Kirkland is a city in King County, Washington, United States. It is a suburb of Seattle on the Eastside of Lake Washington. The population was 48,787 at the 2010 census, which made it the 9th largest city in King County and the 20th largest city in the state. Effective June 1, 2011, Kirkland added approximately 33,000 residents by annexation, making it the 6th largest city in King County and the 12th largest in the state.
Features of the city include the unique downtown waterfront (the only Eastside downtown frontage along Lake Washington's shoreline), with restaurants, art galleries, a 400 seat performing arts center, public parks, including beaches, and a collection of public art, primarily bronze sculptures.
Kirkland is the former home of the Seattle Seahawks; the NFL team's headquarters and training facility were located at Northwest University in Kirkland for its first 32 seasons. The Seahawks moved to the new Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton on August 18, 2008. Warehouse chain Costco previously had its headquarters in Kirkland (now in Issaquah); the city is the namesake of its "Kirkland Signature" store brand. Google has a development office in Kirkland; see List of companies based in Kirkland, Washington.
The 1982 Kirkland National Little League team won the Little League World Series. That event is the subject of the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary Little Big Men. It also was the home to Little League's 1992 Big League Softball World Series Champions representing the Eastside District Nine Leagues. Since 1999 Kirkland has been the home of the Little League Junior Softball World Series held each August at Kirkland's Everest Park.
The land around Lake Washington to the east of Seattle was first settled by Native Americans. English settlers arrived in the late 1860s, when the McGregor and Popham families built homesteads in what is now the Houghton neighborhood. Four miles to the north people also settled near what is now called Juanita Bay, a favored campsite of the Natives because a wild potato, "wapatos", thrived there. The Curtis family arrived in the area in the 1870s, followed by the French family in 1872. The Forbes family homesteaded what is now Juanita Beach Park in 1876, and settled on Rose Hill in 1877. Gradually, additional people settled in the area, and by the end of the 1880s, a small number of logging, farming and boat-building communities were established.
In 1886, Peter Kirk, a British-born enterprising businessman seeking to expand the family’s Moss Bay steel production company, moved to Washington after hearing that iron deposits had been discovered in the Cascade mountain range. Other necessary components such as limestone, needed in steel smelting, were readily available in the area. Further yet, a small number of coalmines (a required fuel source for steel mills) had recently been established nearby in Newcastle and train lines were already under construction. Plans were also underway to build the Lake Washington Ship Canal.
Under their new venture, the Kirkland Land and Development Company, Kirk and Hunt purchased thousands of acres of land in what is now Kirkland’s downtown in July 1888. Kirk and his associates started the construction of a new steel mill soon after, named Moss Bay Iron and Steel Company of America. Thus founding the city of Kirkland in 1888, officially one of the earliest on the Eastside at the time, Kirk’s vision of a "Pittsburgh of the West" was beginning to take form. Construction soon commenced on several substantial brick homes and businesses blocks that would house and serve the steel mill employees.
However, the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, which had recently been purchased by Tacoma-based Northern Pacific, had now refused to construct a rail line to the lake. This would, after all, have a negative impact on Tacoma, which was furiously competing with Seattle as the dominant Puget Sound seaport. The ensuing financial issues and numerous obstacles were also taking a toll on Kirk, who was running out of investors. Hunt was also in debt from the purchase of land.
Nevertheless, the plans continued and the steel mill was eventually completed in late 1892 on Rose Hill (a full two miles (3 km) from the lake's shore). Financial issues arose and due to the Panic of 1893 the mill subsequently closed without ever producing any steel. In spite of everything, Kirk was determined not to give up on his namesake town, and Kirkland was finally incorporated in 1905 with a population of approximately 532. A final attempt at a steel mill in Kirkland was planned by James A. Moore in 1906. His company, the Northwestern Iron & Steel Company paid $250,000 in cash for a site but the mill never materialized. This came at the heels of the Pacific Steel Company, incorporated earlier in 1906 by J.F. Duthie, William Calvert and L.S. Cragin. This company soon amounted to nothing.
In 1900 the Curtis family made a living operating a ferry-construction business on Lake Washington. Along with Captain John Anderson, the Curtises were among the first to run ferries in the area. Leschi, first operated on December 27, 1913, was the original wooden ferry to transport automobiles and people between the Eastside and Madison Park until her retirement in 1950. The ferry operations ran nearly continuously for 18 hours each day. The construction of the first Lake Washington floating bridge in 1940, however, made ferry service unprofitable and eventually led to its cancellation. Subsequent years saw wool milling and warship building become the major industries.
The first woolen mill in the state of Washington was built in Kirkland in 1892. The mill was the primary supplier of wool products for the Alaska Gold Rush prospectors and for the U.S. military during World War I. By 1917, after the completion of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, the construction of ocean-going vessels had become a major business. By 1940, the thriving Lake Washington Shipyard had constructed more than 25 warships during World War II for the U.S. Navy, on what is now Carillon Point.