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Kirkland Woman's Club nominated for landmark status
Several ambitious Kirkland women met at the Baldwin home on Jan. 24, 1920. These civic-minded women sought to better Kirkland, so they formed a club, “… to encourage and promote all subjects of education and loyalty to country and government and to pursue such studies as outdoor art, current events, and such other subjects as from time to time shall present themselves ..."
And so while many have stumbled upon the origin of Kirkland’s passion for outdoor art, that meeting represented the genesis of one of Kirkland’s oldest service organizations: The Kirkland Woman’s Club.
The club filed incorporation documents in August 1924 and that September Kirkland real estate development company, Burke and Farrar, donated two lots a today’s 407 First St., then still called 407 Bold Street.
The club met in various locations, but soon sought its own facility. Members also wanted to create a public library for Kirkland. At that time, libraries were not considered part of government’s role, so individual community members and service organizations created them.
The Woman’s Club began acquiring books from various sources in 1924 and housed its growing collection initially in the Kirkland City Council chambers while its new clubhouse was under construction. The community rallied behind this effort and held various fund-raising activities, ranging from dances and auctions to donated labor and construction materials. Among the hardest working fund raisers were the boys of Mae Belle Esty’s “Wolf Cub Scout” pack, which some sources state is the first Cub Scout pack created in the area and the nation’s first “Cub Mistress,” a position known today simply as a Den Leader.
While the new clubhouse was under construction in 1925, its members placed a time capsule under the northeast cornerstone that contained a copy of the East Side Journal newspaper and other dated material.
The building was completed in 1925 but the community continued to seek book donations and other needed items. For example, the boys in Kirkland’s Union "A" High School wood shop class built and donated the book shelves.
Initially, the library was open three days and two evenings per week. The list of club members participating then reads like a "who’s who" of Kirkland during that era.
One especially active volunteer for more than 46 years was Brittania McKibben, wife of former Kirkland mayor, VFW co-founder and physician, Dr. E.C. McKibben, Sr., mother of Dr. E.C. McKibben, Jr., who also practiced medicine for decades in Kirkland and is now retired, living in Redmond.
Much of the club’s history was recalled during the 1970s by the late Lilly May (Davis) Anderson, daughter of club co-founder Lillian G. Davis and Dr. George Davis, Kirkland’s first physician. In addition to clubhouse functions, the structure was available for rent and even housed a well baby clinic up until Kirkland General Hospital opened in 1930. The Woman’s Club furnished and decorated the new hospital’s nursery.
The club has continued its lengthy tradition of community improvements and some of its more recent projects have included the fountain in the Kirkland Cemetery and the flagpole and time capsule at Heritage Hall.
The club housed and administered Kirkland’s Library until 1949 and is fondly remembered today by many senior Kirklanders.
The club continues today and the clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a King County Landmark.
The structure was also nominated for City of Kirkland Landmark status and the King County Landmarks Commission, acting on behalf of the City of Kirkland, is holding a public hearing at 7 p.m. March 24 at the clubhouse, 407 First St., to consider the nomination. The event will be co-hosted by the Kirkland Heritage Society. The general public is encouraged to attend and also invited to provide testimony of knowledge or memories of the Woman’s Club building.