Kirkland Now & Then | The colorful history of Kirkland & Houghton circa 1963 (Photos)

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On September 12, 1963, Kirkland and Houghton were two separate cities. Kirkland, incorporated in 1905, had a population of 6500 and Houghton, incorporated in 1947, consisted of 3145 residents.

Tension ran high, the next Tuesday, September 17, voters of both towns were to decide whether or not to approve a dramatic change: Consolidation, thereby removing what the East Side Journal newspaper called the imaginary "Berlin Wall" of NE 68th St. and creating from the two one new city. A new city of 9545 souls to be know as...Houghton. That's right, were the 1963 measure to pass the new city was to be called Houghton, not Kirkland.

Anti-consolidation Houghton residents formed the 'Citizen's Committee for Houghton Against Consolidation', and it's president, Houghton resident John Cushing, produced a hard-hitting, widely-distributed, mimeographed, hand-stapled pamphlet laying out the anti-consolidation case. In the history of Kirkland-area political art, there is likely no better remembered image than that of 'Old Man Kirkland' banjo serenading 'Miss Houghton' in a canoe with "sweet songs of nothing" to seduce her into consolidation, while the caption reminded readers that "Miss Juanita" and several other East Side 'ladies' had already spurned his lecherous advances.

Cushing's pamphlet pointed to what he claimed was 'Kirkland's desire to industrialize Houghton,' an effort he said dated back to 1945. He also trumpeted Kirkland's control of Houghton's zoning as a source of grave concern. Cushing added other 'scandals' and bullet points: Kirkland selling its sewer plant and Metro taking over that role, a 'police department shake up' and city clerk's resignation. He provided a table with a cost break down, claiming Houghton residents enjoyed lower per capita municipal cost than Kirkland and he also compared the two cities' staff overhead, showing Kirkland's as substantially higher. His overall point: "Kirkland's taxes are higher, Kirkland's debts are greater--Financially, YOU LOSE"  along with several others.

Charles O. "Chuck" Morgan, East Side Journal publisher, editorialized on the front page strongly in favor of consolidation and a companion articles ran stating the "Kirkland Businessmen's position in favor" and another with a pro/con breakdown.

For consolidation to prevail a simple majority on both cities was required.

When the September 17 votes were tallied Kirkland residents favored the measure 652 to 227, but Cushing's pamphlet had devastating results in Houghton where residents rejected consolidation 454 to 323. Thus, 1963's 'new' consolidated City of Houghton was never to be.

In the East Side Journal edition immediately following the election, Kirkland mayor, Byron Baggaley (Kirkland's last mayor elected directly by the voters, prior to Kirkland converting to its current city council-manager system) stated, "We are greatly disturbed over the kick in the teeth our city received from a pamphlet put out by some Houghton residents...I commend the people of Kirkland for being broad minded enough to vote in favor of the proposal even though it meant changing their name...and for voting for the entire good of the East Side."

[box]After three unsuccessful attempts, Kirkland and Houghton merged to become one city in 1968. Of particular interest is the list of arguments against consolidation which echo many of the challenges facing Kirkland today. - Editor[/box]