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Then & Now: Time Running Out for Kirkland's Historic Ferry Clock?

Years ago the clock that stood at Kirkland Ave and Lake Street for decades stopped at 1:33, and last year it was taken down. Now a group of citizens wants to restore Kirkland's last vestige of the Lake Washington ferry era.

 

THE LAST tangible piece in Kirkland of the storied history of Lake Washington ferry transportation sits now in a city maintenance shop collecting dust.

The Kirkland ferry clock stood at the corner of Lake Street and Kirkland Avenue beginning in 1935, a lighted red arrow on it pointing the way to the nearby steam ferry landing at today’s , the ferry schedule listed below. Last September, the quaint but deteriorating timepiece, which had long since stopped at 1:33 o’clock and had already been junked and rescued once, was taken down and stowed away by the city.

But a group of local history buffs, led by , the Kirkland Heritage Society and its president Loita Hawkinson and , is raising money to restore it and put back in its original spot.

But it will cost about $9,000. And the hands of time will more likely be turned back before the budget-limited city of Kirkland can pay for it.

“It’s a piece of Kirkland history. We need to not tear down and bulldoze everything,” says Contreras, known as a tireless volunteer in many civic endeavors. “It adds a little character to Kirkland. We’re not asking the city to pay for it.”

So far about $1,400 has been raised and two estimates have been made on repairs. But neither has accurately estimated how much it will cost to restore the clock to its original condition, which members of the ad hoc group have decided is essential.

According to Hawkinson, it’s important to restore the clock properly because it really reaches back almost to the beginning of the story of Kirkland as a city.

Ferries first served Kirkland in 1888, landing at the foot of Market Street. The ferry landing was moved to where the city marina is now at the foot of Kirkland Ave some years later when the Redmond/Kirkland Road -- long since replaced by today's 85th Street -- was completed. Before automobiles became ubiquitous and before two floating bridges spanned the lake, for decades steam ferries plied the lake between Kirkland, Houghton, Bellevue, Madison Park in Seattle and other points. The first floating bridge in 1940 spelled the beginning of the end, and the runs dwindled to just that between Kirkland and Madison Park, until finally the ferry Leschi blew her last whistle on Aug. 31 of 1950.

“There are still people alive today who grieve the loss of the Kirkland ferry,” says Hawkinson. “The clock is a link to that history. It’s a reminder of the past, of the earliest days of Kirkland.”

THE CLOCK was donated in January of 1935 to Kirkland by ferry magnate Capt. John Anderson, a Swede who arrived in Seattle in 1888, launched the Anderson Steamboat Co in Houghton in 1908 and became the pivotal figure in the business.

Built in Kirkland in a shop on the corner of Lake Street and Central Way, the clock first quit in 1941, but was repaired by watchmakers. It conked out again in 1945 and was to be junked before it was salvaged by Art Needham of Needham’s Electric. Another ferry skipper, Capt. Harrie Tompkins, a friend of Anderson’s (who died in 1941), paid for the repair.

The city held a contest in 1966 to redesign the clock, and the work slightly altered it original appearance. It was remodeled again in 1987.

Sometime between then and now, its time stood still at 1:33 and its housing continued to rust and deteriorate. Last September, Mark Padgett, a grounds lead for the city Public Works Department, took the clock apart and put it in storage.

With many other needs and tasks to perform, the restoration of the clock is not a city priority. “If it were up to me, I’d do everything I could,” says Padgett. “I’d love for it to get back in its original condition. It’s a great part of Kirkland’s history.”

But the group working to get it restored has time on its side. “So what if it takes us two or three years?” says Contreras.

Donations payable to “Kirkland Heritage -- Clock” could speed up the process, are tax exempt, and can be sent to:

Kirkland Heritage Society
203 Market Street
Heritage Hall Lower Level
Kirkland, Wa. 98033

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