FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – A journey begins with a single step, and restoration of Fort Ward’s historic bakery building commenced with footfalls on the threshold: Mike Reese, who grew up just up the hill in one of the fort’s NCO quarters (Building 20), now lives along the Parade Ground in retirement, and enters these new annals as our first restoration volunteer. Fort Ward salute!
The building has been on its own journey, 108 years and counting, from Army bakery to Navy powerhouse to private residence to community-hall-in-waiting. As we’ve chronicled in this forum, it has undergone many changes through the decades, through various chains of command and title. Our project is about undoing these changes one by one, and restoring the building to its original 1910 look and feel while upgrading the underlying systems for contemporary public use.
Today marked our first opportunity to check off one item from the list: demolishing interior partition walls that were added sometime in the 1960s to carve a bathroom and closet out of the main hall, along with some cheap wall-hung cupboards throughout. And whatever else might happen to get in our way.
Mike was followed shortly by David Harry, William Doyle and Casey Shortbull from the Park District, a hardy crew bearing various small tools, pry bars and the obligatory Honey Bucket. (The building’s water will be shut off indefinitely.) A 10-yard tote from Bainbridge Disposal soon touched down at the doorstep, and restoration of the Fort Ward bakery building was officially underway.
The next few hours were marked by the roar of reciprocating sawzalls, the heavy thudding of mauls, and the tortured shriek of nails giving way as beams united since the Kennedy administration were unceremoniously uncoupled. The occasional ZING! of sparks suggested that yes, those two wires might still be live. No fatalities were reported.
For ostensibly “temporary” walls, the bathroom and cabinets were remarkably solid and absorbed quite a pounding en route to disposal. A lot of the old fir 2x4s were still straight and true even so, and so were channeled off for reuse once we get around to putting the interior back together.
Nevertheless the debris piled up at an awesome rate. The crew filled the 10-yeard tote to capacity within a few hours, then moved on to the kitchen and amassed another formidable mound of debris for eventual haul-off. Time for a break.
The team finally knocked off around 3:45 p.m. with a resounding first day of work in the books.
With the dust settled, we had achieved our first goal – restoring the bakery’s 1,100-square-foot main hall to its original rectangle. For the first time, we could look across the room and actually see the whole room – someday soon the site of classes, parties, Scouting events, and all the other great, family-friendly activities for which our island’s historic halls play host. Right here in Fort Ward! The imagination soars.
Looking ahead to Day 2, we’ll be taking down the tumbledown carport, then turn our attention back inside and possibly start tearing out the plaster-and-wire-mesh ceiling – sure to be a nasty job. After giving some structural attention to the cupola in the coming weeks, we’ll be replacing the ceiling with standard 5/8-inch sheetrock. Then, out comes the floor and off come the junky, tacked-on porches – but those stories await another day…
Note that the carport’s demise will lay bare some unfortunate damage from years past. At some point in time, a misguided resident (perhaps even the Navy, who can say) hammered away two of the ornamental sandstone sills on the north face of the building. These will be, unfortunately, very expensive to replicate and replace, with estimates in the many thousands of dollars. Until then they will give passersby an idea of the magnitude of the restoration, and the care and attention to detail with which we hope to complete it for the sake of historical accuracy, our grail. Our little bakery building deserves nothing less.
FINDS OF THE DAY:
- Pages from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dated Jan. 4, 1970, tucked into a void in a brick wall. Lead story: “How U.S. Deserters Live With Themselves In Stockholm,” by the legendary Joel Connelly
- A vintage plastic hair curler of unknown provenance
- A roll of Santa Claus wrapping paper
- A dime minted in 1968
- A powder-pink bathtub minted in 1966.
Let’s consider this last for a moment. In that we already knew the building came with a pink bathtub, this was not a “find” per se. But we’ve had no idea how to date it, except that the color suggested a decade in which bolder, more daring hues were en vogue.
Now we know: the bottom of this cast-iron beauty is stamped with the date of manufacture, the same year “The Sound of Silence” and “Monday Monday” topped the pop charts, the original “Star Trek” premiered, and England beat West (!) Germany to win the World Cup. The tub may not be well traveled, but it’s well seasoned.
Which brings us to …
SALVAGE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU! We are now accepting offers on the powder-pink bathtub and two matching pink basin sinks. They look mildly “distressed” at the moment, but the enamel can easily be polished up for another 50 years of gleaming service, and they would be great conversation starters in any retro-chic loo. (Alas, the toilet we pulled out was not pink. If only.) If you would like these fine vintage fixtures, make us an offer – feel free to bid high, as all proceeds go to the restoration. Otherwise they will be sent off to one of the second-hand building stores across the water, to be snapped up by the hipsters and trendsetters of Seattle.
Also available: three hollow interior doors with frames and hardware, cheap but intact; two mirrored medicine cabinets in nice shape; and a small wooden bureau that would be okay for garage or basement storage. Inquire within.
-Friends of Fort Ward