Kirkland Heritage Month | Interview With Loita, President of Kirkland Heritage Society
February 25, 2020
Our beloved Kirkland is filled with a rich historical significance, and we always enjoy learning more about the place where we work, live and play. Did you know that February is actually Kirkland Heritage Month? We found this the perfect opportunity to learn more about our town from the President of the Kirkland Heritage Society, Loita Hawkinson, who has been involved for nearly 30 years.
Learn more about the society and how you can get involved in her interview below!
How was the Kirkland Heritage Society started?
First the Kirkland Historic Commision came about and it was a way for people who lived in old historic homes to share resources for restoration and repairs, this is before the internet. For instance, if someone was renting a machine to level their floors, everyone in the group would use it before they returned it. This initial group was strictly for historic preservation, rather than for preserving family history. That went on for several years and then eventually disbanded. It was not until Barbara Loomis, who owns the Loomis house on 8th Avenue West, started it up again and changed the name to Kirkland Heritage. She started it up again with the intention for not only historic preservation but also preserving history.
Since then we have evolved from a resource center for people to come and look up their family or old home, to a display of items that has become a mini museum of Kirkland’s rich history. A few years ago during Summerfest people came and said, “We didn’t know Kirkland had a museum”. At that point we started promoting our mini museum.
What are the main roles of the Kirkland Heritage Society?
Our main role is to be a resource for the community, which is available both in our building as well as within the community through our volunteers on demand. For example next month, I will be presenting a program at Finn Hill for the 8th graders learning about Washington State History, to teach them about Kirkland history, since there is nothing in their books specifically about Kirkland’s history.
This month there will also be a Boy Scout event going all around downtown Kirkland visiting different places and learning something about where they are, and we are a stop along the way. Actually, scouting started in Kirkland! We had the first scout mistress in the United States, Mrs Esty, however she is not recognized by boy scouts of America although we have all of the credentials. Her family still has the scarf that she wore back in the 20’s and 30’s.
Throughout the years many people started dropping items of historic value off for us to archive. Before we knew it we realized we became a museum! We even archive all of these historic items like a museum in Washington DC would. We take it very seriously and handle all of the items professionally.
Photos via KirklandHeritage.org
What is your role within the society?
I am the current President and I have been involved for almost 30 years. I take care of all collections, which means I take all of the collections and put them into our database called Pastperfect. Once they are in the database there is a scan of the item and it is archived and available for anyone to come and look up or take a look at the many items we are given to showcase in our three room museum. If we have a spot for it, we will display it! We have over 12,000 items in our database with many more that still need to be archived. I am also the editor and publisher of our newsletter that comes out six times a year.
How many volunteers does the Kirkland Heritage Society have?
Right now we are nine board members and we have about five volunteers that come in and do various things like record keeper, someone who works on collection. Our group that volunteers is very passionate about Kirkland, for example Frank Rosin, our treasurer, was born in Kirkland and has lived through a lot of the history, whereas I had to learn a lot about the history.
How did February become Kirkland Heritage Month?
The main reason is that Peter Kirk’s birthday falls in the month of February (February 15th). Also, the city of Kirkland likes February because we don’t have much else going on during this time of year. February is also Black History Month so we will start recognizing it with proper plaques. We handed out plaques for historic locations throughout Kirkland, and the Windermere office actually received a plaque for its historic significance as the Sears Building.
The Plaque reads: Built by J. Montgomery Sears in 1890 to be the Kirkland Bank. It never opened as a bank and was rented out until Mrs. Sears sold it about 1918. This photo was taken by Mrs. Sears of Boston in 1915. Mr. Sears was one the wealthiest men in America and privately owned half of the Kirkland town site. The Kirkland Land & Improvement Company owns the other half.
How does someone join the Kirkland Heritage Society?
They can go online and join us and see what we have to offer. We are an all volunteer organization so those who join are passionate about Kirkland and its history. Visiting is free to the public and they can do any research and visit our museum free of charge. We do however charge $10 if they would like a photocopy of a picture. This helps maintain our expenses, like keeping our lights on and maintains our ability to archive at professional level.
What has been your favorite memory of being a part of the Kirkland Heritage Society?
Definitely the people! Sharing in their memories. There are ladies that I know that were the phone operators back in the day, old school teachers, and so many more people I have had the pleasure of meeting throughout my time with the society.
To get involved or to visit the Kirkland Heritage Society Museum visit their website here!
The Kirkland Heritage Society’s mission is to identify historic resources; to encourage their preservation; to collect, preserve, exhibit and interpret the history and heritage of Kirkland and its people; and to promote public involvement in and appreciation of its heritage and cultures. When the Kirkland Heritage Society (formerly the Kirkland Historic Commission) was formed in 1977, many of the historic sites in Kirkland had already been removed and lost forever. We are working for the preservation of the remaining sites and to interpret the rich history of Kirkland and its people.
Kirkland Heritage Society
203 Market Street, Lower Level
Kirkland, Washington 98033
Museum hours: Mondays 10am-12pm, Wednesdays 2pm-5pm
Photos via KirklandHeritage.org
Our goal at Windermere Kirkland is to be a resource for the community. Aside from helping you buy or sell your home, our team is dedicated to adding value to our city. Every other Tuesday we will be posting a blog post highlighting different people, businesses, communities, and more throughout Kirkland. Stay tuned!