A milestone in masonry: re-opening the bakery’s historic windows

 FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — It’s been about 75 years since sunlight streamed through the windows of the Fort Ward bakery building. 

Bricked over during WW2 (when the Navy converted the building into a power station, and put a big, noisy generator inside), most of these portals have remained closed, tainting the façade and obscuring a key feature of the building’s colonial revival design. 

No longer. Thanks to an ace team of restoration masons, the bakery’s deep windows and towering doorways have been fully reopened for the first time in lo, these many decades. It’s a milestone moment as we restore our little 1910 bakery for public use as Fort Ward Community Hall. 

The occasion falling somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we mark this moment with both profound gratitude and the promise of still better things ahead. 

Indeed, as we write this, the bakery restoration is now in full swing, highlighted by the masonry makeover. The able and industrious team of PJ and Toby, of the Lake Stevens firm Masonry Restoration Consulting, have been hard at work for the past few weeks, undertaking a range of repairs around the bakery’s lovely shell. 

Per the rigorous Secretary of Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties – the preservationist’s bible — the team eschews masonry saws and clumsy, abrasive methods in favor of old-school hand tools and techniques. 

After scoring the old mortar with a diamond blade (permitted under the standards), the team goes to work with the hammer and chisel, meticulously freeing up each unit, one by one. It’s painstaking work, but as is so often the case, the old ways are best. 

Those bricks taken out of the openings are being stockpiled for reuse in repairs throughout the building, as damaged bricks are replaced and various holes patched. (Example: When the bakery was still a private residence, someone punched through the east wall to run a dryer hose outside, leaving a jagged wound. Sigh.)

And while the walls are in generally good shape – thank the generous eaves and gutters for keeping rainwater away from the shell – the list of refurbishments is extensive. 

A corbel plinth that holds up the front porch overhang will be rebuilt to match the existing plinth on the other side of the doorway. All around the building, worn and crumbling mortar joints are being dug out and repointed, broken bricks painstakingly removed and replaced. A badly patched area the size of a door will be rebuilt. Old paint and random smears of mastic, mortar and other stains will be cleaned up. 

Perhaps most exciting, two hewn sandstone sills on the north face – which some visigoth hammered into oblivion, reasons unknown — will be pulled out and replaced with newly harvested stones from a quarry in Tenino. We’ll have a special post coming up on this project element alone. 

Taken together, masonry restoration is possibly the single biggest component of our bakery project. But you might expect that: it’s a brick building. Bricks are its very essence. 

We should add there’s lots going on inside the building these days too, and we’re pretty much knee-deep in dust – a mark of progress! Meanwhile, a load of materials for the hall’s new parking lot showed up this week, work that we’ll be detailing in a future post. 

Remember that you can find our most up-to-date news at our social media page, www.facebook.com/friendsoffortward. Like us! (And ask your friends to Like us too.). And follow along in our historic restoration adventure. 

For now, celebrate with us as we mark our masonry restoration milestone. Because today we can stand inside the bakery and turn 360 degrees, and everywhere we turn, we see glorious daylight. It’s been a while since anyone could say that. 

THE YEAR-END DONATION PITCH: Of course, all of this is costing some money. If you’ve supported the Fort Ward Community Hall project to date: THANK YOU! Your generosity has gotten us this deep into the restoration. With the year-end giving season upon us, we would welcome your continued support through One Call For All (www.onecallforall.org). Please give as you can, even as we do our best to reward your faith with a restored community hall opening in spring 2019. 

And if you’re new to the project – just moved to the island perhaps, or you’re reading from around the country – please join the Fort Ward team! Your tax-deductible gift through One Call For All will help push this unique historic preservation effort over the top. We’ve picked up a lot of national interest in the past year, thanks to the good folks at Friends of American Forts and elsewhere. Thanks for following along, and please consider a gift to our Little Fort at Bean Point. 

Remember that Friends of Fort Ward is an all-volunteer organization, and all contributions go to project costs.  Make some history!