Community Hall ranked No. 6 among 35 heritage projects statewide, recommended for $92K funding

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — The Fort Ward Community Hall has been ranked sixth most important among historical restoration projects statewide, and is recommended for $92,000 in state funding in 2017.

Thirty-five projects totaling $8.98 million are recommended for support under the state’s Heritage Capital Projects Fund. The prioritized rankings were released Friday by the Washington State Historical Society, the grant program administrator.

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The top-tier ranking is key, as it positions the Fort Ward project strongly for full funding under the state program.

The recommendations now go to Gov. Jay Inslee for consideration in the state’s next biennial budget.

In placing sixth in the WSHS scoring, the community hall project ranks behind restoration of the historic schooner Adventuress and Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, and ahead of the Fifth Avenue Theatre, Pacific Science Center and the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.

Proposals are charged with preserving culturally significant structures and sites, interpreting Washington history, and providing meaningful public access and benefit.

The full rankings can be found at the WSHS website, www.washingtonhistory.org.

“The state’s grant application and review process is rigorous, to say the least,” said Douglas Crist, Friends of Fort Ward board president. “To score so well, against so many excellent projects around the state, speaks well of what we’ve got going on with our own little historic neighborhood hall.”

The Fort Ward Community Hall project will see restoration of the 1910 bakery building at Fort Ward for use as an indoor public park facility, joining the local ranks of Seabold and Island Center Halls and Camp Yeomalt.

An interpretive component will note the fort’s place in the Puget Sound coast defense network in the early 20th century, and its significant role in top-secret Navy radio communications and codebreaking during World War II.

The project is a three-way partnership between the Friends of Fort Ward, a 501(c)3 neighborhood group, the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, and Kitsap County (Fort Ward) Sewer District No. 7.

Friends of Fort Ward and the Park District are now finalizing the building renovation schedule for mid-2017.

The Park District will be lead contractor on the restoration. OTWB Inc. of Bainbridge Island will act as project manager, with Wenzlau Architects and Browne Wheeler Engineers providing professional services.

Fundraising is ongoing, and the campaign is now closing in on $60,000 challenge match from Bainbridge Island Rotary.

The project has previously earned grants from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the Bainbridge Community Foundation, the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation, and the Suquamish Foundation, and donor-advised support from the Kitsap Community Foundation and the Seattle Foundation. Site interpretation will be funded in part by a grant from the national Coast Defense Study Group.

Prospective donors can tour the bakery building and find out more about the project by emailing fortwardhall@gmail.com. Presentations are also available from the Fort Ward Youth Advisory Board, which earned the city’s 2015 Blakely Award for Leadership in Historic Preservation for their work on the project.

Since 1997, roughly $40 million in Heritage Capital Projects Fund grants have been given to heritage organizations across Washington state. Grant funds have been used to build museums, restore historic structures, and interpret and preserve the heritage of the state, enhancing the local economy while preserving the unique character of Washington towns and cities. Information: www.washingtonhistory.org.