Posts Tagged With: Fort

A Tale of Two (Small) Forts – Rochester and Centralia, WA

In 1855-56, Washington State had what was known as the “Indian Wars”. In response to concerns about possible attacks, two very small forts were built in Southwest Washington. Erected around the same time period, they both ultimately served very different purposes.

Fort Henness Map, Rochester, Grand Mound, Washington

Fort Henness Map

First is Fort Henness, which was located on Grand Mound Prairie in Rochester, Washington. There is nothing left of it now except for a marker and map of the fort. It’s a beautiful area, flat, with views all around. The fort was built in 1855 and stayed in use for about 16 months until 1856. It was actually quite large considering the one-building Fort Borst described later. It contained two block houses, a school, barracks, and living quarters. At one time 30 families lived there. Fortunately, the fort was never attacked and families returned to their homes.

Fort Henness Map, Rochester, Grand Mound, Washington

Fort Henness Map

A few miles south in the town of Centralia sits the Fort Borst Blockhouse. Unlike Fort Henness, there was just one building and it is still standing. It was also built by volunteers around the same time as Fort Henness, at the junction of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers. It was also erected in case it was needed for protection from Indian attacks. However, the only thing it ever had to do with Indians was to hold grain that was bought from the Indians in the area. It was originally built without windows and only one door. Later, after the concerns for war passed, Joseph Borst bought the blockhouse and it was used a few times for his family to live in while their home was being built. That’s when the windows and second door were added.

Fort Borst Blockhouse, Centralia, Washington

Fort Borst Blockhouse

As with Fort Henness, there was never an Indian attack on Fort Borst and relationships with Indians in the area settled down. The blockhouse is currently located in Borst Park in Centralia. There are plans to move it back nearer the Borst Home where it was originally located, a site that allowed settlers the same advantage that Fort Henness did – views to watch for attackers.

Fort Borst Historical Marker, Centralia, Washington

Fort Borst Historical Marker

Next time you’re in Southwest Washington, take a quick stop in Centralia at Borst Park and you can just walk right up to the blockhouse. You’ll appreciate the sturdiness and the quality of the craftsmanship – after all it has survived for over 150 years! Then make a quick 15 minute drive out to Rochester and stand at the site where Fort Henness stood – you’ll understand why the site was chosen when you look around and can see what would have been unobstructed views back then.

Fort Henness Site, Rochester, Grand Mound, Washington

Fort Henness Site

It is a relief that these structures were never needed for their original purpose, but they are still an interesting piece of history in the area.

Getting there: Fort Borst Park in Centralia – From I-5, take exit 82 and head west. Before the first traffic light you’ll see there’s a turning lane to turn south in front of the Safeway gas station. Take that turn and go one block and you’ll see the entrance to Borst Park in front of you. Head on in and you’ll see the blockhouse off to your left in the park.

 Fort Henness: Located across the intersection on 183rd Ave. and Apricot Street. The least confusing way to get there is take exit 88, heading east towards Tenino. Turn left on Loganberry Street and go north until you reach 183rd, then turn left again. Head back west over the freeway and go about a mile and a half. You’ll see Grand Mound Cemetery on your left and the field with Fort Henness marker on your right.

Categories: Historical, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lighting History – Admiralty Head Lighthouse, Whidbey Island, WA


Admiralty Head Lighthouse

Lighthouse lovers must check out the simple little Admiralty Head Lighthouse. It’s located on Whidbey Island inside Fort Casey property. The original lighthouse was built in 1861, 36 years before construction began on Ft. Casey! When the land was needed for gun batteries, the wooden lighthouse was moved near where the current lighthouse is. Then a new stucco lighthouse was built in 1903 and has 18-inch-thick walls! The old wooden lighthouse was eventually torn down but the wood was reused in a home on the island.


Fresnel Lens

These lighthouses helped guide numerous ships into Whidbey Island safely. Long-ago mariners used the winds blowing through the area to sail into the island. The light that was used until 1922 was called a “Fresnel Lens” which was lit with a whale oil lamp. According to a sign in the lighthouse:

“Fresnel Fourth Order Lens. The Fresnel Lens, developed in France by Augustine Fresnel in 1822 has been used worldwide to aid navigation. Handcrafted of brass and glass, these lenses are of such high quality that their light is just as effective as that produced by the most modern system. Many are still in use today.”


Interpretive Signs


Down the Spiral Staircase

On the bottom floor there are rooms that include interpretive signs detailing the story of the area, the fort, and the lighthouse, as well as historical items such as a replica light (the whereabouts of the original Fresnel lens is unknown.) Artifacts of life during the early years are also displayed, along with a scale model of the fort. A small gift-shop is also open on the bottom floor where you can purchase souvenirs and information. Climb the spiral staircase (who doesn’t love spiral staircases?!) and go up to the top where you can look out and see the Olympics, Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Careful, though, it is a small area and you may have to wait your turn going up or down.

The property is now owned by Washington State Parks and is operated in partnership with the Washington State University Extension, which provides the volunteers. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have.

It’s not a huge lighthouse, but it is well-kept and the location and scenery are spectacular. The fort and its structures are often a pleasant surprise to many visitors who thought they were just coming to see the lighthouse but find themselves running through the batteries with flashlights just like the kids. No food concessionaires are on site, so a picnic lunch would be thoroughly enjoyed along with the expansive views.



Hours are 11am-5pm. Note that it is scheduled to be closed during January and February. Admission is free, donations are accepted.

Getting there: Whidbey Island can be accessed by land over the Deception Pass Bridge, or by ferry from Port Townsend or Mukilteo-Clinton. Take Highway 20 to Coupeville, then take Engle Road to Fort Casey.



Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

History, Beauty and Fun! – Fort Worden State Park, Washington


Admiralty Inlet

IMG_1540Sitting high on a bluff overlooking the deep blue intersection of the Straits of Juan De Fuca and Admiralty Inlet sits beautiful historic Fort Worden. Built in 1897, the fort became a part of the Washington State park system in 1955 and now encompasses 434-acres. Located in the town of Port Townsend, the park has about two miles of shoreline, historic buildings replicating life in the early 1900’s, as well as local schools and businesses. Centrum is a program located on the grounds that offers ongoing classes for writers, musicians, artists and dancers. The Port Townsend School of Woodworking is also located there along with a branch of Peninsula College. Conferences and retreats are held in the conference center. With dormitories and former officer’s homes available for rent, there is plenty of room for everyone. There are actually a total of 456 bedrooms available for use!


One of the Many Batteries

Two campgrounds are also available, one up high on the bluff and one down near the beach and lighthouse.

We have stayed in the lower campground twice and loved it. There is a small berm to block the wind blowing in from the water, but a short walk, literally just a few feet, over it and you are on the beach. The camping spots are large with a lot of room between them. Of course there are restroom and shower facilities available as well. One of Josh’s favorite parts is the fact that there is a remnant of concrete military bunkers known as “batteries” right next to the campground and he always spend hours running around in it with a flashlight, meeting other kids and scaring each other.

Down by the lower campground is also where the Marine Science Center is located. It hosts exciting wildlife cruises as well as amazing hands-on activities for kids, such as day or overnight camps and classes.


Coast Artillery Museum

A visit to the Coast Artillery Museum will help you learn about the history of the site.  Fort Worden was established as one of three harbor defense posts for Puget Sound. The other two are Fort Flagler and Fort Casey. You can see models of the batteries so when you actually get out on the grounds and find them, you’ll understand better what you are looking at.


Fireplace in Commanding Officer’s House

One of my favorite buildings is the Commanding Officer’s Quarters which was built in 1904. It has been painstakingly restored and furnished in the grand style of the 1890s-1910s. The interpretive guide looked quite handsome in his period clothing and had a wealth of knowledge about the house and its history. I don’t think there was one question that I had that he couldn’t answer.

There are so many activities available in the park – boating, fishing, crabbing, hiking, biking, swimming and of course, running around the batteries. If you don’t have your own boat or bike you can rent bikes and kayaks. There is usually some sort of event, show, class, or performance going on somewhere on the grounds. In the evenings we always saw deer out grazing in the big parade grounds. Just sitting and watching the huge ships going through the straits is amazing.


Dress Displayed in Commanding Officer’s House.


Replica Barracks Room

Both times we have been there I couldn’t help but think about the families, particularly the women, who lived there a hundred years ago. Did they think it was just as beautiful as I do or was it nothing special to them? With all the batteries, beautiful buildings and facilities which seem like they would have met their every need, did they feel safe or did they feel isolated? Was it a choice assignment or just a stepping stone to something they thought was more desirable?


Officer’s Row Houses for Rent

There is so much to see and do, so much to wonder about at Fort Worden State Park, that it is well worth your time to take the family and discover all that the park’s 434 acres has to offer. Learn the history, explore the batteries. Maybe stay in one of the old houses and see if you can experience life as those families did 100 years ago!

For reservations and more information,


Getting there: (from the Fort Worden website) –

From Seattle-Bainbridge Ferry to Fort Worden State Park

Depart from the ferry terminal, and drive straight (NE) on State Route (SR) 305 for approximately 13 miles. Drive through Poulsbo, and take a right onto the ramp for SR 3 to the Hood Canal Bridge – approximately 7 miles. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, take a left and remain on SR 104 for about 6 ½ miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend, take a left on Kearney Street, right on Blaine Street, left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Canada/Northwest Washington to Fort Worden State Park

Travel south on Interstate 5 to Highway 20 (Burlington exit). Follow Highway 20 west through Oak Harbor and Coupeville to Keystone Ferry, approximately 42 miles. Take the Keystone Ferry to Port Townsend. Depart from the ferry terminal and turn left onto Water Street. At the first stop light, turn right onto Kearney Street. At the first stop sign take a right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, take a left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Edmonds-Kingston Ferry to Fort Worden State Park

Depart from the ferry terminal and drive straight on State Route (SR) 104. Follow signs to stay on SR 104 through Port Gamble to the Hood Canal Bridge, approximately nine miles. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, turn right and remain on SR 104 for about 6.5 miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Tacoma to Fort Worden State Park

Follow Highway 16 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and follow the signs to Bremerton, approximately 27 miles, where the highway changes names to SR 3. Follow SR 3 about 25 miles to the Hood Canal Bridge. At the lighted intersection for SR 104, turn left and remain on SR 104 for about 6.5 miles. At the intersection of SR 19, turn right. Stay on SR 19 for 14 miles; it will merge with SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn left on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

From Olympia to Fort Worden State Park

Take US 101 northbound towards Quilcene. About 12 miles past Quilcene, bear right onto SR 20. Follow SR 20 approximately eight miles then turn left at the lighted intersection, which keeps you on SR 20. Continue straight (north) on SR 20 into Port Townsend. Turn left onto Kearney Street, and at the first stop sign turn right on Blaine Street. At the next stop sign, turn on Cherry Street, and follow signs into the park.

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Outdoors, Parks, RV/Camping, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fort Columbia State Park, Washington

Often when a person thinks about going to Long Beach, Washington, it includes playing around on the beach, maybe going to see Fort Canby and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. But did you know there’s another fort in the area?

Heading out the alternate route of Hwy. 101 on the way to Astoria is Fort Columbia.

If you’re in a hurry or paying more attention to the tunnel coming up on the highway, it’s easy to breeze right by the fort. I’m a little embarrassed to admit we’ve done it many times. Until we had time to take it slow and easy one weekend and finally took the opportunity to stop.

I had heard very little about this fort, everything in the area seems to be focused on Fort Canby, so I guess I assumed there wasn’t much at Fort Columbia. I was dead wrong. Not only are there gun emplacement facilities, but there is also the beautifully renovated homes that were built to house the soldiers, their families and supporting businesses. It was truly a small community, just like any other town.

The 593-acre site is located on Chinook Point in southwest Washington, situated overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River. Building began in 1896 and was completed in 1898. Confusingly, various websites as well as signage at the park itself seem to contradict each other as some say it was active in 1896, some in 1989 and some in 1899. Whichever it was, it was an active military site until 1947. It was turned over to the State of Washington in the 1950’s and is now a day-use park but some of the facilities can be rented as vacation houses. There is also a museum and visitor’s center.

There are several informational signs around the property explaining the various buildings, ruins and gun sites. Some of the signs have tags, the little squares that you can access with your smartphone, and it brings up tons more information on your smartphone, including an audio tour.

Kids love spending the day running around the batteries, in and out of the tunnels, using flashlights, making echoes, and pretending to be soldiers from WWI and WWII. The colonial architecture of the housing draws the person with a love of both history and home design. And everyone is drawn to the sensational view from high up on the hill, stretching out over the entrance to the Columbia River, down to Astoria and beyond.

So if you’re on a day or weekend trip to the Long Beach peninsula, do something a little different from the usual shopping and go-karting in town and head down to Fort Columbia. You won’t be disappointed.

More great pictures of the buildings can be found here:

If you’re into the details of the plans for the site here is a site with fascinating specs:

Getting there: From Long Beach, you can either head south on Hwy. 103 to Ilwaco. In town, turn left at the light and follow the signs for Hwy. 101 Alt. east (towards Astoria). Go about 8 miles until you see the sign for the park on the left. Or from Long Beach you can head back east on Hwy 101 then about 2.4 miles turn right onto Alt. Hwy 101 (towards Astoria).

Categories: Parks, Washington | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: