Historic Kirkland home reaches ‘landmark’ status

The Buchanan, formerly Trueblood, House is protected from demolition

After being saved initially in 2016, one of the last remaining historic houses in Kirkland received local landmark status last month, meaning it will be preserved in perpetuity.

The Kirkland Landmarks Commission held a public hearing to consider the Dr. William Buchanan House, also called the Trueblood House, as a City of Kirkland Landmark on May 24. It had previously been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which gives it honorary landmark status, but does not protect it from demolition.

The previous owners of the Buchanan House planned to build a new, larger residence on their property two years ago. They supported relocation of the structure to a new site, but couldn’t secure a buyer. A creative solution was found: Nickel Bros Company, which specializes in rescuing historic houses, agreed to purchase the house and Lakeside Christian Church agreed to host the structure in its parking lot.

The city shut down the street and onlookers watched as the home was lifted off its foundation and relocated from 127 7th Ave. to the church down the street. Last year, the house was purchased by Kim and Dan Hartman. It was moved again to its new home at 129 6th Ave., a block away in the Norkirk neighborhood.

The house is one of seven remaining houses constructed by Kirkland’s founding father and British steel tycoon Peter Kirk. Kirkland Landmarks and Heritage Commissioner Lynette Weber has researched the history of the house and said it was originally constructed in 1890.

In 1886, Kirk envisioned a “Pittsburgh of the West” to be established in the area he incorporated as Kirkland. Attempting to turn this vision into reality, the Kirkland Land and Improvement Company constructed eight homes — seven for steel mill executives in the West of Market area, and the other for Buchanan, Kirkland’s first physician, according to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

The house also served as his physician’s office, making it the earliest-known hospital in the original town. A second physician, Dr. Barclay Trueblood, may have also lived there, and the house later took on his namesake. But closer examination of the historic record revealed no meaningful connection between Trueblood and the residence, according to the Landmarks Commission meeting agenda.

The house is one of very few early residential structures remaining able to represent the founding history of Kirkland. Because of its architectural value, advocates are hoping that the home can be reinstated on the National Register, though relocated buildings are usually ineligible.

Kirkland has many historic buildings, including the Sears Building (701 Market St.), the Masonic Lodge Building (700 Market St.), the Loomis House (304 8th Ave. West), the Kellet House (526 10th Ave. West) and the Tompkins House (212 5th Ave. West). The Peter Kirk Building (620 Market St.), Heritage Hall and the Kirkland Woman’s Club (407 1st St.) are designated as city landmarks.

While Kirk’s plan to create a center of steel production never materialized, the area grew in population as other industries developed, including wool production and shipbuilding. Kirkland remains a popular residential city, yet due to dramatic regional economic growth and an associated spike in land values, smaller, historic houses increasingly fall victim to the teardown trend, according to the Washington Trust.

But the city and its citizens recognize the importance of history. Last year, Kirkland received a John D. Spellman Award for Exemplary Achievement in Historic Preservation “for identifying and planning for the protection of Kirkland’s historic resources,” including the Buchanan/Trueblood House. The awards are named in honor of John D. Spellman, former King County executive and Washington governor, who established the county’s Historic Preservation Program in 1980.

In the last few years, the city has continually updated its historic resources inventory with regular surveys, including newly annexed areas and the city’s most significant mid-century modern buildings. It also implemented zoning regulations that help maintain the character of historic neighborhoods while accommodating development.

The new owners are, fittingly, both doctors and excited to own a piece of Kirkland history. They plan to live in the home. As a landmarked property, the house would be eligible for tax incentives and grant monies to help the owners keep up with maintenance and repairs. Funding is provided by King County and 4Culture, and technical assistance is provided by the King County Landmarks Commission.

Over the past 25 years, the city of Kirkland has been involved in grant-funded surveys in which more than 400 historical properties have been identified as architecturally significant, with some having possible landmark status.

Is your property among those with national or local landmark status possibilities? If interested, contact Weber at (425) 890-9058 or lynetterose@frontier.com.