans. Foss, while under charter to the United States Navy, was the last vessel to successfully escape Wake Island in January 1942 before Imperial Japanese forces attacked and captured that Pacific outpost. Foss served on Puget Sound for the regionally significant Foss Launch and Tug Co. for much of her twentieth century career.

Lightship No. 83

The 1904 lightship No. 83, now known by her last official designation of Relief, is one of a small number of preserved historic American lightships. Essential partners to lighthouses as aids to navigation along the coast of the United States, lightships date to 1820 when the first one was commissioned. Built as part of a five-vessel contract, No. 83 and her sister are the earliest surviving examples of American lightships. Of these various vessels, only No. 83 retained her original marine steam engine and machinery, which. gives it national historic significance. While her superstructure and lights were modernized in the early 1930s, these modifications better enabled the vessel to carry out her historic function. Built to serve as the second lightship in California and one of the first four lightships on the Pacific coast of the United States, No. 83 served to guide mariners to three major ports—Eureka on Humboldt Bay, San Francisco, and Seattle, with much of her career spent on the two former stations. While regionally based, No. 83 had a profound impact on the nationally-significant Pacific coast trade and on arriving and departing intercoastal and international vessels.

Tourist II

The Tourist II, an operating historic vessel, is a significant example of wood-hulled Columbia River and coastal river ferry boats of the early- to mid-twentieth century. The vessel crossed the Columbia River at Astoria, Oregon, from 1924 to 1966. For approximately 30 years, from the mid-1930s, the vessel and its sister ships in the Astoria ferry fleet completed the last water gap in the Pacific Coast Highway system. The Astoria ferry service was a vital link in the Pacific Northwest coastal highway system, from the completion of the Oregon coast highway system in the mid-1930s until the opening of the Astoria Bridge in 1966. For 30 years, the Astoria ferries were necessary for continuous coastal travel. The Tourist II is the only survivor from the fleet and continued to operate as an auto and passenger ferry in the Pacific Northwest.

Kirkland Woman’s Club

The Kirkland Woman’s Club was built in 1925 to serve as both clubhouse and public library, and has played a significant role in the civic and cultural life of the community for more than 60 years. From its construction until 1948, the clubhouse was the permanent home of the Kirkland library. In addition, for many years the club was the site of a free pediatric clinic, the setting for literary and musical events, and the center of the club’s various civic and charitable projects. Designed and financed through voluntary donations, it is an important reflection of the role of women’s organizations in community affairs in an era before large-scale government funding. Today, the clubhouse retains good historic integrity with the exception of some alterations to the windows.

Town Center

In 1890 Kirkland was growing very rapidly with the establishment of the Great Western Iron and Steel Mill; the commercial center was planned for the intersection of Market and Picadilly streets. Investors from as far as the East Coast were attracted to this booming “Pittsburg of the West,” and in the period from 1889 to 1893, investors erected five major brick buildings at the center of town. These were designed to accommodate shops on the street level and business offices on the second level. One of the first tenants was E. A. Brooks, who ran a large grocery store and lived with his family above it. A later tenant was a Mr. Evans who ran a variety store in the south half of the street level space. The Kirkland Masonic Temple purchased the building in 1922, and has used the second floor for its activities, while the street level is rented to small businesses.

Sears Building

The Sears Building was built in 1891 by Joshua Sears, who was heavily invested in Peter Kirk’s Great Western Iron and Steel Company and who planned to open a bank in town. As a result of the Panic of 1892, the steel mill and the bank never opened. The Sears Building survives today as a reminder of what might have been in Kirkland.

Kirk Building

The Kirk Building, as well as other brick structures, were erected as part of Peter Kirk’s proposed steel mill complex. When the Panic of 1893 put an abrupt end to the steel mill’s development, the Kirk Building was instead owned and used by mercantile store owners. Eventually, the building was abandoned until the Creative Arts League purchased the structure with the intention of preserving it as a significant landmark in Kirkland’s early history. Built in late Victorian style, the building is the finest remnant left over from Kirk’s aborted project.

Trueblood House

The Trueblood House is inside and out very much as it appeared in the late 1800’s, and an excellent example of the particular type of wood frame English Mill Town architecture that was popular in Kirkland due to Peter Kirk’s influence. This house, and many others, were built in 1889 specifically to house what was expected to be a flood of people coming to work at the mill. Dr. Barclay Trueblood’s name became associated with the house when he arrived from the Midwest in 1907 to take up general practice as Kirkland’s first resident physician. The house was moved in 2016 to save it from demolition.

Pittsburgh of the West

Peter Kirk and his Seattle business partners, A. A. Denny, George Heilbronn, Leigh S. Hunt. and Walter Williams, the Secretary of the Moss Bay Steel Works in England, incorporated the Kirkland Land and Improvement Company in July. 1866 to handle buying and selling of properties and overseeing the general development of Kirkland. One of its first projects was the construction of a series of attractive wood frame houses on the view hill west of the Market Street business district. The houses were built for sale as a speculative venture, finished in 1869 though the development never took off the way its developers imagined.

John George Kellet House

The John George Kellet House is a rare surviving reflection of the planned industrial community of Kirkland. Kellet served as Chief Engineer for both the Great Western Iron and Steel Company and the Kirkland Land and Improvement Company, and in the latter capacity surveyed and platted a new townsite to serve the proposed mill. Although the company’s fortunes declined, the Kellet House, together with a few others, survives as a remnant. Built in 1889, the house is distinguished by its solid brick construction and simple Victorian character despite some alterations in the twentieth century.