The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 17, 2009

A Glimpse of the Kirkland That Never Was

Filed under: History, Kirkland — Brian Lutz @ 12:08 am

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.

July 3, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The Eastside Celebrates America’s Bicentennial

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am
East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

Here on the Eastside, the Fourth of July tends to be something of a low-key affair these days.  Here in Redmond, the annual Derby Days festival generally takes place a week after the Fourth, so most of the time little is done by the city to celebrate the Fourth.  Kirkland and Bellevueeach have their respective civic celebrations and requisite fireworks displays, and then there’s always the ones in Seattle (well, only one this year, since the 4th of Jul-Ivar’s show seems to have been cancelled.)  Beyond that, there’s generally not much to do.  Throughout the Eastside and most of the area personal fireworks are banned outright (a subject that remains a sore spot with your Blogger, but that’s a topic for another post that I’ll just go ahead and spare you from) so aside from fighting the crowds at one of the public fireworks displays, you’re pretty much on your own.  That doesn’t mean that people won’t find a way to celebrate.  For some people, that means heading off to somewhere that fireworks are allowed and setting them off there (the unincorporated Kingsgate area of Kirkland is one of the few places on the Eastside in which fireworks are allowed still, although if Kirkland’s proposed annexation of the area is approved in the November elections this will undoubtedly change) and for others it means going and finding some activity of their own.

Of course, some Fourth of July celebrations are bigger than others, and few have been bigger than the celebration of America’s Bicentennial on July 4th 1976.  For this Recycled Newspaper, I thought I’d take a look through the local newspapers around this time period, and see how the Bicentennial was celebrated here on the Eastside.  For the purposes of this post all of this material comes from the East Side Journal, but virtually all of this can be found in identical form in the Bellevue American issues from the same time period.  At this point, the Bellevue American had bought the East Side Journal, and within a few months of this the two papers would merge with each other to form the Daily Journal-American.  In fact, although it is not included here, one of the papers from this time period included the first in a series of editorials discussing  the upcoming merger of the two papers and explaining the rationale behind it.  Nonetheless, that was still a few months off at this point, although it might be covered at a later date.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at how the Bicentennial was celebrated on the Eastside, after the jump.


March 12, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The East Side Journal, March 15th, 1934

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 2:12 pm

In the course of the various newspaper research that I have been doing for this site and for my malls project, I have thus far not gone much earlier than the late Fifties, even though the newspaper archives available at the Bellevue Library provide papers going back quite a bit further.  Since I haven’t had a chance to go that far back yet, I decided that for this week’s Recycled Newspaper, I would be  going back 75 years and looking at the East Side Journal.  The closest one to today’s date that was available is the Thursday, March 15th1934 edition.  This was, of course, right near the heart of the Great Depression and the New Deal. Aside from the fact that a significant portion of the advertisements throughout the paper had the logo of the NRA (National Recovery Act)  on them somewhere, there wasn’t much sign of this, although a little bit more than a year after this particular issue was published the NRA would be overturned unanimously by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.  In spite of this, Kirkland still had its industrial base in the form of the Lake Washington Shipyards which did face some difficulties at this time, but when the war arrived they would go on to build more than 25 ships for the Navy and repair many more, employing as many as 8,000 workers at their peak until they closed in 1946 at the end of the war.  A photo of the shipyards from 1933 may be found here.

At this time, the combination of the shipyards and the fact that ferries across Lake Washington arrived at Kirkland’s waterfront made Kirkland the de facto heart of the Eastside, although beyond Kirkland’s downtown much of the rest of the area was still rural.  Bellevue was at this time an unincorporated area which consisted mostly of a handful of shops along Main Street, and beyond that the rest was mostly farms.  The shift that would position Bellevue at the heart of the Eastside that is today would not take place until after 1940 when the first floating bridge across Lake Washington opened. 

After the jump, a look at a few of the articles and advertisements from the March 15th 1934 edition of the East Side Journal.


March 4, 2009

Totem Lake Mall May Be For Sale

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:21 pm

It’s been a while since there’s been anything to report on the Totem Lake Mall.  Since a new set of site plans was posted in June of last year, nothing else of note has happened besides the closing of the Old Country Buffet in the lower mall.  Initially there was some speculation that this was in preparation for upcoming demolition in preparation for the redevelopment, but it was disclosed in comments tha the closing was the result of consolidation on the part of Old Country Buffet’s parent company.  Since then, there has been no activity or change at the Totem Lake Mall property, and if the news coming out today is any indication, it may yet be a while before we see anything happening here.

The Kirkland Reporter is now reporting that although nothing has officially been announced yet, the mall’s current owner is quietly putting the mall up for sale.  Over the past year, DDR (the owner of the Totem Lake Mall) has seen its stock price decline by 95% as the commercial real estate market has been hit particularly hard by the recession, and has begun selling off a number of their properties.  The Totem Lake Mall was purchased  by Coventry/DDR for $37 million back in 2003, and they made plans for a $126 million redevelopment of the property.  Since early 2006, there has been little to no activity with regards to the redevelopment project, and now it seems that the city of Kirkland has basically written off the project, and is now seeking to move funds that had been set aside for road improvements from Totem Lake Mall to the redevelopment of Parkplace in downtown Kirkland (which still seems to be on track,  endless appeals from downtown Kirkland’s resident NIMBY population notwithstanding.)

Based on the article, it sounds like there has been talk of the property being for sale for some time now, but it has not yet been formally put up on the market.  It is not yet known how much the property would actually sell for at this point (I’m going to guess that it probably won’t be anywhere near the $37 million DDR originally paid for it,) but given the location of the property, I’m sure that there’s probably someone out there who might be interested in it.  The problem is that in this economic environment, who is going to have the money to spend on it? 

I’ll continue to keep an eye on the situation, and if anything actually happens here anytime in the near future (I’m not holding my breath,) I’ll be sure to report it.

February 19, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: 50 Years Ago Today on the Eastside

Filed under: Bellevue, History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 1:05 am

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this Blog, there is a lot of interesting information that can be found in microfilmed newspaper archives available at the Bellevue library, where complete archives of the East Side Journal and Bellevue American dating back as far as those papers were published are available (and incomplete archives of a number of other local papers are available as well.)  Although most of my research in the archives thus far has been focused specifically on particular topics, this is the first of what should hopefully become a regular (or irregular, given my tendency toward dubious punctuality) series of posts on this Blog taking a look at what was in the local papers on a particular day (or as close as I can get to it anyway) in the past.  To start off with, I am looking at what was going on 50 years ago on this date, which not only provides a nice round number, but is also convenient because the days on the calendar in 1959 match those of 2009.  I am also taking these stores primarily from the East Side Journal (at least for now) because the early 1959 microfilm for the Bellevue American is of poor quality and difficult to read, much less take useful photos from.  I’m also probably not going to spend a lot of time on big headlines, and I’ll probably be looking mostly at some of the smaller stories in the paper and the advertisements, which I find more interesting (besides, until the Journal-American was formed in 1977 none of these papers provided much coverage outside of the local area, presumably leaving the rest to the Seattle Times and the P-I to cover.)

To start off with, here are a few stories from the February 19th, 1959 edition of the East Side Journal.  On the front page buried in between a couple of stories about budgets and an accident involving a fuel truck was this story on telephone rate increases:

In a nutshell, it sounds like the phone company got smacked down pretty hard by the utilities commission on their proposed rate increases, with approved increases nowhere near the levels requested.  I suppose putting 10 people on a single line isn’t a great way to win many friends in the community or on the utilities commission.  Even so, I bet we all wish that phone service was that cheap these days.  At least the days are long since past where we’re having to share our telephones with the neighbors in order to even get service (the prevalence of high numbers of people on party lines due to lack of capacity is cited in the article as a frequent complaint by the utilities commission.)  I can recall that in the GTE phonebook as recently as 1996 (possibly even later) there was a section on party line procedures and etiquette, which would seem to indicate that there were still a few in use at that time.  Now with even the landline itself seemingly beginning the long slow descent into obsolescence as wireless phones become ever more entrenched in modern society it’s hard to imagine having to share a phone with your sibling in the next room, much less half the neighborhood.  Not that it stops us from complaining about our telephone service.

From here, the stories get just a bit less earth-shattering. 

Apparently back in those days you could also be practically old enough to drink and still be considered a youth.  It also seems that it didn’t take a whole lot in to get into the newspaper back then.  It’s nice to get some recognition for a good deed, but this begs the question of just how this got from being a letter of praise to one’s employer to getting written up a story in the newspaper.  I wonder if as a reward, John got a set of coveralls with his own name sewn onto them?

Of course, the frivolity doesn’t end there.  It seems that all you needed to do in order to get into the paper these days was go to Mexico for six months and presumably send a postcard back home.  If that’s all it takes to get written up, maybe you could add a PS about that old car you’re trying to sell off and save yourself the cost of a classified ad in the process.  As a side note, the Knights of Pythias, a secret society I have never heard of until now, are still around (and list several dead presidents and vice presidents among their alumni) but do not appear to have a chapter in Washington State anymore. 

To conclude our little trip through the newspapers of a half century ago, I thought I’d put up this picture of the former Bartell Drugs logo that I found in the February 19th, 1959 edition the Bellevue American (one of the few items from that issue I could get a decent picture of from the microfilm.)  Now that’s what you call a good stout logo, the kind that you could drop an A-bomb on (back in those days you had to give consideration to such things) and you’d barely put a dent in the thing.  This logo would end up being replaced just a couple of years after this by the more mundane logo that Bartell Drugs continues to use today.

November 10, 2008

Whither Totem Lake Mall?

Filed under: History, Kirkland, shopping, Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 4:51 pm

In order to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of the Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland, Rob Butcher of has asked me to put together an article for that site about the mall, its history and its future.  The resulting article has now been posted in three parts over at that site.  This article provides a (somewhat) brief summary of the current state of the mall, its history, and the apparently stalled redevelopment plans to bring the mall back to life.  Hopefully this will help the people who live near this mall to have a better understanding of what is and isn’t going on over there right now, and to take a part in shaping the future of Totem Lake.  Links to these articles can be found below:

The Colorful Past and Unwritten Future of Kirkland’s Totem Lake Mall:

August 5, 2008

Totem Lake Redevelopment Update: A Slight Change of Plans

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:37 am


Although it appears that the beginning of major construction work over at Factoria Mall is imminent, things continue to be quiet over at Totem Lake Mall a few miles to the North.  The comments on some of the previous posts on the Totem Lake Redevelopment have hinted at some of what the newly redeveloped property will have to offer and a possible timeframe calling for construction to begin later this year, but for the most part, solid information has been all but nonexistent for some time now.  The City of Kirkland’s website has no new information, and a building permit search still shows the permits for this project in “pending” status. 

That said, it appears that ever so slowly, progress continues on the design of the redeveloped shopping center, and the site plan found on DDR’s webpage for the mall has recently been updated once again.  This new site plan, has a date of June 11th 2008, and although much of the prior site plan discussed here from February remains intact, there are also some rather significant changes, particularly in the secondary anchor portion of the upper mall.  Unfortunately I forgot to save a copy of the PDF file for the previous site plan before it disappeared, but I did print off a copy, and the previous post has images that cover most of the details, so I do have enough info to make a comparison.  After the jump, a look at the new site plan, and some of the changes it entails.


May 6, 2008

Signs of Life at Totem Lake – A New Redevelopment Site Plan

Filed under: Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:20 pm

Update 8/5/08:  A new site plan was recently posted on DDR’s site replacing this one, so much of the information in this post is now outdated.  See the new post with information on the updated site plan here.

It’s been more than two years now since we’ve heard much of anything regarding the proposed redevelopment at Totem Lake Mall.  The last time the City of Kirkland website for the mall redevelopment was updated was back in early 2006, and nothing new has been submitted to the city since that time.  This has led some people (myself included) to wonder if the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment had stalled out.  Finally after a long wait, there are signs of life on the Totem Lake Mall redevelopment project, with a new site plan posted at DDR’s webpage for the mall.  The site plan (in PDF format) can be found here.  I cannot be entirely certain of when this new site plan was actually published to the DDR website, but the plan itself bears a date of February 28th, 2008 on it, which makes it a lot newer than any of the existing information we have on this project.  Quite a bit has changed compared to what was presented to the City of Kirkland design review board in 2006 (the only other publicly available information on the redevelopment that I am aware of right now.)  After the jump,  a look at the site plan, and some of the clues it might hold to what the new Totem Lake Mall might look like.


April 9, 2008

Totem Lake Mall Research Update – A Map of the Lower Mall from 1973

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:50 am


First of all, I’d like to welcome the influx of visitors that has arrived at my original profile of the Totem Lake Mall via Although I am a transplant to this area, and have only been around here for about 13 1/2 years, I have stil seen much of this particular mall’s decline to its current state.  In order to show what it was like in better days, I have undertaken a project to document some of its early history.  So far, much of my information has come from contemporary newspapers from 1973 and 1974 (especially the East Side Journal,) although I have also found out a number of things from comments made to the original post.  Previously, I put together a brief info dump on some of the things that I have been able to determine so far, but since then I have continued to do more research an have been able to fill in some of the blanks, and I think I’ve got a mostly complete picture of what was in the lower mall when it opened.  After the jump, a closer look at what stores were in (and around) the lower mall in 1973, when it opened.


March 10, 2008

Totem Lake Mall: An Update and Info Dump

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Malls — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:28 pm

 Update:  Yeah, it’s still empty.  The fly-by-night ink store in the lower mall shut down and it looks like a small closeout store is currently occupying the former Grab Bag location for the time being, but there’s not much to report.  The City of Kirkland hasn’t reported anything  new with regards to the redevelopment plans, and the DDR webpage for the mall hasn’t even bothered to update to reflect the closing of the CompUSA store more than a year ago. 

With that out of the way, I would like to go ahead and give a quick summary of what I have been able to learn so far with regards to the history of this mall.  When I originally wrote my Totem Lake Mall profile, just about all I had to work with was a mostly empty mall sitting in the middle of Kirkland and a few random facts from a Wikipedia article.  Since I wrote that post, it has become one of the more popular ones on my Blog, since information on this mall seems to be rather scarce on the Web.  Since then, I have begun doing some research into the mall and its history in order to show the mall in better days, and give some more insight into how the property has reached its present state.  I intend to do the same with the other malls in the area (I am trying to collect info on the history of Crossroads now, although I haven’t found a lot there yet.  Factoria Mall and Bellevue Square will come later.)  Most of what I have found so far has come from some (admittedly brief) searching in microfilm archives from the East Side Journal, which was a weekly newspaper based out of Kirkland at the time.  The summary can be found after the jump.


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