Lovely Lakeside

Lovely Lakeside

Lovely Lakeside. In the U S of A, some pretty towns offer a bit of history along with the typical sanitised loveliness.

In the U S of A, some pretty towns offer a bit of history along with the typical sanitised loveliness. One such place is a town built around steel production. The beautiful town of Kirkland is adjacent to Seattle, across Lake Washington. It is a combination of urban landscape with suburban refinement. One of the nicest things to do here is to take a 90-minute boat trip along the lake, departing from the Kirkland City Docks thrice daily in summer, less often in spring and autumn, but closed in winter.

The city is famous for its weddings, and during my visit I saw three wedding parties moving about, having their pictures taken at lakeside, among other activities. Its main shopping district is right on the lakefront, and the centre of this town is easily walkable.
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 centre, public parks, including beaches, and a collection of public art, primarily bronze sculptures. I was particularly impressed by the bronze sculptures on the roads, parks and various other sculptures in the shop windows.
Kirkland has an interesting history. The land around Lake Washington to the east of Seattle was first settled by Native Americans. English settlers arrived in the late 1860s. Few kilometres to the north people also settled near what is now called Juanita Bay, a favoured 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.
The city takes its name from a steel baron. 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.
Kirk realised that if a town were built near the water it would be a virtual freshwater port to the sea, as well as a support to any prospective mill. At the time, however, Kirk was not a US. citizen and could not purchase any land. Leigh S.J. Hunt, then owner of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, offered to partner with Kirk and buy the necessary real estate.
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, 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. Over a period of time, the city has grown into a lovely place, and today Kirkland is a much loved neighbourhood.
Like most of its Eastside neighbours, it is relatively affluent but dependent in large part on nearby technology firms such as Redmond-based Microsoft and Google. During the summer, local residents of neighbouring cities flock to Kirkland to visit Kirkland's many waterfront parks on Lake Washington. Kirkland has neighbourhood parks as well, contains a corner of Saint Edward State Park, and abuts the equestrian Bridle Trails State Park. The waterfront parks are linked by a paved trail which is open till dusk. Juanita Bay Park is another major park in Kirkland, and is a tourist attraction. Walking along the water, peeping into the show windows and admiring the pretty displays, can be real fun. Food of course, can be a great activity, specially, exotic ice creams and yoghurts !
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