Then & Now: Houghton's WWII Legacy

Today most of the houses built for shipyard workers during World War II have been replaced, and the Lakeview Terrace community center is long gone, the site now a park.

Most people in Kirkland today were not even alive during the peak of Kirkland’s industrial history, almost all of which, other than the locations, has long since vanished to time.

If you wander the streets of Houghton, however, you can find artifacts of Kirkland’s industrial peak during the World War II shipbuilding years. When I was a kid, entire blocks remained of the housing projects at Lakeview Terrace. Today most of the small, blocky but quaint houses, built to house workers at the nearby Lake Washington Shipyards, have been replaced by thoroughly modern structures.

But some remain in the area just south of (see the "Now" photos). When I was a teen, a buddy of mine dated a girl who lived in one of the houses built for the projects. Later, during my college years, my brother briefly owned one of them. It was right next to the now abandoned Burlington Northern railroad tracks, and he worked the swing shift at Boeing -- the nightly racket of steel on steel proved too much for him.

At any rate, entire communities were built in Houghton as the ranks of workers at the Lake Washington Shipyards, at the site of today’s Carillon Point, swelled to almost 6,000. Submarine and seaplane tenders were built there. Nearby, more than 50 people worked at , on the water closer to Kirkland proper, which built wooden-hulled picket boats for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Other projects in Houghton included Stewart Heights -- I'm not sure anything is left of that tract.

Not only were houses built. The emergency Lanham Act paid for nurseries to be built around the country so mothers could work in the shipyards. Since most able-bodied young men were serving in the military, the ranks of industrial employees across the nation included more women than ever before.

"A lot of my friends' mothers who had never worked a day in their lives got jobs at the shipyard," recalls Russ McClintick of Rose Hill, who also worked there until joining the Marines and shipping off to war. "The shipyards were hiring everybody."

The Lakeview Terrace Community Center and nursery were built near the projects, apparently at the site of today’s (source: Our Foundering Fathers by Arline Ely), which I am told later became the long-gone Houghton City Hall.

"It was kind of an exciting time," McClintick says. "We worked long hours. We had to work overtime. The shipyard was a big thing. They were running three shifts. I got paid top dollar all the time I was in high school. During school, I worked the swing shift."

The second old picture with this story shows children drinking milk in 1946, after the nursery became independent with the repeal of the Lanham Act.
The old photo of the houses was also taken in 1946, for a story in the East Side Journal; apparently at that time the Lakeview Terrace community was still being operated as a housing project.

"What's interesting is that the people who came to work in the shipyards stayed in Kirkland," says McClintick. "They didn't go back to Texas and Oklaoma and places like that."

There are people alive today, certainly, who worked at the shipyards and lived in those projects. Their memories of those times are nostalgic and vivid, no doubt, just like McClintick's.

The rest of us can only ponder that fascinating era from the hindsight of history.

Jerry Gropp Architect AIA October 17, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Greg- There's something rather nice and simple about your photos- especially the kids sitting around the table. Jerry-
Jerry Stumbaugh December 03, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I just stumbeled on to this site and saw the pic. of the kids drinking milk and to my suprise it looked a lot like myself and my brother in that pic. Jim is the boy on the right with suspenders, and I'am the one at the far end of the table with suspenders, We lived in the projects both "A & B" during WW II when my dad was in the Navy, three of my yunger brothers were born during that time, two Ronald & Donald they were twins were born in Kirkland, and Dick was born back in S. Dakota when the coast of Wash and Or. was shelled we ( Mom, brother Jim and myself Jerry went back home to S. D. by train untill dad said it was ok. Jerry Stumbaugh
Greg Johnston (Editor) December 03, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Wow, I'm really glad you found this photo and post Jerry, your recollections really add a lot to the story. That's honest to goodness Kirkland history that isn't well documented, thanks! -Greg Johnston


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