Kirkland Now & Then | Downtown from the early 1970s

This drawing of downtown Kirkland's Central Business District ran as part of a newspaper ad appearing in a 1973 issue of the old East Side Journal. This is, of course, the block on the west side of Lake Street, between Kirkland Avenue and Central Way. Several of the businesses shown, including Betty's Apparel, Kid's Stuff and Betty's Pants and Tops were owned by Bob and the late Betty Lightfeldt. The Lightfelds were very active in Kirkland's charitable and civic affairs for many years and Mr. Lightfeldt had been a member of the Kirkland Planning Commission. He also co-chaired the Central Business District Advisory Committee with the East Side Journal's Editor/Publisher, the late Charles "Chuck" Morgan. As today, there was great concern over the lack of parking downtown and Mr Lightfeldt played a leading role in getting the then-vacant lots at Central Way and Lake Street tuned into the parking lot it is today.

Among the things that Advisory Committee accomplished was converting what was then called Commercial Avenue into today's tree-lined Park Lane. Their original vision was for Park Lane to be a pedestrian-only specialty retail environment. Many people have forgotten that there was originally a stream flowing through the middle of Kirkland--with the rather unfortunate name 'Jap Creek'--and it had been rerouted through culverts and buried. One item the committee proposed but was not implemented was to open the creek back up as an environmental enhancement to the new Park Lane.

 

The Lightfelts also owned land in Juanita, which was part of the parcel that became the old Juanita Plaza in 1964 where the PX/Mayfair grocery store, Bill Bitz Barber Shop and numerous other business were located for many years. That property was redeveloped decades later and is now known as Juanita Village. The Lightfelt's daughter, Karen, has also been quite active in Kirkland business and civic affairs and she currently serves on the board of the 'New' Juanita Neighborhood Association.

 

Richardson's Ben Franklin and J.C. Penny were also well-remembered downtown businesses. For many young Kirkland boys of the 1960-70's, the boredom of one's mom dragging them into Betty's for 'just a minute' for her to 'try on some clothes' during a downtown shopping trip was offset by some candy from Richardson's if one kept his complaining to a minimum.