Although you would be hard pressed to tell it from the relatively quiet suburban character of Kirkland today, the city was originally envisioned as a major industrial center, with a massive steel mill at its heart. In 1886, a businessman by the name of Peter Kirk moved to Washington hoping to build a steel mill on the shores of Lake Washington which could be used to exploit coal and iron ore deposits in the Cascade Mountains nearby forming what Kirk hoped would become the Pittsburgh of the West. Although the land was acquired and portions of this steel mill were built, the refusal of the railroads (which were heavily invested in Tacoma as the major transportation hub of the region) to build lines to Kirkland, financial shortfalls and the Panic of 1893 resulted in a major economic depression, and brought about the failure of Peter Kirk’s steel mill before it was ever completed. Over the years various industrial concerns have set up shop in Kirkland (including the Lake Washington Shipyards and Washington’s first woolen mill (which supplied many of the wool products that made their way to Alaska during the Gold Rush and later supplied wool to the US government during World War 1,) but Kirkland never truly became the industrial center that Peter Kirk had originally envisioned it to be.
Fast forward to 1959, when a previously unknown drawing from 1891 of the planned steel mill was discovered in a book owned by a resident of Woodinville. This was newsworthy enough to merit this brief article in the July 9th, 1959 edition of the East Side Journal. From this, we can get a brief glimpse of a Kirkland that never was, and most likely never will be.