Who knew downtown Bremerton was filled with so many architectural gems back in the day? Many of them became victims of new construction or remain standing but not in the full glory of their past lives. But six of them – all Art Deco buildings designed by Seattle architects are still standing as vital contributors to the downtown cultural scene. Check out my article here and then get yourself to the epicenter of Bremerton and check them out for yourselves.
I may not have mentioned this previously. I’m a freelance travel writer. I love the research that goes into an article. And I can ever so easily go down the internet rabbit hole which was exactly how I ended up on the National Register of Historic Places website.
It began with an article idea about architectural styles that I pitched to a regional magazine and they liked it. Then I began to research and found myself in the murky depths of online digital archives with links about strange architectural style names: Carpenter Gothic, Brutalism and Slick Skin anyone? Anyone?
However, in the pursuit of the history of one particular building, I found myself on the National Register of Historic Places and wondered how many sites in Kitsap County had been awarded that designation. Surprisingly it turns out there are 19 and they’re as varied as the county itself. There were 20 but one of the sites, the Sidney Hotel in Port Orchard, built in 1891, burnt down in 1985. Apparently they take away your active designation when you cease to exist.
The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service. The list includes districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that have been identified and documented as being significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture. There’s a fairly lengthy state and federal process involved in being named to the list so kudos to our 19 recipients. In alphabetical order, here are Kitsap County’s sites deemed worthy of the title:
The Agate Pass Bridge in Suquamish
Bremerton Elks Temple Lodge (currently called the Catholic Services Max Hale Center)
Camp Major Hopkins on Bainbridge Island (currently called Camp Yeomalt)
Coder-Coleman House in Bremerton
Filipino-American Community Hall on Bainbridge Island
Fort Ward Historic District on Bainbridge Island
The Hospital Reservation District in Bremerton
Jackson Hall Memorial Community Hall in Silverdale (also known as Silverdale Scout Hall)
The Marine Reservation District in Bremerton
Masonic Hall in Port Orchard
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton
Charles F Nelson House in Olalla
Officers Row Historic District in Bremerton
Old Man House Site in Suquamish
Point No Point Lighthouse in Hansville
Port Gamble Historic District in Port Gamble
Puget Sound Radio Station District in Bremerton
Shelbanks in Bremerton (also known as Kean Cabin)
U.S. Post Office in Bremerton
You may be wondering why the three Reservation Districts in Bremerton are in bold? It’s because I’m as intrigued as you are about their history and anticipate a future blog post about them. What exactly is a Radio Station District? Why is there a Hospital Reservation District? Will the internet rabbit hole reveal the answers?
Mrs. Nell Skinner taught one term at Mcdonald School. Then the school board told her they were against hiring married women so she was out of a job. She ran into the same opposition from the Illahee district but when she told them she had a sick husband and three children to support, they relented and hired her. To get to her job each day she would walk to Captain Anderson’s place and was rowed across the bay to Fletcher Bay. Then she took the little steamer Chickaree from the Fletcher Bay dock to the Illahee dock. After landing at Illahee she walked up to her school and made a fire in the wood stove to heat up the room before her pupils arrived.
In 1902 after graduating from the eighth grade, Chloe Sutton took the State Teachers Examinations, passed and received a certificate to teach. Her first school was located between Brownsville and Keyport.
My second year of teaching at Kitsap Lake School I served the children a hot lunch. Hot cocoa was always served on Mondays and I cooked vegetable soup at my cabin. I bought the soup bone and meat at Silverdale on Saturdays and cooked the stock. Each child brought a potato and 15 cents each week for lunch supplies. Eliza Jane Hanberg
On May 14, 1931, the Bremerton School Board adopted the following resolution: That a married woman having private means of support, income producing property or other property capable of producing an income, or a husband who is physically able to support her, shall not be hired as a teacher by the district.
Excerpts from The Way It Was in Kitsap Schools, Kitsap County Retired Teachers
The local newspapers have been busy covering public education issues in the county over the past month. South Kitsap School District lost its bond election to build a new high school for the second time. The North Kitsap Superintendent is under fire for ignoring teacher and community input. Central Kitsap School District has a bus driver shortage. And I’ve been reading a fascinating book that appears to be the sole resource of collected historical information and archived memories on Kitsap County’s public education history. What was it like back in the day?
Schools in the county were built before Washington achieved statehood and were mostly situated at population centers near lumber mills. Unlike today where the county is served by five school districts: South Kitsap, Bremerton, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, each early school in the county was a school district. By the time Washington was declared a state in 1889, there were already 615 students in the county and 24 schools located in 24 school districts. As the population grew and shifted, more schools were built. At its peak there were about 34 K-8 school districts in Kitsap County.
The first school was built in Port Gamble in the current North Kitsap School District, though the building that housed the school was used for “public worship, social enjoyment or fraternal communion and to educate the children.” Given the multi-purpose use of the building, Bainbridge Island lays claim to the first building erected as a school which was built in 1860 at Port Madison on Bainbridge Island. The third school was built seven years later at Seabeck in what is now the Central Kitsap School District.
Those earliest schools only served younger students. It wasn’t until 1902 that the first high school opened in Kitsap County. The school was located in an existing elementary building in Bremerton and in its first year there were four students who attended – three ninth graders and a tenth grader. By 1905, there were 61 students wanting to attend high school so Bremerton School District and adjacent Charleston School District voted to create a merged Union High School and agreed to open it in a Lutheran church in what is now downtown Bremerton. By 1908 the only high school in the county had it’s own building and a student population of 106. Students in the rest of the county who wanted to go to high school either attended high school in Bremerton or in Seattle or Vashon and boarded with family or friends.
In 1920 six of the fourteen school districts in what is now the North Kitsap School District joined forces to build Union High School. Over the next ten years, the remaining eight districts joined them and by 1930 a bigger high school was built. Port Orchard built its first high school in 1921 after a similar history of its eighteen school districts voting for one consolidated high school. Silverdale’s districts opened their first high school in 1925. Bainbridge’s eleven school districts opened a high school in 1916.
The school buildings changed as the county populations shifted. Some of the first schools took place in local residents’ homes such as the first Bethel School school in Port Orchard and the Bangor School near Silverdale. Others took place in a tent such as the Harley School on Bainbridge or a grocery store where the first Bremerton School operated. The earliest schools were small one room board and batten or log buildings constructed by volunteer labor on donated land with no insulation, no plumbing and a wood stove for heat. Water was usually carried in by the teacher or students from a neighbor’s well and the lack of heat often meant that the school only operated during the warmer months. The 1891 Crosby School in what is now the Central Kitsap School could only afford to stay open three months a year. Blackboards, books and desks came from donations and the local community raising money at basket socials to buy equipment. When the school building became too small it was sometimes dismantled and the materials used in the building of a bigger school or abandoned only to be reincarnated as something else as my previous post on an early Keyport school illustrates or the land and building was returned to the resident who donated the property.
The earliest teachers were unmarried woman and men (who could be married); some who had only just graduated themselves from the 8th grade. They performed multiple duties beyond teaching; they were also the school janitors, cooks and according to the Rules and Regulations of the State Board of Education, air quality monitors: Every public school teacher shall give vigilant attention to the temperature and ventilation of the school room and see that the atmosphere of the room is changed frequently.
The county rule regarding the married status of female teachers didn’t change until 1942 when a regulation was passed entitled War Emergency Teachers. Because male teachers were called to military service, the change allowed districts to hire married women during the duration of the Emergency. Despite what would now be an illegal hiring practice, women who taught managed to serve in school leadership capacities. Most famous among them is Elizabeth Ordway who taught at the first schools built in the county and then became the Superintendent of County Schools in the 1880s and Jane A. Ruley, the first African American teacher in Kitsap County hired by the Sheridan School District in Bremerton in 1887 to open its first school.
Unlike today when collective bargaining determines teacher salaries, the first Silverdale teachers recalled that their salaries were determined by having them bid for how much they wanted to get paid with the job usually going to the lowest bidder. The average monthly salary of the county’s first teachers ranged between $30 and $40 per month and much of it was used to pay room and board to the families they lived with while teaching. In some of the first schools, such as the small 20 feet x 28 feet Seabeck School, an apartment for the teacher was part of the building and some students whose commute by boat or walking was too distant or dangerous boarded with the teacher when school was in session. (School transportation didn’t involve bus driver shortages back in the day. There are plenty of anecdotal memories in the book about students swimming to shore from overturned boats and getting charged by bears while commuting to school and teachers sinking in quicksand while walking home.)
In researching this post I discovered a website with old class photos from Kitsap schools in the early to mid 1900’s. Who do you know in these photos? What memories exist in your family records about early schools in the county?
This past week I walked the trail of Bainbridge Island’s Battle Point Park to have a close encounter with the dome shaped building that I’d wondered about while spending hours on the sidelines of my now adult son’s soccer games so often played on the park’s pristine fields.
Like many of the parks in Kitsap County, Battle Point was once the site of a military installation housing World War II structures used to facilitate communications to the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The former Transmitter Building has been renovated for use as a building for the island’s Park and Recreation District’s various programs.
The local newspaper, The Bainbridge Review, published an excellent article on the history of Battle Point Park. Its name allegedly comes not from its use by the military but rather from a battle fought between the Suquamish Tribe and Canadian First Nation invaders. It was at this site that U.S. code breakers first intercepted a message indicating Japan was going to bomb Pearl Harbor.
But it was the domed building that piqued my curiosity. The building minus the dome was called the Helix Building and it was part of the military’s complex that was donated to the Bainbridge Island parks by the Navy in 1972. It’s now a planetarium housing a 27.5 inch telescope, the largest public access telescope in the area. How, I wondered did THAT happen?
After the Navy donated the Helix Building to Bainbridge it stood vacant for 21 years until John Rudolph, a local community activist and amateur astronomer proposed turning the building into a planetarium. Along with two other local enthusiasts and eventually a team of volunteers, the building was renovated to create a planetarium and observatory and a telescope was built. The planetarium is named after John Rudolph and the observatory and telescope after Edwin E Ritchie, one of the other early founders.
The Battle Point Astronomical Association was created to insure the building was used for the educational purposes as the founders envisioned. It’s website contains considerable information about classes, children’s activities, the current month’s astronomical events, how to check out smaller telescopes and some amazing celestial photography by Stephen Ruhl.
Finding out about Bainbridge Island’s organized night sky viewing led to more wondering. Where else in Kitsap County could one find enthusiasts? I turned to The Google.
Further south in Bremerton, a group of local astronomy educators have opened the Pacific Planetarium for May through August Friday and Sunday presentations. Their May, 2016 schedule has topics such as Hubble Space Telescope photos, audience suggestion Sundays and an over 18 years of age uncensored Greek and Roman Star Stories presentation.
Also based in Bremerton is the Olympic Astronomical Society. Begun in 1969 by a group of high school students passionate about star gazing, today the organization is open to anyone and it encourages family involvement. It sponsors a variety of activities including monthly meetings, potlucks, star gazing parties at Port Gamble and Hurricane Ridge and its popular Camp Delaney Star Party at Sun Lakes in Eastern Washington.
For anyone wanting a formal educational experience, Olympic College offers an Astronomy Program that prepares students for entry level work in the field. The college’s popular astronomy instructor, David Fong teaches Introduction to Astronomy classes at all three of the college’s campuses in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Shelton. He can sometimes be heard as a guest speaker at local astronomy events. I heard him speak at Bainbridge’s John Rudolph Planetarium and can attest for his enthusiasm for his subject matter. In August, 2015, Olympic College sponsored Astronomy Talks, a series of lectures by nationally known astronomers and Astronomy Slam, short talks about astronomy subjects at art galleries, theatres and pubs in Bremerton. I’m bookmarking those two sites in hopes the college will repeat the events this summer.
What began as a close encounter with a dome shaped building revealed a galaxy of local possibilities for anyone interested in astronomy.
Make it so and you will live long and prosper.
Finding the Bainbridge Halls Hill Labyrinth and its Community Tibetan Prayer Wheel is not so easy if, like me, you don’t know the island’s backroads, but I’ve been there a few times now.
It’s stunning in the summer when the Asian inspired landscaping fully complements the labyrinth and prayer wheel and it’s stunning in the winter when rain highlights the varied colors in the four quadrants of the labyrinth. However, I never remember how to get there and so on my most recent foray I asked The Google for directions and he revealed four more Bainbridge labyrinths also on private land (all of them churches) but regularly open to the public and another one in a public park. How many public labyrinths are there in Kitsap County?
It turns out there are two more – one in Kingston and one in Silverdale, both of them on welcoming church property. And the south end of the county lends its own unique contributions to the county labyrinth culture. A Port Orchard couple who have a semi public labyrinth belong to a state network of labyrinth events and consult on building labyrinths. And a Bremerton based artist makes finger labyrinths.
I set out to walk them all and discovered each is unique. While most of the county labyrinths accessible to the public are on church property, labyrinths are not part of any specific religion. The earliest ones are from the Middle Ages and were intended to be used as both a meditative and spiritual practice.
The labyrinth at Grace Episcopal Church on East Day Road, Bainbridge is one of two walking meditative features. The architecturally stunning church is located down a long driveway and the labyrinth is on a small north rise above the parking lot. Made of gravel and lined with stones, this labyrinth was built in the Chartres pattern of two circuitous paths to the center. Beyond the labyrinth is a meditation trail that winds through the trees.
Bethany Lutheran Church on Finch Road, Bainbridge maintains a seven circuit stone and gravel medieval labyrinth on the southwest part of their property. Since the church also hosts a large park and ride parking lot, I wondered if the labyrinth also provided stress reduction for the island’s significant Seattle bound daily commuter population.
The Eagle Harbor Congregational Church labyrinth in downtown Bainbridge was nearly indistinguishable from its surroundings when I visited. Covered with needles, the seven circuit brick lined labyrinth is on the south side of the church just off the parking lot.
Eagledale Park on Bainbridge has a large, well-signed hilltop labyrinth with a view of Mt. Rainier. The park was once part of a Cold War Nike missile complex which made me wonder how many of THOSE we have in Kitsap County – a future blog post.
In Kingston, the United Methodist Church on Shorty Campbell Road has a small three circuit labyrinth behind the church. While open to the public the church asks that it not be visited on Sunday mornings while services are in progress.
It was one of our recent cold, frosty days when I found the Silverdale labyrinth located at the Silverdale Lutheran Church on Ridgepoint Drive. I like that walking the pathway leads to a contemplative bench.
And for anyone not wanting to brave the elements of an outdoor labyrinth, Brian Watson, a Bremerton artist and woodworker makes beautiful finger labyrinths. The above photo is from his website.
ADDENDUM: Readers of this post informed me of two more labyrinths on Bainbridge Island; one at Sakai Intermediate School and another at Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church. Check out this link from the Smithsonian for more information about labyrinths.