THIS SNAPSHOT in Kirkland time is as hard to decipher as it is intriguing, showing members of the Marsh family of Houghton, the namesakes of today’s beautiful on Lake Washington.
It shows Mattie Schuster Marsh and her son Philip Marsh, leisurely lounging at a quaint wood cabin, which apparently was built on the uplands of their property above the lake. What knocks me out are the accouterments of the era: Phil looks ever the Wild West sort, complete with gun belt and pistol, and three long guns -- one of them appears to me to be a shotgun, the other two rifles.
And look there on the side of the cabin -- pelts, one on the right side of the door and a smaller one on the left. Notes with the photo from the archives of the Kirkland Heritage Society call them a raccoon and a squirrel. But the larger one on the right sure appears to me to be the hide of a bobcat -- and those native wildcats are .
Anyway, the Marsh family arrived in Houghton from Wisconsin in 1905, Mattie and husband Lute, their sons Louis and Philip and extended family. They settled on land that is today the site of Marsh Commons, a condominium complex that includes the Marsh Mansion. Louis went on to become a famed early Boeing Co. engineer, its chief metallurgist, playing a large role in the early history of commercial aviation. Marsh Park is actually named for him; he donated much of the shoreline land of the park.
The Marsh Mansion (see the ‘now’ photo here), by the way, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built by Louis in 1929-30, it is one of the most architecturally significant residences along the eastern shore of Lake Washington.
Mattie died of tuberculosis in 1916, so this shot had to have been taken sometime between 1905 and then. Kirkland was still a rough and tumble place. But what is hard to figure out is whether this is an everyday scene, or one largely posed for the photo. We doubt people typically sat around their properties at that time with the firepower here surrounding dapper Philip. Are the hides actually drying just after the animals were skinned? If so, the hides would likely not be placed fur side out. Are they there then as ornamentation?
So we’re assuming that on some level at least, the photograph was staged for the camera. It’s a superb shot nonetheless. I love the old, crudely crafted wood cabin, the hides, Mattie’s apparel and the dog she’s playing with. We know she was suffering from tuberculosis, but both she and Phil look relaxed and happy.
It’s one more compelling glimpse of Kirkland’s past.