Fort Worden (1897-1953) - Established as an Endicott Period coastal defense fort named in G.O. 43, 4 Apr 1900, after Rear Admiral John L. Worden, U.S. Navy, who was in command of the original "Monitor" in its engagement with the Confederate ram "Merrimac," Hampton Roads, Virginia, 8 and 9 March 1862, during the U.S. Civil War. Construction began in 1897 and the fort was closed in 1953.
Part of the Harbor Defense of Puget Sound. Fort Worden, Fort Flagler, and Fort Casey (1), once guarded the entrance to Puget Sound. These posts, established in the late 1890s, became the first line of a fortification system designed to prevent a hostile fleet from reaching the Bremerton Naval Yard and the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. The property was purchased as a state park in 1955.
Endicott Period (1890-1910)
Fort Worden sits on the tip of the Quimper Peninsula adjacent to the town of Port Townsend and is bounded by the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Admiralty Inlet of Puget Sound. The site itself has a 250' hill in the center of the post surrounded by a steep bluff. This hill is now called "Artillery Hill" and it houses eight large caliber gun batteries at the top. At the base of the bluff, Wilson Point juts out into both the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet with enough room for two additional sea-level gun batteries. Two additional gun batteries are located at the eastern edge of the fort facing Admiralty Inlet.
The land for the fort was private property and was obtained by condemnation proceedings. Construction of the fortifications was under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers and it took 200 men three years (1897-1901) to complete the first six batteries and another year to get them all armed and operational. It was not until 3 May 1902 when the first detachment of 126th Coastal Artillery Company arrived that Fort Worden was first garrisoned. Captain McClosky and his 87 troop detachment were quartered in tents pending the completion of their barracks.
The initial armaments consisted of six Endicott Period gun batteries: Battery Ash, Battery Powell (1), Battery Brannan, Battery Quarles, Battery Randol on Artillery Hill, and Battery Vicars on Point Wilson. Construction on all six of these batteries began in 1898-99 and they were all accepted for service on the same day, 16 Jun 1902, a little more than a month after the fort was garrisoned.
In the summer of 1903 four additional batteries were started: Battery Tolles and Battery Walker on Artillery Hill; Battery Stoddard and Battery Putnam at the eastern edge of the Fort. These batteries were all accepted for service on 21 May 1907.
On 4 Sep 1904, the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command of Puget Sound was transferred from Fort Flagler to Fort Worden along with the 6th Artillery Band. By the fall of 1905, Fort Worden was fully staffed with four Coast Artillery companies, and the harbor defense system, costing approximately $7.5 million, was considered complete and operational.
Between 1908 and 1912, two additional gun batteries were accepted for service: Battery Benson (24 Apr 1908) on Artillery Hill and Battery Kinzie (10 Jan 1912) on Point Wilson. When completed, Fort Worden had 41 artillery pieces, completing its part of the "Triangle of Fire": two 12-inch disappearing guns, two 12-inch Barbette guns, two 10-inch disappearing guns, five 10-inch Barbette guns, eight 6-inch disappearing guns, two 5-inch pedestal guns, four 3-inch pedestal guns, and sixteen 12-inch mortars.
World War I (1917-1918)
Fort Worden was greatly expanded during World War I with additional temporary training barracks and facilities. Many of Fort Worden's 41 artillery pieces were dismounted and prepared for shipment to European battlefields late in the war but few actually were sent when it became clear that they were not needed. Many of the guns were ordered remounted and the batteries reactivated. In total 18 guns were removed and not remounted. Eight of the guns not remounted were 12" mortars that were to be removed anyway as a part of an existing plan to reduce each mortar pit to 2 mortars.
World War II (1941-1945)
Fort Worden remained the headquarters of the Harbor Defense Command during World War II. A combined Harbor Defense Command Post and Harbor Entrance Command Post (Fort Worden HDCP/HECP was built atop Artillery hill and was jointly operated by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy. The fort was home to the 14th Coast Artillery Regiment of the U.S. Army, the 248th Regiment of the Washington National Guard, the 2nd Amphibious Engineers, miscellaneous U.S. Navy personnel, and Canadian liaison officers. The Army operated radar sites and coordinated Canadian and U.S. defense activities in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. The Navy, responsible for the detection and identification of all vessels entering and leaving Puget Sound, monitored new underwater sonar and sensing devices. Most of the gun emplacements were modified for anti-aircraft guns, which replaced the outdated coastal artillery pieces. Fort Worden personnel also manned batteries and fire control towers at the Cape George Military Reservation, six miles southwest of Port Townsend on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the entrance to Discovery Bay.¹
Cold War (1947-1991)
The Coast Artillery units at Fort Worden were disbanded and the gun batteries were dismantled. It remained active as an administrative unit until 30 Jun 1953, when the Harbor Defense Command was deactivated and the fort officially closed. On 1 Jul 1957, the State of Washington purchased Fort Worden for $127,533 for use as a diagnostic and treatment center for troubled youths.¹ In 1971 the diagnostic center closed and in 1973 the property was transferred to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission for development as a conference center. In 1982 the movie, "An Officer and a Gentleman", starring Richard Gere, Debra Winger, and Lou Gossett was filmed on location at Fort Worden and the surrounding Port Townsend area.
The fort is now Fort Worden State Park Conference Center and is a National Historic Landmark. No period guns or carriages in place but many period buildings and batteries. Excellent RV facilities.
Visited: 17 Aug 2022, May 2017, Apr 2010, Jun 2009, Jul 2008, Sep 2005