Kirkland Now & Then: Artillery Cannons at the City Gates

Probably no organization was as prominent and powerful a force in 1920’s Kirkland civic life than the Warren O. Grimm Post 83 of the American Legion.

 

Its members were said to “run Kirkland”. Indeed, mayors and council members of that era were often legionnaires, for example popular town physician, Dr. Ernest McKibben, Sr., served as both the post commander and as Kirkland’s mayor.

Kirkland was quite proud of its vets’ service. Given that, to honor them the legion guys decided to redecorate the town--man cave style: with artillery pieces!

 

Harold P. “Dick” Everest—Everest Park’s namesake--graduated from Kirkland High School in 1912 and from the UW in 1917. Next came the Army, for World War One, but Everest was not sent to France’s bloody trenches, instead he was stationed at Love Field, Texas, where he worked with the crude wood and canvas earliest combat airplanes. Following the war, Everest, Dr. McKibben, Sr. and A.C. “Coal” Newell formed Kirkland’s legion post and served as its officers. In 1922, the post even obtained a war surplus freighter it moored on the Kirkland waterfront as the post clubhouse, which members named ‘Fort Jackson’.

 

In 1924, the legionnaires decided to decorate Kirkland’s north and south entrances with artillery, so the high-achieving and persuasive Everest convinced the War Department to donate four obsolete Spanish American War-era pieces: two 5-inch M-1898 siege guns and two 7-inch M-1898 howitzers, two of 30 ever manufactured, neither of which saw action. A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel which uses comparatively small propellant charges to send projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent. A gun has a longer barrel than a howitzer with a smaller bore which allows firing a projectile at lower trajectories at high velocities. Howitzer were typically used for ‘indirect fire’—shelling an unseen target—whereas guns were used for ‘direct fire’—targets in the gunner’s line of sight. So, guns’ barrels are typically longer and mounted at a flatter angle, whereas howitzers’ barrels are shorter and project at a higher angle. OK, enough Artillery 101...

 

The Seattle Times ran a gushing story with photo on January 4, 1925 about the four weapons’ New Year’s Day arrival on Seattle’s waterfront, from California’s Benicia Arsenal, and journey east, using a tractor borrowed from Seattle’s Central Ford Agency, up the hill via Madison Street to the Madison Park ferry dock, loaded there on the boat to Kirkland where they were ultimately placed on concrete pedestals; south, on Lake Washington Boulevard near 10th Avenue South, and north, on Market Street, near the city line—then at 18th Ave, a few blocks south of today’s Juanita Bay Park, by today’s Asian Wok Restaurant.

 

The two northern howitzers left Kirkland in September, 1937, when the legion donated the two to Washelli Cemetery as a veterans’ memorial. On Memorial Day 1957 one was relocated to Brier’s Abbey View Cemetery. The southern siege guns were destroyed in 1942, falling not to hostile forces, but instead to a WWII scrap drive.