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The Dog Days Of Kirkland

Everyone's Best Friend

Article by Matthew McCauley

Photography by Kirkland Heritage Society, The Etzler Family

Originally published in Kirkland Lifestyle

From the beginning Kirklanders have always loved their dogs, so for the Kids & Pets issue, we will take a quick look to Kirkland’s canine past in photos. 

Prior to first white contact in the 1790s there is little record of the natives, but by the 1830-40s tribes and their leaders in the Puget Sound region started appearing in records kept by the Hudson’s Bay Company. We do know that dogs played an important role in the lives of the Puget Sound Salish people, including the Duwamish whose territory included Lake Washington and the Lower Cedar/Black/White/Duwamish river system. Native dog breeds are now extinct, sadly, including the Salish Woolly Dog which in addition to a companion role was also used as a source of wool, woven into clothing and a type of blanket favorably commented upon by England’s Captain Vancouver, the first white explorer to record visiting northwest waters. 

The area that is now Kirkland opened for homesteading in 1870. Luckily for us, Harry French, the adult son of Caroline and Samuel Foster “Foss” French who took adjoining waterfront land claims in today’s Houghton area in 1872, was an amateur photographer. Three years ago the Kirkland Heritage Society acquired a cache of his glass plate negatives from the years 1889 and 1890, giving us some candid glimpses of the exciting “Kirkland Boom”, during which Kirkland founders Peter Kirk and S.J. “Leigh” Hunt were building the townsite and steel mill east of town on Rose Hill (Near today’s Costco), and expected Kirkland would soon be the “Pittsburgh of the Pacific”. 

The Curtis family arrived just after the Frenches did. Along with their adult children they travelled from South Dakota via covered wagon and purchased land just south of Caroline and Foss at today’s Carillon Point. Their daughter, Florrell, married Benson Northup, co-founder of the Seattle Post newspaper (predecessor to the well-remembered but now defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer—which we old locals always called the “Pee-EYE”) and they took a land claim south of Houghton. The City of Bellevue’s Northup Neighborhood and Northup Way still remind us of the family.

Juanita pioneer Rowland Langdon built the house with extensive gingerbread millwork, here c.1905 with little Alice Ostberg and her sidekick seated on the porch, seen in 1887. Though it lost the gingerbread and a few other features thanks to a 1940s remodel this house still stands off NE 116th St. at the southeastern corner of McAuliffe Park and is, I believe, the oldest structure owned by the City of Kirkland. 

My all time favorite Kirkland historic dog photo Is the c.1916 shot of Earl Excell Etzler sitting in the back of his gas launch, the Teal, off downtown Kirkland with his beloved Jack Russell Terrier on his lap. Earl and his family came to Kirkland in the early 1900s and he was recognized in a 1918 issue of the East Side Journal newspaper as the first Kirkland man to enlist in the US Army for service in WWI. He returned home after the war with a French war bride, Jeanne, and the two started a family and built their home off State Street, near today’s Google campus. Some of their descendants still reside today in the Kirkland area. He spent his career with the Lake Washington Ferries as a purser and died in 1945. 

Jumping to the 1960’s, we see me, a nervous little boy walking down a potholed, oiled, gravel-surfaced 108th Avenue NE adjacent to McAuliffe Nursery, now McAuliffe Park, with his mom and trusty chocolate lab, Red, on his way to his first day of Kindergarten at the original AG Bell Elementary, built in 1967. Red was an amazing dog, the perfect companion for a 5-year-old boy who loved to explore the woods, swamps and pastures that comprised much of rural, pre-leash law Juanita in those days, then part of unincorporated King County. Red would walk me the half mile to AG Bell in the morning and upon reaching the gate at its northwest corner he’d just stop and watch me trudge down to my classroom, hopefully before the first bell. Unprompted, Red would then turn around and walk back home, returning at about 3pm. He’d stop again at the gate, waiting to walk me home after school. Red was the kind of dog you can never forget.      

Photo Captions: Pirnt 1: In addition to companionship the now extinct Salish Woolly Dog provided western native peoples, their coats provided material for weaving clothing and blankets. Print 2: Kirkland co-founder Peter Kirk stands with colleague Walter Williams in a photo including pioneer Harry French's spaniel. Print 3: The pioneer Curtis family of Houghton poses with their family dog, c.1890. Print 4a and 4b (please run as main and inset) in print: Alice Ostberg's home still stands. She is seen here relaxing on the front porch with her pup, c.1910. She grew up and married Art Johnson from the totem Lake area and the two ended up inheriting the home, where they lived out the rest of their lives. Their wooden "The Johnsons" sign also still stands in front of the home, now a part of McAuliffe Park. Print 5: Earl Etzler and his Jack Russell Terrier, c.1916. Downtown Kirkland is in the background. Print 6: September, 1969. Five-year-old Matt McCauley clings to his mom on their way to his first day of kindergarten at AG Bell Elementary. He and Red, the family chocolate lab, were inseparable.