I’m always fascinated to learn more about Kirkland history, probably because of my background as a history major in college and as a former history teacher. Many know the story of Kirkland’s founding by Peter Kirk, who came to what is now present day Kirkland in the 1880’s to build a steel mill. He planned to build this steel mill on Rose Hill to produce steel that would then be transported out of the area by railroad. Unfortunately, the panic of 1893 hit and all the plans were off.
Interestingly, there are many things left because of Peter Kirk’s presence in the area. The most obviously is the name of the city, Kirkland. But there are more subtle, lasting things that have shaped the community of Kirkland.
Peter Kirk’s legacy remains in Kirkland:
He and his partner, Leigh S.J. Hunt, the owner of the Seattle Post Intelligencer, formed The Land and Improvement Company, platted parts of what is now downtown Kirkland, and built a number of homes for the factory foremen. Most of these homes, built about 1889, are East and West Of Market ( Street) in Kirkland.
These historic homes have plaques by their front doors which show the date the homes were built.
Burke and Farrars bought the land from the company Hunt and Kirk founded in 1910 and platted more big chunks of Kirkland. Their names live on in the legal description of many properties in Kirkland. You might think you live in The Kirkland Highlands or in a neighborhood on Rose Hill, but the legal description for your property often begins with “Burke & Farrars Kirkland addition”.
Other parts of Kirkland are legally known as “Kirkland Steel Works.” Kirkland real estate still has a direct association to its past, beginning with the legal descriptions of the properties.
Seventh Ave, east of Market, is wider than any of the other avenues. It was designed to be wider, so the carriages hauling the steel down from the mill would have room to travel down the street.
The Peter Kirk building on Market St. in downtown Kirkland was to be the headquarters for the steel mill.
The Senior Center has been renamed the Peter Kirk Community Center.
And, of course, there’s Peter Kirk Park right in downtown with its ball fields and skate board park.
I wonder if Peter Kirk would be shocked if he knew all these places were named after him. It’ quite a legacy. Peter Kirk never built a steel mill here, but he had a profound affect on Kirkland.
By the way, The Sledgehammer article mentioned the foundation for the steel foundry as still being visible on Rose Hill. Does anyone know where it is and if it’s still visible?