You can get there from here (all these years later) – the Fort Ward bakery gets its own sign

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — It was late afternoon in early November, so by the time we got out to Point White Pier, the sun was already sagging in the southwest sky. 

It was picture-postcard perfect, if you weren’t the one taking the picture. Severely backlit, it would be a real challenge to get the one shot the guy holding the camera had in mind: facing down the pier toward open water, with our subject in the foreground. 

But Ryan S. (I’m pretty sure it was Ryan, whose fine images graced the Bainbridge Island Review newspaper for a few years in the early 2000s), was a wizard with the fill flash. 

Our subject was Marc Anderson, then a BHS junior and aspiring graphic artist who’d just created a series of iconographic signs for Bainbridge parks. The signs were striking and the volunteer effort earned him an Eagle Scout, and if that wasn’t a story ready-made for the hometown newspaper, well, c’mon. So on that afternoon we packed up the gear, Marc picked us up at the office, and off we went to the pier for the shoot. 

Ryan got his camera dialed in as Marc and I took in the setting, talked about his work and probably bristled a bit at the autumn bite. Marc plopped down cross-legged on the rough planks, hugged a poster board bearing his stylized image of the island’s landmark pier, and *FLASH* Ryan caught the moment for posterity. 

Marc remembers the day from a different angle, the chagrin of a kid with strange passengers and a humble ride. 

“Yes, you were there,” he recalled last summer, after I tracked him down by email a decade and a half removed from that sliver of an afternoon. “We drove down in my little hatchback, with the tires rubbing on the wheel wells the whole time.”

History suggests that Marc’s car did get us there and back again, swaying springs notwithstanding. I will have to fill in the rest of the scene by inference. Back at the newsroom, Ryan would have sifted through his digital images and settled on The Shot destined for that week’s front page, before motoring home in his old white Saab. I would have checked my scribbled notes and banged out a quick feature on the designer and his colorful signs, evocative of vintage travel posters and the work of famous graphic artist Michael Schwab, and then probably gone off to the Pub for the evening. We were all younger. 

I do know the story ran under the headline “You CAN get there from here,” reflecting the essential message of all directional signage and a nod toward the editor’s endless obsession with the band R.E.M. 

Stay tied to one place long enough, and your life will eventually circle back on itself. Especially true in a small community, on a small island – which begins to explain how these 17 years later, Marc Anderson has created one more iconographic sign for one more Bainbridge Island park: the new Fort Ward Community Hall. And how I find myself writing about this once again. 

GOOD GRAPHIC DESIGN is key to brand identity, giving your product critical visual appeal in a crowded and attention-deficit-disordered market. Period, context, message, allusion, allure … done right, your story all comes together in a magical mix of image, color and type. 

We’ve been fortunate to have great graphic art working for us throughout the five-year bakery restoration project. Back in 2015 when we were just getting Friends of Fort Ward going as a nonprofit, our neighbor and graphic artist Alex Sanso gifted us with a warm, whimsical rendition of the bakery for a logo and poster, all pro bono. 

Did that ever pay off. We made a minor mint flogging T-shirts, coffee mugs and fine-art prints with Alex’s wonderful designs, seed money that got this whole thing off the ground. 

Brand recognition too. At that point, nobody knew what the heck this old “Fort Ward bakery” place we kept talking about even looked like. It had been sitting right here in our midst for 105 years, a half-block off the main road, and everybody seemed to have lived in it as a renter at some point, but most who claimed to know it were thinking of a different building entirely. It was like Woodstock that way: if you could remember it, you weren’t there. 

But Alex’s logo gave people a visual image to latch onto, an idea of what our little historic bakery would look like restored, someday, if everything fell into place, and if only folks would give a little to help make it happen. They gave, enthusiastically. 

It’s fair to say that without Alex and her generosity, recent history would look a lot different. Friends of Fort Ward might never have made any friends at all, and the bakery might still be sitting there sagging in sad decay. 

FORTUNATELY, HISTORY IS WHAT IT IS. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I always figured that someday we’d need a directional sign, too – ideally, in the same style as the ones that Marc Anderson kid had conjured up so many years ago, still part of the island’s visual fabric and still guiding islanders to their favorite parks and trails. 

You know them all, those silhouetted icons of each park’s signature feature: Battle Point Park’s telltale water tower, the wooded shoreline tableau at Gazzam Lake, Sands Fields’ Little Leaguer in crisp batter’s stance, and so on. Over the years, those signs have become iconic in their own right.

Whatever happened to the artist, anyway? Hm. 

Last summer, in a seriously weird moment, I was in the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation office when a guy came in off the street wearing a T-shirt screen-printed with one of those park sign designs. I guess he’d snapped a photo of the sign – Sands Fields, or maybe it was Battle Point – and bootlegged the image onto a shirt. 

“You know who did these signs?” he asked, pointing to his chest. “Somebody should put ‘em on shirts to raise money for parks. Everybody loves ‘em.” 

Actually, I said, I do know. It was quite a while ago, almost twenty years, but yeah, there was this local kid named Marc Anderson, and …. 

This was early August 2019, four years into the bakery project and almost a year into the physical restoration. 

As will happen when you dig really deep into a century-old building and try to drag it along with you into the future, we’d found one “surprise” after another, most leading to long and costly delays. Construction stuttered along with no end in sight, and there was certainly no pressing need to help the motoring public find its way to the building. 

Still, the moment seemed fated. I emailed Marc’s father, island architect Bruce Anderson, who said that his son was indeed now practicing graphic design professionally, had recently moved back to Seattle after some years on the East Coast, and had his own design studio, Rainfall.

I said we had a new park and needed new sign. Bruce promised to ask. 

A few minutes later I got an email back from Marc. He remembered. He was in.

AT THIS POINT I could try to describe the sign that Marc came up with, and what I think makes it so great. Better though to let the artist speak for his own work: 

“The illustrative artwork for Fort Ward Community Hall marks a continuation of the wayfinding signage that I created in 2004 for iconic Bainbridge Island Parks. For my return, I wanted to create a composition that felt as though it was a part of the original family of signs, while also exhibiting my growth as a designer in the years following the original works. The result is a composition that employs light and shadow to express the fundamental shape of the historic bakery building, with a particular focus on the structure’s most distinct feature, its cupola.

“The fir branches are intended to frame the composition and acknowledge the time that has passed since the building’s original use in the early 1900s, as they imply that the viewer is standing under a tree that now occupies the corner of the property…. With this new sign, the Fort Ward Community Hall asserts its presence amongst its historical neighbors both on the island and nationwide.”

For the record, the typeface Marc chose is GT Walsheim, a contemporary font released in 2012 by the Grilli Type Foundry and inspired by the work of Swiss designer Otto Baumberger in the 1930s. Baumberger, it should be noted, pioneered that retro travel poster style still so popular today, when the style wasn’t yet retro. 

“Its bold, geometric simplicity makes it clearly legible, and combines observable strength with a bit of quirkiness,” Marc says of the Walsheim typeface, “not unlike the building.” 

NOT CONTENT WITH JUST A SIGN, Marc also stepped up to design the Fort Ward Community Hall’s interpretive panels and door placards. True, it was his polite way of saying my own attempts at graphic design stunk, not an unfair view. But the extra effort he put in to create the panels also brings a visual continuity – a brand – to the presentation throughout the building. 

Drawn from our many historic resources – and supported by grants from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, with help from our friends at the Coast Defense Study Group – the panels tell the Fort Ward story through various periods and from different angles. 

They’re the first in a series of historic montages that will rotate through the building over time. They’re visually stunning and just super cool generally, and anyone who uses the hall should enjoy them and maybe be surprised anew the next time they visit. 

Here, an author’s note: Over the course of the bakery chronicles, I’ve penned these little yarns from the comfortable remove of the collective voice, one long creative writing exercise from the perspective of We. It’s a reflexive stance from an original social-distancer, but also an honest attempt to reflect the collective spirit of the bakery project: this is the community hall the community built. 

This story though, and probably only this one, felt a little more personal. I was there. So today you get I. 

Looking back on that feature story in the Review so many years ago, I see folks were wowed from the get-go by Marc’s Bainbridge Island park signs. “He’s a very talented young man and has a great future ahead of him for graphic artwork,” was the view from the city’s sign shop, “and the community will be equally impressed.” 

All of which proved true. The signs are still up and still enjoyed. And last fall, when he visited the bakery to scout out the building, take some photos for reference and begin to set his creative wheels in motion, Marc gave me a ride again, this time in his new car, a Tesla. He seemed a bit sheepish about this one too, probably for different reasons. 

Marc – own it, man! It’s good for the planet, and hey, you got there from here.

When the new Fort Ward Community Hall road sign goes up one day soon, islanders will get here from there. 

DC/FFW, June 2020

Spring 2020 update: Almost ready for our big debut

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – Spring 2020 finds us in a changed world, delayed a bit by COVID-19 but on the cusp of completing this six-year restoration project and dedicating the Fort Ward Community Hall for public use. Yay! In case you’ve missed our posts on social media over the winter, here’s some of what we did:

  • All original doors and windows back in place 
  • Windows trimmed out to historically correct specs 
  • Vintage lighting installed throughout the building 
  • Custom baseboards with a vintage profile added
  • Louvres covering exterior vents 

For your reading enjoyment, a few new tales from restoration of the soon-to-be Fort Ward Community Hall:

PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER: WINDOWS WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS – In industrial manufacturing, “fit and finish” is the final measure of success. “Fit” refers to how well the object’s various components mesh – no loose play, unsightly gaps, annoying rattles or niggling squeaks – while “finish” measures the ineffable qualities of elegance and refinement, how fully realized the designers’ vision has been brought forth into the world. That is, how close that automobile, piano, wristwatch or whatever gets to the Platonic ideal of whatever it’s supposed to be.

We’ve reached the “fit and finish” stage in the Fort Ward bakery restoration, or at least its immediate precursor: putting the final pieces together, reassembling the many components into a coherent, satisfactory and (we hope) graceful whole.

With Casey and Zach from the Park District construction team moving on to new projects, their colleague Willy has stepped in to bring the final details home. First on the punch list: inside trim for our beautiful new wood windows.
As we’ve written, we’ve tried to pattern these sorts of details on what we see around Fort Ward and our sister forts from the Coast Artillery Corps’ Endicott period (roughly 1890-1910). Some buildings are masonry, most frame, but there’s a consistent aesthetic from one to the next.

After more than a century, many buildings have seen changes to fixtures, trim and so forth as owners make repairs or update elements. But others are remarkably well preserved in their original look and feel, and we have a good stock hereabouts for reference.

Looking at window trim, we saw two general patterns. In masonry buildings like our 1910 bakery, trim tended to be contained inside the window opening itself. Whereas frame buildings from the same period, like the NCO quarters up the hill, saw the casings winged out around the window openings, complemented by elegantly moulded sills and aprons.

After some reflection, debate and a few fits and starts, we came up with a hybrid design that honors the period and reflects both looks: recessed trim around the sides and top of the window opening, with the refinement of a sill and apron below.

The sills required a thicker cut than the casings, so we turned to Edensaw Woods of Port Townsend, the mecca for local furniture builders and other fine woodworkers. Overnight, Edensaw custom-milled some beautiful 5/4 poplar in appropriate 1×8 planks. The extra thickness would allow for a period-correct ogee to be routed into the underside edge of each sill.

Willy holed up in the bakery by himself for a few days, and when he finally let us back into the building, all 12 windows were done. Easy! Which obviously it wasn’t, given that along the way he also milled his own quarter-round trim to suit the four or five different radii of the window arches.

Whatever the degree of difficulty: the trimmed-out windows look fantastic, and everyone says so. You will too.

What could possibly follow all this? Attention turns next to mounting the six inside doors (should be quick), crafting the associated trim (a bit more involved; see Windows, above), and getting the bakery’s complement of seven decorative transom windows into place. We’re pleased to say the first transom is already up, its graceful curve brilliantly copied from the original by the craftsmen at BARN and now ensconced over the southwest doorway.

Other pieces falling into place:

Vinyl flooring: The team from Shoomadoggie (seriously) of Poulsbo will be onsite next week to install vinyl flooring in the north and south wings. We have no idea how the flooring vendor came by that name, but they’re said to be really, really good. Thanks to Tina from OTWB, one of our project co-managers, for lining this up. Several cut-rate vendors backed out or turned up their noses at our job, so we’re glad fate led us back around to these folks.

Kitchen cabinetry: The kitchen modules are being assembled down the hill in John Steiner’s South Beach wood shop, to be ready for installation once the flooring is in, probably the third week of January. We’ve seen the first few cabinets and they’re super nice.

Sinks & fixtures: Waiting in line for installation after the flooring and cabinetry are in. The kitchen sink has been sitting here next to the Station S piano for about six months because, well, it had to sit someplace, and being cast iron is too heavy to move. It’s almost become a fixture here, but going to look better still under the bakery’s kitchen window.

Wall baseboard: There’s a good story coming with this – stay tuned.

Lights: Henden Electric will be paying one more visit to put up the kitchen lights, add a wall switch in the office space, and round out a few more details.

Appliances: selected. Recall that this was originally an Army bakery, so for now let us just say that if someday soon you want to teach a community baking class, we have your kitchen.

Painting: almost done.

Signage and interpretive stuff for the walls … yikes! We’d better get moving on this….

Anyway, we only have a few more of these project missives left – a rare instance, given our profession, in which running out of things to write about is actually a good thing.

So let us say on this second-to-last day of 2019 that if you’ve not yet made a donation to the historic bakery restoration and still want to see your name on the wall somewhere (or you just enjoy our little project updates and want to say “thanks for all the mildly diverting reads”) now’s the time!

We’re not finished – not quite! – but the finish is looking fine, and so far everything fits. Nicely.

AND THERE WERE LIGHTS – Open pretty much any home lighting catalog these days and you can find “barn lights” as a popular style. Today’s faux vintage was yesterday’s new.

The style apparently dates to the 1920s, popularized when a proliferation of warehouses, factories, stations and other public spaces demanded a rugged and utilitarian fixture designed to focus light down on the activity below. Their hallmarks were the distinctive broad-flanged bell and a robust porcelain enamel finish, usually white or green.

Naturally, barn lights turned up at period forts, illuminating the barracks, mess halls, guardhouses, warehouses and – the pictures prove it – top secret communication centers at Naval Radio Station Bainbridge, our own little Fort Ward. So in restoring the bakery building, it seemed like a good style to follow.

The guys from Henden Electric spent an afternoon onsite the other day. By the time they left, wall outlets were juiced up and wall heaters properly ensconced, ceiling fans were awhirl, Exit signs glowed their cautionary red, and you could flip a wall switch and actually make something happen.

Like turn on the lights.

It’s been about a year since the bakery was internally lit. Restoration necessarily entailed stripping out the old fixtures and totally rewiring the building, a process that’s unfolded over months. We got enough done to restore outside lighting a while ago, but inside we’ve had exactly one wall outlet for power tools and that’s it. So this day marked a milestone. We had lights!

One of our goals in the restoration has been to reuse as many vintage fixtures as possible, to save money (not insignificant, if you’ve priced home lighting lately) and for the sake of authenticity, that old-timey gestalt. There’s something profound about the idea that lights that once burned at the old Fort Ward might now burn at the new.

All of the lights we’re reusing were salvaged from the fort of yore – our historic neighborhood, before new development came — when crumbling old Navy buildings still dotted the landscape and the enterprising scavenger could avail themselves of treasures galore. Old lights? We’ve got ‘em. Most have been stored in the basement of top-secret Station S for years, just waiting for this moment to come along.

We’re proud to say that of the 21 ceiling lights arrayed throughout the refurbished bakery building, 13 will be vintage Fort Ward. The complement is thus:

South wing (utility room, Sewer District office): Six 20-inch barn-style lights, probably 1940s vintage, that we inherited with the building. White enamel finish. We had to polish these up quite a bit, that is, scrape off epochs of caked-on ceiling grime (this was, we can report, a relentlessly foul task), but they’re looking pretty good now. We’ve done a little touch-up with some vintage white Rust-Oleum as needed.

North wing, hallway and restrooms: Four 12-inch Ivanhoe barn lights salvaged from the old fort and donated by the maven of Station S. Again, probably World War II vintage; our research suggests the Ivanhoe Lighting Co. was founded in the 1930s, and the trademark is still active. You can’t necessarily tell when viewed from below, but these lights are still their gorgeous, original green enamel, and they have the old Ivanhoe labels still on them. Provenance!

North wing, kitchen: We have a special plan here, if we can engineer it right: a trio of ornate, vintage glass fixtures, once again salvaged from Ye Olde Fort and kept in trust for many years in the Station S vault. We’ve had about 20 of these sitting around in the basement for ages, and these three will look great in the bakery. One of our volunteers is devising a custom ceiling stem mount for the application.

Main hall: Two rows of four new barn-style lights (eight total) with 16-inch bells, black, suspended from 12-inch stems. We thought about using salvaged lights in this hall, but by now our stock was running short, not all of our remaining lights exactly matched, and anyway it made sense for the lights in this space, among all, to look uniform and smart. These new lights look …. pretty okay, albeit of a lighter-gauge metal and a more pedestrian finish than true vintage. Heaven knows we’re not in the habit of talking down our own project, but if we have some extra cash at the end of the day, we might swap these out for something closer to vintage. We’ll see. No one should complain in the meantime.

Anyway, big thanks to our crafty electricians for bringing the bakery back out of the Dark Ages. There’s still a little tweaking left to do; the restroom fans seem to be permanently “On” right now, and one of the new lights came out of the box missing essential parts so we’ve had to order another.

Even so. We’ve always pictured the Fort Ward Community Hall metaphorically aglow – radiant from the inside with the good cheer and bonhomie of community, family and friends.

Now, for the first time in a while, it’s not a metaphor. We actually do have lights.

The sun was going down early at this point, so we turned every single one of them on, went out to the street and looked back to watch the windows shimmer.

VISITING THE LOUVRES – Fort Ward’s historic 1910 bakery has these big openings on the east wall. No idea why; they don’t appear in the blueprints, but the most common speculation is that they once vented the oven room — the giant ovens were on the other side of the wall, and it must have gotten pretty hot in there baking all that bread! But that’s just a guess.

Anyway, while the bakery’s outside walls are three wythes (vertical sections) thick, when these openings were bricked up sometime in the past, whoever did it filled in just a single wythe. And did a sloppy job of it.

We had the brickwork on the inside cleaned up to match the rest of the interior wall, but we figured we’d cover the outside openings with something at some point if we could just figure out what.

Perhaps …. louvre shutters… Yeah, that might look good….

Actually making shutters from scratch seemed pretty labor intensive and would take quite a bit of know-how. But someone out there does just this for a living, and so we found our way to ShutterLand of Leawood, Kansas. The fine craftsmen of ShutterLand built us matching pine shutters, 29 in. wide x 41 in. deep and shipped them out.

The shutters arrived last week, and today were unboxed for a test fit on the building. We had a moment of panic when we noticed the packing box was considerably longer than the shutters we thought we ordered … did we need to go back to Tape Measure 101?

But it turned out to be several inches of packing material at each end of the box. Phew!

The shutters are now in the Station S basement, getting a few coats of Benjamin Moore OC-68, Distant Grey, to match the rest of the trim. An elegant solution for a couple of holes everyone always asks about. We think they’ll look good — and the louvres will suggest “vent,” which is why (we think) the holes were there in the first place.

GETTING BACK TO BASEBOARDS – A great rug, it’s been said, can really tie a room together. In a community hall with a stunning new hardwood floor, no rug … so we’ll have to count on the baseboard trim to do the job.

And ours is indeed splendid baseboard – specially milled for our little bakery, extra tall on the wall and crowned with a historically accurate profile thanks to the neighborhood router bit.

Typical of Fort Ward’s 1910-vintage homes are their proud 8-inch baseboards, a nice architectural detail that seems to complete a room with or without crown moulding at the ceiling. You can find such baseboards in the historic NCO quarters on upper Parkview, classic buildings dating to the first iteration of Fort Ward as a Coast Artillery Corps redoubt and beautifully restored over the years by neighbors like our good friends and generous supporters Jay and Chris.

Some years ago, needing a length of new baseboard for his home restoration, Jay had a special router bit cut to match the vintage profile – a round-over notched with a somewhat wider “shelf” than you usually see. Since then, the bit has been passed amongst the neighborhood woodworkers whenever someone needs to shape some new trim, and the profile has turned up on baseboards, in doorways and who knows where. It’s a cool profile and a nice look.

The communal bit’s latest stop was the bakery, where baseboard would be the final detail – Are we really saying that? Final…? – in our long and (we hope) careful restoration.

Bit in hand, we ventured north to Port Townsend and Rain Shadow Woodworks, where miller and raconteur Seb Eggert sourced and milled twenty-one 16-foot lengths of nice poplar. One by one the raw boards were fed into the shop’s howling shaper, which cut all four sides and edges at once while adding a subtle “cove” on the back to help each piece hug more readily against the rough surfaces of the bakery’s masonry walls.

Finishing was the usual multi-day affair. First a primer coat with dry time, then a light sand to tame the newly raised grain, then a coat of Benjamin Moore’s excellent Advance product (OC-58 Distant Gray, satin finish), then the prescribed 16-hour wait (!) for the top-o-line B-Moore paint to cure, then another light sand, then one final finish coat for the perfect gleam … and then and only then, we had a stack of lovely baseboard ready for installation.

Willy from Parks made short work of the stack, trimming out the bakery’s main hall, the cloak room, office and storeroom. The ol’ power miter saw got a good workout with all those 45-degree cuts where the pieces mate up in corners, and Willy ran through quite a few tubes of Liquid Nails to help affix each plank to the brickwork.

But the finished effect is striking, melding floors and walls throughout the building into a cohesive whole. Weird corners and awkward transitions were, as if by magic, bestowed with grace. A bit of an extravagance perhaps (guess we could have just used something short, square, off the shelf and dull), but this fine baseboard is a detail we think people will appreciate, a final – final! – loving touch. .

Cost: extra. Time: extra.

Reward: super extra. The baseboard looks amazing.
And yes, it really ties the room together.

NEXT UP: We have two, maybe three little yarns left to spin in the saga of the Fort Ward bakery restoration – our 6 months of solitary confinement in the Station S basement, restoring those grand original front doors; the bakery’s new iconographic sign yet to be unveiled, a moment some 16 years in the making; and (finally) some really, really, big news that will cap this whole thing off.

GRATITUDE WHERE IT’S DUE: Special thanks from Friends of Fort Ward to a recent very generous grant from the Peach Foundation, and all of you who gave through One Call For All.  Thanks to you, we are about to unveil the fully restored Fort Ward Community Hall. 



Willy from Parks restores the bakery’s original front doors and fanlight window, lost from the building in the 1960s but rediscovered throughout the neighborhood and now back in place.

Autumn update: All of the pieces are falling into place (even some we didn’t know we had)

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – End of summer 2019 finds us closer to final restoration of the historic Fort Ward bakery. Since our last report:

  • Top-quality new wood windows from Pella installed
  • Cupola, eaves and porch newly painted by Moran Painting
  • Interior framing, sheetrock, plumbing, wiring, in-wall insulation and subfloor complete, inside painting beginning soon, sidewalk forms under construction

Three new tales from restoration of the soon-to-be Fort Ward Community Hall:

FINDING AN ORIGINAL SANDSTONE SILL – EITHER SHAKESPEARE WROTE SHAKESPEARE, OR SOMEBODY ELSE NAMED SHAKESPEARE WROTE SHAKESPEARE: You’d think that with four centuries of scholarship behind it, authorship of the single greatest body of drama and verse the English language has produced would be pretty well settled.

Yet as with heliocentrism, a spherical planet and the safety of modern vaccines, cranks and opportunists lurk in the margins and fringe views persist. The peerless Bard of Avon’s works have been variously attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Francis Drake, the poet Marlowe, a cabal of Jesuits or Rosicrucian mystics, John Donne, the 1st Earl of Salisbury, 2nd Earl of Essex, 6th Earl of Derby, 17th Earl of Oxford … among scores of other alleged authors. The Atlantic magazine recently posited the quill that scratched out Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear was held by a woman. At this moment, somewhere in academia, there’s probably a DVM candidate pounding out a dissertation proving the Bard was a beagle.

When really, the evidence of unique, original authorship is overwhelming. As our old(e) English professor was fond of saying: “Either Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, or somebody else named Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.”

The question of historical provenance came to mind recently, when what surely will be the final piece of the Fort Ward bakery puzzle came tumbling out of the past and thudded squarely at our feet: an original sandstone sill.

Regular readers of these accounts know these lovely sills are a pretty big deal, a defining architectural feature of masonry buildings at every fort from the period. When it was built in 1910, our bakery had 11 of them. Two, we’ve replaced because they were badly damaged. A third vanished into the mists of time, and we just wrote it off. That is, until we wrote about writing it off, and history wrote back.

“We may have one of the old sills,” our neighbor Elizabeth emailed, after reading our last project newsletter. “It’s too heavy for me to bring it up to the bakery, but if someone wants to pick it up, it’s on the patio under the east window. Hand truck needed, and two strong people.”

We’ve been at this scavenger hunt we call a restoration long enough that we’re not surprised by anything anymore. Century-old doors, windows and beams turning up, it’s getting routine. But now a big hunk of sandstone? Lost for decades, yet sitting in plain sight a few houses away, almost under our noses? Forget chance. This was stretching reason itself.

We grabbed a tape measure and went around to the fort’s old stables building, which Elizabeth and Sam have so beautifully restored as their home. There sat the stone, instantly recognizable, its dimensions precise: 46 inches long, 7 inches deep, 5 inches high, sloping back to front with a radiused trough.

Holy … er, smoke.

The Parks team had a big front-loader onsite that week, so Casey motored over to pick up the sill and haul it to the bakery. In trade, we took back one of the damaged stones we’d just replaced – shorter than the one Elizabeth and Sam were giving up, but nicely cleaned up by the stonecutter who crafted our newly harvested sills and used it as a model.

That is: Our old sill was their new bench, and their old bench was our new sill. Crazy.

Okay, but what about provenance? How did they come by it in the first place? Here was their story: Twenty years ago, probably more, before the shock of new development jolted our sleepy little fort, they salvaged the stone from the field between the bakery and the old guardhouse on the corner. A creative type with an eye for the aesthetic, Sam set it on cement blocks outside their back door and the sill became a bench. It’s been there ever since.

“This one makes me laugh,” wrote Nicholas Vann, WA State Historical Architect, when we shared our latest find. “When you look at it as a bench, you think… hmm that’s a nice bench, but I wonder why it slopes. Then you see that it’s clearly the window sill! I wouldn’t be surprised if you keep finding salvaged artifacts the more you work on this project. Every time someone from the community comes forward with something is pretty special. Keep up the good work!”

We called in our restoration masons, and the sill was soon ensconced in the window on the south side of the bakery – and this time, it’s there to stay. But is it really *our* sill? After so much time, so many changes, can we say for sure it came out of the bakery, not some other building? Maybe we’re just overeager, getting ourselves all looped on some heady preservationist-fantasy cocktail – two shots of inference with a dash of wishful thinking. For the record: We can’t be really, truly, absolutely, positively, 100 percent certain. But let’s consider the evidence.

Sam and Elizabeth say they found the stone closer to the guardhouse than the bakery … but that’s a matter of mere yards; it could mean anything or nothing. The guardhouse appears to have some reproduction sills, so maybe this stone was replaced and discarded … but it also turned up before that building was restored, so they recall. And why would they find only one? In a field?

What we do know is, the sill is clearly original to the fort and the bakery did lose one along the way. It was found next door, and it’s exactly the right size. Maybe that’s a preponderance of evidence, proof enough.

Maybe it doesn’t even matter; like the professor said, maybe somebody else named Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. In which case a sill from any other historic Fort Ward building would still be – yes – just as sweet.

NEW TRANSOM WINDOWS – SHAPING THE PERFECT OGEE: A few years ago as we were researching other NW forts for inspiration, a ranger down at Fort Stevens, Ore., sent us some photos of their 1910 guardhouse.

It’s a wonderful building, an elongated version of the guardhouse here at Fort Ward. A little down-at-heels on the outside, perhaps, but a time-capsule inside and with the “brig” cell block still intact in the basement. (Key message, soldiers: Don’t come back from that weekend pass still drunk.) There was a wealth of detail to glean from the photos, elements to consider as we plotted restoration of the Fort Ward bakery. One image stuck out: an office with arched masonry doorways, with transom windows over the doors.

Well, we thought: We have a couple of doorways just like that at the bakery. We should do transom windows too. The idea was consigned to the “Wouldn’t It Be Great If” file until a few months ago, when we were finally far enough along in the restoration to start piecing together the bakery’s interior spaces. Doors – check. Lights – check. Fixtures – check.…. Oh yeah, the transoms!

But who could build them? And how soon? And cost ….? We were already spending A LOT on custom wood windows from a commercial vendor – outstanding quality, true, but we were entering that stage of the project where stretching the donor dollar would take on new urgency. Then we heard the BARN woodshop team might be looking for a park-related community service project. Email a fellow named Wayne Chang. Okay.

While they’d never actually built any reproduction windows, Wayne said, he and his team were intrigued enough to look at what we needed. Which was: six transom windows in three different sizes, all reasonably period correct in detail, four interior and two exterior, one of which had to duplicate an original 1910 fanlight, curved at the top, that we had for reference. Easy, right?

We met out at the BARN shop in May. They pored over our original window, promised (grudgingly) not to take it apart to see how it all fit together, and finally concluded that yes, they could probably pull this off.

Wayne: When would you need them?

FFW: Couple of months…?

Wayne: Um, you guys have a budget?

FFW: We’ll provide the materials, if you’ll provide the skill.

Now, for an object that’s defined mostly by what’s not there, a window requires serious woodworking chops: cutting, shaping, precision joinery, skill with the router. This last detail was key: ideally, the inside of the frame and delicate muntins (or are they mullions … can’t keep those straight) between the panes would show just the right ogee, the subtle “double S” profile of the original.

With some research, Wayne determined that the correct router bits would be Amana Tools numbers 55340 and 55341, “Carbide Tipped Reversible Ogee Window Sash & Rail,” both 1/8-inch radius and with diameters of 1-3/8 and 1-9/64, respectively. They didn’t have them, so we tracked down a set and dropped them off at the shop.

Early test cuts with fir were fraught; the wood proved tough and the router gouged and chewed. So the team called up Bob Spangler, a master woodworker (and seasoned window builder) in West Blakely, who said the smart choice would be a softer wood. So then it was off to Edensaw, the Port Townsend outlet renowned far and wide for its furniture-quality woods, for 53 board feet of clear Western pine.

Wayne’s team – which over the course of the project included Mike Gearheard, David Kaplan, Jeanne Huber, Dick Culp and Michael Gunderson – made a site visit to the bakery in mid-July to take precise measurements and talk through final details.

We didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, and then out of the blue a photo of the first four windows, completely finished, appeared in our inbox. “I didn’t want to call you in until we were past our technical challenges,” Wayne wrote, rather modestly given the results. “Somehow, we worked everything out this morning and started building as we had the shop to ourselves.”

After a vacation break, the fifth and sixth windows came together in mid-August. Wayne’s team saved the tough one for last, with its top curved to fit one of the bakery’s arched exterior doorways.

What can we say but … magnificent.

Their sage agrees: “Those windows are beautiful and make me want to actually start making windows again,” Spangler wrote. “I always loved making windows since the material was good, the smells good and the joinery was fun to do. They are a piece of art in my opinion. That is a level of woodworking that not very many people can do or even appreciate.”

We sure appreciate them — and the estimated 100 volunteer hours the BARN woodworkers put into crafting them — and we think anyone who uses the Fort Ward Community Hall will too.

This is how the bakery restoration seems to be working out. We might not even have thought of transom windows as a detail, but for this one photo we happened to get from Fort Stevens back in 2016 and filed away for “maybe someday.” Someday came, and then suddenly … wow.  It’s doubly meaningful that these beautiful windows were crafted on island, by our own skilled woodworkers, our friends and neighbors.

Wayne asked if we wanted the special ogee router bits back, but c’mon. You guys keep them for some future project, your next masterpiece. With our gratitude, and more than a little awe.

WHEN IN DOUBT, VISIT ANOTHER FORT (HOW WE GOT WINDOW 11 RIGHT): Fort Ward wasn’t built in a vacuum. The Endicott era of fort construction – so named for Secretary of War William Endicott’s 1886 report to Congress on the sorry state of US coast defenses, and how to fix it – produced a wave of new coastal forts at the turn of the last century.

While layouts were tweaked to suit local scales and topographies, fort designs followed the same general template: massive concrete shore batteries built into the backs of hillsides, their rows of rifled, breach-load guns and mortars commanding harbor entrances against the threat of foreign navies.

In Puget Sound, the period gave us forts Worden, Casey and Flager (the “triangle of fire”) at Admiralty Inlet, our own Fort Ward, and tiny Fort Whitman on Goat Island near Deception Pass. Further south, forts Canby, Stevens and Columbia (“the cape forts”) at Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River. Six forts guarding San Francisco Bay alone. Many more up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Supporting buildings like barracks, officer and NCO quarters, guardhouses, post exchanges, storehouses – even bakeries – were built to a broad but standardized menu of plans drawn up by the Quartermaster Corps. Many buildings from the period remain, some remarkably well preserved, others still waiting their turn at restoration. So whenever we’ve had a question about the bakery restoration – what a particular fixture might look like, what colors were in play – there’s usually an answer at hand: Ask someone at one of the sister forts, or just go to one and look around.

Over the winter, our quest took us to Delaware and Fort DuPont, where resides the one contemporaneous Army bakery we’ve found identical to our own. (The Fort Caswell, N.C. bakery was also built to the same plan, but the defining cupola is gone from the roof. Plus the current owners painted it white with blue trim, sigh.)

With its roots in the Civil War, Fort DuPont served through World War II before eventually becoming a state park. It’s apparent from its surviving buildings that the State of Delaware lacked the resources or inclination to maintain it properly. The fort is now under a redevelopment authority, which is restoring the historic buildings one by one while adding historic-leaning neighborhoods and districts elsewhere on the 350-acre grounds – a big effort in adaptive reuse.

It was pretty neat visiting the Fort DuPont bakery, stepping into a mirror universe where everything was the same and yet a little bit off. Half the building had been turned into a walk-in deep freeze at some point, the old compressor equipment still evident. But other elements, including the fanlight windows (and the cupola) were familiar indeed.

Time has not been kind to the ornamental soffits or the masonry grout; awful tack-on porches beg to be torn down, and the back half of the building was overwhelmed by trees. It’s going to be a big project, way bigger than our own. But even its careworn state, the Fort DuPont bakery still shows the architectural detail, great bones and frankly the dignity that make it (like its Fort Ward twin) such a gem.

So too the rest of the fort. Peggy Thomas, the site manager and marketer, was kind enough to show us their post exchange and other buildings slated for restoration. Their beautiful theatre is a twin of the one at Fort Worden. Interpretive signage showed all to good advantage for visitors, as the fort slowly comes back to life through music festivals and other public events.

Swampy conditions prevented a foray to the old gun batteries. And as our visit came at the tail end of a business trip, we had to scoot back to Philadelphia International a few hours later. But we’ll be back! Hopefully to find the Fort DuPont bakery fully restored like our own.

A good trip, and good networking. When it came time to order custom wood windows for our Fort Ward bakery, the question came up as to correct light pattern (i.e. how many panes) for “window 11” on the north side, facing the street. The tiny thumbnail drawing provided by the vendor showed a grid of 3-over-3 …. we had to stare at it a while, but those panes seemed like they’d be awfully small when realized. That couldn’t be right.

So on the eve of placing our order, we emailed Peggy. She graciously walked across the Fort DuPont grounds, snapped a quick photo of the corresponding window at their bakery and emailed it back: 2-over-2. The vendor changed the order set to work. The windows were installed in early August.

Window 11 was probably a small detail in the scheme of things, but as we say every time it comes time to write a big, scary check: we’re only doing this once, might as well get it right. Our friends at the other forts sure help.

GRATITUDE WHERE IT’S DUE: Special thanks from Friends of Fort Ward to recent contributions from Colonial Dames of America in the State of Washington and  Kitsap Community Foundation (Anonymous Fund). Their generous grants ($5,000 and $1,500, respectively) move our project closer to completion this fall. Gratitude also to two other stalwart backers in the neighborhood for their recent $500 gifts — thank you both for your ongoing faith and support!

More capstone donations are welcome; please make tax-deductible contributions to Friends of Fort Ward, 1948 Parkview Drive, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. Friends of Fort Ward is an all-volunteer organization, and all gifts go directly to the building restoration fund. Contact us at to tour the building. 

Fort Ward bakery’s twin at Fort DuPont, Del.


It’s all coming together for the Fort Ward bakery restoration – early summer 2019 update

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, EARLY SUMMER 2019: We’re moving so far, so fast on restoration of the historic Fort Ward bakery (our future community hall), we’re well behind in the news. So here’s a robust “catch up” edition. If you follow our up-to-the-minute-ish reports on Facebook, some of this will look familiar. If you don’t, please settle in for our latest adventures, with more to follow very soon.  

TWO GLEAMING NEW SANDSTONE SILLS – AN ACT OF HISTORIC VANDALISM, FINALLY RIGHTED: Nobody knows who knocked the nose off the Sphinx. Some blame Napoleon’s cannoneers for taking target practice at the mighty stone lion during the French campaign in Egypt in 1789. (One downside of empire: eons after your empire has crumbled, you’ll still be blamed for absolutely everything.) Others fault Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr, a 14th century Sufi iconoclast, while others say the nose was chiseled off centuries earlier still.  All we really know is that someone, somewhere in time, beheld the Sphinx and decided to flatten its face.

Similarly lost to the ages: whoever smashed away the front edges of two marvelous sandstone sills on the north face of the Fort Ward bakery. It might have been the Navy when they tacked a small barracks onto the building during World War II. Or it might have been later owners, who converted the building to a home and replaced the Navy’s addition with a carport in the 1960s or ‘70s.

Those sills – which protruded all of 2 inches from the face of the wall – were deemed an unacceptable nuisance. And so the front edges were hammered away, leaving jagged ruins. A desecration not on the level of the Sphinx, perhaps, but still an egregious one … one we’ve now made right. As we move into the late phases of the bakery restoration, a longtime dream is finally realized: two new sandstone sills, harvested and hewn just for the bakery. They look great.

A few years ago when we started seriously scoping the aesthetic details of the restoration – windows, doors, defining elements people were really likely to notice – we consulted with the historic preservation folks on this particular architectural question. Should we track down real sandstone replacement sills, or go the easy route of cast concrete reproductions?

“If you can afford it, get the sandstone,” they said. “It’s the authentic way to go.”

We decided to splurge.

What you should know about sandstone sills: They’re not cheap, and that’s if you can even source them. So thanks to Masonry Restoration Consulting for getting these stones harvested from a mostly dormant quarry near Snoqualmie and shaped by master carvers there.

True, they’re a somewhat lighter shade of grey than the originals – but then, it’s not like you can just run over to Home Depot and order blocks of sandstone in any old hue. You get what you can find, what the quarry’s precious veins offer up. Give these sills some time and weathering, they may darken up. If not … eh. Without a century of patina, they’d stand out in any event. We’ll gladly bask in the gleam.

Anyway, PJ and Eric from MRC rolled in recently with the stones on their flatbed truck and with a front-loader in tow. After months of anticipation, it was a big moment. The windows’ rough openings (one to the future hall’s kitchen, the other to a restroom) had been prepped months ago when the old damaged stones came out. Installation was the delicate matter of lifting each weighty stone high on the loader’s forks, massaging it into the narrow recess, then inserting an ad hoc system of doweling and shims to get the stones level. A thick bed of mortar was then troweled into the gap beneath, and the openings later trimmed out with grout.

We’re pretty proud of this detail – magnificent new sandstone sills! – and we hope they reflect an “extra mile” approach to the bakery restoration and our pursuit of the accurate and true. Of course, we’d rather have not had to do this at all. So we leave you with this challenge.

Friends and supporters, if you would like to make one more contribution to the Fort Ward Community Hall project, please: invent a time machine. Then beam your way back through the years to the exact moment when whoever it was stood poised to smash the bakery’s precious original sills to smithereens, and GRAB THE HAMMER. Dispatch the fellow to some other, more productive task, like mowing the Parade Ground with a pair of scissors. Something, anything to distract him from the wanton destruction of one of our beautiful little bakery’s signature features.

Back in the present, you will have saved us a lot of time and money. And you will have invented time travel – bonus! So when you’re done saving the bakery, you can go even farther back and maybe save the Sphinx’s nose too.

THE HEATING MAN COMETH – WE’RE VISITED BY OLD FRIENDS & REVISIT A FOUNDATIONAL PLEDGE: One of the more humbling aspects of life these days is reflecting on the many friends who’ve stuck with our project since the beginning.

We’re thinking of those folks who pledged money at the outset, back in 2015-16 and even earlier, when the Fort Ward Community Hall wasn’t much more than a dream and a slide show on our neighborhood history. A darn good slide show, and four neighborhood kids who could tell the tale with verve, but still. The idea of restoring the century-old bakery for public use, as amateurs and volunteers, starting from zero … well, that must have looked like quite a reach. We needed to find folks who would really, truly believe.

Folks like Curt Carlisle of Bainbridge Heating & Air, who stepped up with a foundational pledge that made us think we might really pull this off – and stuck with us until we did.

It started summer 2015. Curt had recently installed a modern, ductless heat pump at Station S, and for the first time since the Navy was paying the heating bills, this beloved, drafty old pile of bricks we call home was habitable in winter. Comfortable even! The ancient basement furnace could finally be retired, and dependence on Big Oil cut forever. So when it came time to scope HVAC for the bakery, of course we thought of Curt and his miracle heat pumps. Good for one old pile of bricks, surely good for another.

We recall the sunny morning when Curt met us at the bakery for a walk-thru. We had done exactly no work on the building. Outside, blackberries had swallowed two lilacs and a cherry tree whole; inside, it was dark, dank and still perfumed with Eau Du Chien from the previous renters. A real mess. Picturing the bakery as a vibrant hall, alive with energy and music and laughter and love like Seabold and Island Center halls, that took a fertile (maybe febrile) imagination.

We explained the concept, probably in too many words. Curt walked around the room and scratched his chin. Maybe he didn’t, but it’s a device we hack writers use to convey “deep in thought,” so go with it.

“You could put a unit there,” he said, pointing high on a wall, “and maybe another one there,” the scenarios playing out one into the next.

We headed back out to the driveway, and it was time for The Pitch. Obviously, we said, we don’t have any expectations, but you should know that we’ll be tax-exempt, so any local businesses that want to support the project can get –“

“I’ll tell you what,” Curt said, “I’d like to give you a system. If you pay for the electrician, I’ll give you the equipment.”

Wow. We were hoping for a discount, sure, but … free? Thank-You seemed wholly insufficient, but a trio from our Fort Ward Youth Board – Stella, Marina and Kate – ran over for a publicity photo with Curt.

“When do you think you’ll need it?” Curt asked.

“Oh, before too long. Later this year,” we said, confidently. Optimistically. Blindly.

Reality soon set in. And really: we’d barely raised any money, we were just getting started with architecture and engineering, and anyway how could we imagine it would take a full two years – TWO YEARS – to get our permits through City Hall … not for some big, ugly, for-profit development, but to renovate a tiny historic building as a gift to the community. TWO YEARS.

…But as Bette Davis once said: Don’t let’s be small about such things. What’s past is past. What matters is the present, and suddenly here we were in spring 2019 – almost four trips around the sun since Curt’s pledge – and we were finally ready for heating.

Now, we were painfully aware that A LOT of time had passed, and circumstances change, so if we’d sailed into the “pledge sunset” we would totally understand. We wrote out a check with a big number.

“No, I’m committed to this,” Curt said – no hesitation. “It’s my gift to the Park District and Friends of Fort Ward.”

Like we said: humbling.

Curt and his crew rolled up in June to install the first half of the system. Our Youth Board alums are off on their college adventures, but by chance Kate – who just completed her junior year at UW, proving time does fly – was home for the week and agreed that yes, it would be fun to restage the original photo.

A quick setup, a handshake, smiles, a click of the shutter and … we welled up. For a simple image, it has a remarkable depth of field.

Then Paul and Colton, Curt’s sturdy aides de camp, rolled out a powerful dual-compressor unit and trundled it across the yard to its new home. Scott from Henden Electric wired it up, and just like that, the soon-to-be Fort Ward Community Hall was on its way to clean, efficient and abundant heat. By donation.

Curt’s team will be back to install the inside units soon, once we’ve got paint on the walls and the dust tamped down a bit. But just look where we are.

Thank you, Curt – for your support for parks, for preservation, for community. For believing in us from the start. We are so grateful.

‘AT FORT WARD’ – THE BAKERY BECOMES AN OBJET D’ART, AND WE BECOME PATRONS: Historic preservation is an endless struggle between the locals who believe #ThisPlaceMatters (look it up), and the pillaging forces of Don’t Give a Damn, Get Out of the Way LLC.

Unfortunately, as we see in the uphill battle to save Seattle’s storied Showbox theatre, the forces of Don’t Give a Damn, Get Out of the Way LLC usually have more money. And when they look at a beautiful historic building, money – specifically, the chance to make more of it by knocking the building down – is all the forces of Don’t Give a Damn, Get Out of the Way LLC can see.

Which, we imagine, is why artist Amy D’Apice titled her new gallery show “Vanishing Bainbridge.” As a mixed-media study of the island’s older, smaller, more rustic homes, one could see these familiar landmarks giving way to generic McMansions on our rapidly suburbanizing island …. but we get ahead of ourselves.

Our story began as we wandered over to the bakery one morning in early June to see the progress, and the restoration team handed over a flier that had been dropped off a few days earlier. The handbill announced an upcoming gallery show at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, featuring works by artist D’Apice and titled “Vanishing Bainbridge.”

With the flier was a photocopy of an original portrait of – !!! – the Fort Ward bakery. What a delightful image, and what a fleeting moment in time it captured: mid-2018, just as our restoration was getting underway. Sometime after April, when we took down the carport, but before September, when we started peeling away the tacked-on porch. But how? When? Had the artist set up an easel in the front yard for a few days and no one noticed? True, we weren’t working on the building much during that stretch, but it was as if this amazing portrait had appeared out of the ether.

The flier announced the artist’s reception and talk would be June 7-8. Fie! We had already made plans to go to Wenatchee that weekend for a Kidney Reunion (your correspondent and his new one, with the guy who generously offered it up) and to see the sights. If we were big-time art collectors, we could have dispatched some proxy to the gallery opening to snatch up “our” portrait as the velvet rope dropped. Not being such, we could only hope it wouldn’t sell before we could get back to the island and rightfully claim it.

Monday after the opening proved overwhelming in its busy-ness, and we didn’t make it to the gallery until Tuesday afternoon, just before closing. A few punters milled about, but it was late and the footfalls echoed.

Lining the gallery we saw, in portrait after splendid portrait, so many warm, familiar facades from around the island: farmhouses, cottages, humble cabins and timeworn storefronts, quaint, modest and increasingly out of step with today’s NO HOUSE TOO OSTENTATIOUS development ethos. It was easy to imagine that these treasured homes would indeed vanish from the landscape soon, and with them so much of our island character.

“What do the red dots mean?” we asked the young woman minding the counter.

“Oh, that means the painting has sold.”

The heart raced. Seriously, there were a lot of red dots. The artist had struck a chord. And then we found it, right between an Ericksen Avenue cottage and a Falk Road rambler: “At Fort Ward. Mixed media. Amy Williams D’Apice, Bainbridge Island and Chiangmai, Thailand.”

Our breath caught, the moment hung suspended in time and … no red dot! How many heedless patrons had breezed past this very work and failed to recognize its obvious brilliance, its unsurpassed beauty, the sheer, unassailable fact that its subject – the Fort Ward bakery – was the most sublime of the bunch? Philistines, all.

Or maybe they just liked the ones from their own neighborhood.

Whatever. They didn’t buy it. We did.

We also picked up two sketches that showed the work in various stages of conception. You may see these on display at the Fort Ward Community Hall someday soon.

We made it a point to get a shot of gallery assistant Breanna as she affixed the blessed red dot: SOLD! to the gentleman in the black hoodie. We didn’t really foresee a ring of international art thieves stealing into the gallery through the skylight by moonlight to make off with it, but neither did we want to come back and find it had been sold again by mistake.

We left “At Fort Ward” hanging at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, where “Amy D’Apice: Vanishing Bainbridge” ran through June 30. It was a marvelous show, an important one, and we hope you saw it before it closed.

To the fate of Amy’s other subjects, those wonderful old homes that bring so much character and charm to our island landscape, time alone will tell. We hope they find preservationists and patrons of their own to carry their architectural heritage – our heritage – forward into the future.

As to Fort Ward’s beautiful little bakery: it won’t be vanishing anytime soon. Because dammit, this place matters.

A NAME IN THE RAFTERS – HERE’S TO YOU, GEORGE SPRINT: For as long as humans have trodden the earth, we’ve felt the impulse to leave some record of our passage on any handy canvas. From the cave paintings of Lascaux to the hieroglyphics of Egyptian temples, Mayans carving glyphs into monuments at Palenque or kids swooping in behind the cement truck to sign that gleaming new sidewalk – Kilroy, you know, was here.

And on Sept. 23, 1945, George Sprint was HERE. We know, because he scrawled his name in the rafters of the Fort Ward bakery. Which makes a certain sense: the building was by then a Navy power station, and the 1940 census records show that Sprint was an electrician’s helper at the Bremerton shipyard. So Naval Radio Station Bainbridge needed some electrical work, and George got the order.

What moved him to write his name in the rafters is anybody’s guess … maybe nobody was looking? But so he did, and when we tore out the last of the bakery’s sagging old ceiling, there he was.

The discovery was timely, as the final round of interior demolition revealed more evidence of the building’s years as power station for NRS Bainbridge. Two concrete slabs (long hidden under a 1960s-era raised floor) were fully revealed, platforms for the big generators that powered the work of radiomen and WAVES eavesdropping on enemy communications from across the Pacific. Channels in the floor once held the lines and conduit that served the generators, presumably piping fuel in and electricity out. The slabs are now sliced up and gone, and the trenching filled – all to be covered soon by a new hardwood floor – but we document these elements here for history and posterity.

Now, as we begin reconstruction, the hall’s interior space has taken on a new sense of scale and dimension. We can appreciate, finally, what a grand space it will be for classes, receptions, Scout events, or anything else the community uses it for … majestic 12-foot ceilings and all.

The restoration masons have completed their work, cleaning up interior window openings, archways and voids. Casey from Port Madison Wood Floors paid a call to advise us on fairing the concrete slab the building sits on for the new hardwood floor. Scott from Henden Electric has rewired the top half of the building.

Willy Doyle, Park District carpenter, set up shop to frame the openings into which we’ll slot custom, period correct wood windows from Pella. Big thanks to Leah Applewhite of Realogics Sotheby’s for letting us into the old quartermaster building next door (now for sale!), to measure original window frames to model for this critical work.

Site manager Casey Shortbull of Bainbridge Parks has framing of partition walls underway as the kitchen, restrooms, office and storage space take shape. Random fixtures like ceiling fans, sinks and premium-grade hinges (for the massive doors) have been showing up at Station S, where they await deployment to the bakery. And the new ceiling … we got about 20 percent of it sheetrocked before we waved the white flag and called in Moran Painting to finish the job. And what a job they did. It’s hard to take an interesting photo of a ceiling, but take our word that it looks fantastic. The new crown molding too. Amazing work, and we can’t wait to show it off.

Of course, with the new ceiling covering the rafters, George Sprint’s name is once again hidden for the ages. But while he may be gone, he’s not forgotten. Here’s what we know (with thanks to Alicia Arter, our neighborhood genealogist): Born 1901 in Montana to German immigrant parents, and made his way to Multnomah, Oregon. Married April 18, 1925, to Violet Easter in Chehalis, the Hon. RC Beaufort, Justice of the Peace, presiding. Had a son, Samuel (b. 1931) who served a brief tour in Korea. After that…? We’re still digging. Perhaps there’s a descendent around here who can fill in the rest of the story.

Maybe a hundred years from now, when the bakery gets its next renovation, George Sprint and his moment-in-time mark on Naval Radio Station Bainbridge will be discovered anew. And those who come after us will again marvel, and wonder.

AFFAIRS OF SLATE – ONE FINAL WINTER’S TALE: When it came to roofing Fort Ward’s 1910-era buildings, slate might not have been the most convenient choice. Historically quarried in Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and Maine, those rough-hewn, jagged-edged black tiles must have crossed the continent to reach the Pacific Northwest. On the other hand, slate’s functional qualities are legion: it sheds water like a duck’s back. It’s fireproof. Properly maintained, a good slate roof can last a century or more. Try getting a guarantee like that from your next roofer.

And darn it, a slate roof is a thing of beauty. Slate looks great. Which is probably why many owners of Fort Ward’s historic homes have guarded their vintage roofs jealously. By our count, we still have at least a half-dozen slate-roofed buildings in the neighborhood, including our beloved little bakery.

The excellent “Architecture of the Department of Defense: A Military Style Guide” reminds us that slate roofs began appearing on American fort buildings during the Second Empire period (1860-1895), and carried over into the Colonial Revival style of the early 20th century typified at Fort Ward. Standardized plans meant standardized materials.

Slate’s rarity hereabouts means a good slater is hard to find. And like masonry, slating is an artisanal craft – piecing together individual tiles in a snug, attractive (and water-shedding) pattern. You can’t send just anyone up the ladder to romp around on those brittle slopes. A slater must, as Gilbert and Sullivan would have it, steal with catlike tread. Know the tools. Know the techniques. Know slate.

The slater’s craft is also a cerebral pursuit. There’s no gang of bruisers rolling miles of tar paper across the roof and slinging bundles of 3-tab shingles around (WHOMP!), no staccato BAP-BAP-BAP of the pneumatic nail gun. A slate roof is a puzzle, each piece laid with deliberation and care.

Fortunately, when we found the bakery’s roof had a few leaks, we also found Don from Hanley Construction. With a good 30 years’ slating experience behind him – most recently patching up the Bloedel Reserve’s historic main house – Don came up from Vashon Island to lend his skills to our restoration. Besides replacing damaged and missing slates, he fashioned new copper flashing for the “hips” where the roof’s various planes intersect. Neat work!

The replacement tiles date to the early days of the fort, and have followed a circuitous route around the neighborhood. Some years ago, when the Fort Ward guardhouse (corner of Evergreen and Fort Ward Hill) was being restored by a local builder, the owners chose to switch from slate to asphalt shingles. Preservation-minded neighbors salvaged hundreds of the discarded slates – no small task given their fragility and weight – and trucked them to the other end of the Parade Ground, where they’ve been stored at Station S and the 1940s-era Navy cottage next door. The slates used for our bakery patch-up were donated by the Dennons, who inherited them with purchase of the cottage and offered them up for our project. Thank you, Daniel and family!

Slater Don was soon off to other projects, and with some good rains behind us since his visit, we can confidently say he did right by our bakery’s beautiful, historic slate roof. Now we’re at work inside, snug and dry.



Bakery restoration making giant strides: Spring 2019 construction update

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND: Up in the rafters, under the earth and everywhere in between, restoration of Fort Ward’s historic bakery building is making giant strides in spring 2019. Here’s an update on masonry restoration, repairs to the century-old rafters, our new custom corbel knee-braces and plinth, and more.

For more images of the work, see the new spring 2019 gallery at And remember to Like us at for the most up-to-date reports (and lots more photos) on the bakery restoration.

HITTING A BAD PATCH – AND MAKING IT GOOD: Some days we correct for time, some days for error. Restoration of the historic Fort Ward bakery’s beautiful brick shell has largely been an exercise in the latter: fixing things that someone, somewhere along the way, screwed up. Like the jagged hole hacked through the back wall to run a dryer vent. Or the splendid corbel plinth smashed flat when the front porch was hideously enclosed. Or the … but we could be at this for a while. Suffice it to say our restoration masons have been correcting these many slights and offenses against the building’s architectural integrity, with great patience and skill, one after the next.

Eric of Masonry Restoration Consulting with the bakery’s newly repaired front wall.

With their lengthy task list winding down, the ace team from Masonry Restoration Consulting Inc. of Lake Stevens – PJ, Toby, and Eric – turned their attention to one of the last big jobs, maybe the one you’re most likely to notice: Fixing the terrible patch job on the building’s north face. It’s been an eyesore for decades, a blight on the building and a visual assault against all passersby. What happened? Sometime in the 1940s, when the old Army bakery was repurposed as a power station for Naval Radio Station Bainbridge Island, someone in the chain of command decided the building wasn’t big enough. It needed another room, probably a bunkhouse and shower for whoever kept the big generator running.

The north wall before restoration. Note the very poor patch over the 1940s-era doorway.

A concrete pad was poured and a new frame structure grafted on. But instead of just framing in a simple entrance, they – egregiously – punched the doorway through the bakery wall. Ouch. Worse, when the add-on was finally torn down and the doorway patched up, the repair job could charitably described as … amateurish. Mismatched and damaged bricks, thrown together in uneven rows. Gobs of mortar. Sloppy pointing. Just terrible work all around. As masonry goes, it was the typographic equivalent of a ransom note. “Some staff sergeant probably said, ‘Fill it! I don’t care what it looks like,’” mason Eric mused, as he took up the trowel to make things right.

Going into the bakery restoration, we weren’t even sure this blight could be fixed. We talked about just buying a big potted tree, setting it in front of the wall and hoping Fort Ward Community Hall users wouldn’t notice. But for the restoration masons, hey, no problem. The fix actually got underway before Christmas; as PJ and Toby methodically reopened bricked-over windows, they also chiseled away the outer layer of the ad-hoc patch job. With the wall void exposed, they could add an extra wythe (vertical layer) for strength.

Now it was time to set the outer wythe. While most repairs have used reconditioned bricks salvaged from around the bakery, this job called for new color-matched units sourced from an area supplier. Purchased oversized, each brick was cut down to length and meticulously set into place, one course upon the next. It looks great. In fact, when the weathered wall around it gets a gentle cleaning, the new work should blend right in. Quite an improvement over last try. Pays to hire real masons!

There’s one more big job ahead in the masonry phase, and we promise you’ll notice that one too. For now, take a stroll by the bakery and admire this fine work by our skilled masons, and a big brick wall where past and present meet with barely a seam.

RAFTER REPAIRS – THIS MAKES US BEAM:  It was spring 2007, and the Fort Ward Sewer District has just purchased the fort’s historic bakery building for restoration – someday – as a community hall. Tagging along with Mike Yuhl, sewer district engineer, and Don Ashton, retired architect and Fort Ward neighbor, your correspondent ventured up into the bakery attic to see firsthand what were described as failing rafters needing serious repair. What we found (besides grime and years of accumulated junk): Several of the long beams that span the main room had split at some point over the bakery’s then-97-year history. Yikes! The roof would stand (with some stopgap bracing by Mike), but any long-term restoration would have to address this structural issue. No way around it.

New custom-milled fir rafters in the bakery’s attic.

Flash forward to spring 2019, and it’s up to the attic again – this time, to fix the rafters for good. We commissioned a visit from island structural engineer Dayle Houk, who spent a couple of hours gamely clambering around up in the rafters for a thorough, up-to-date assessment. Her recommendation: “Just replace like with like.”

In this case, “Like” would mean some particularly high-grade fir beams, custom milled for the application. Our quest led us to Angeles Millwork & Lumber of Port Angeles. While we’ve sourced most of our milling needs on the island, this time we found what we needed amongst the towering trees of the Olympic Peninsula. Four 12-foot spans of clear fir … and boy, were they clear. Beautiful vertical grain, and not a knot to be found. Thank you, precious Northwest forests – we’ll put these to good use, we promise.

The original rafters — note that several had split, from time or the weight of the ceiling below.

Now came the delicate part: out with the old, in with the new. Special vertical supports were jacked into place beneath key beams, buttressing the roof and its crowning cupola so the damaged members could be carefully removed – edgy work, to be sure. The joist system was a sandwich affair, twin beams straddling mates and thru-bolted within the embrace of sturdy metal plates. This hardware probably hadn’t been touched since the bakery went up in 1910, but the bolts freed up without much effort. A few hours later, the new rafters were in place and secure. The jacks were slowly lowered to let everything settle back into place, and … and … it stood! As if there was ever any doubt. “It’s stronger than it was eight hours ago,” mused Casey Shortbull of BI Metro Parks, our construction team lead, “and it’s stood this long.”

While we’ll never know exactly why the old rafters split – “time” is a perfectly plausible guess– we suspect it might have had something to do with the load of the bakery’s original ceiling of cement and metal lath. That ceiling was HEAVY – a ridiculous 15 lbs. per square foot. Given the main room is about 950 sf., that’s over 14,000 lbs. of mass that’s been pulling the roof toward the floor all these years. No wonder something finally gave. By contrast, the new ceiling of 5/8-inch sheetrock should weigh in at a tidy 2.3 lbs. per square foot. You can almost feel the building shake its shoulders and heave a sigh of relief.

To bring this project element full circle, we shared pictures with our engineer emeritus Mike Yuhl, now retired to Lake Sammamish. Mike’s response: “WOW!” Thanks, Mike – it took a while, but we did it. Maybe there was never any doubt. Longtime South Beach resident and fine woodworker John Steiner, who calls the bakery’s intricate roof truss system “a work of art,” said he would have been confident even without the temporary bracing (although he understood the precaution). Referencing R. Buckminster Fuller, who popularized the geodesic dome, John described the bakery’s roof structure as exemplifying “self-supporting pattern integrity.” That is, the design is such that it basically holds itself up. After a century-plus, it’s hard to argue. And now we’re sure.

RESTORING  THOSE KNEE BRACES – THE B’S KNEES: One of the primary elements of the bakery project has been restoring the beautiful original facade. Among other details, that entailed milling and cutting new knee braces to hold up the front porch overhang, specifically the two braces left of the door as you face the building. The original pair were destroyed when the porch was enclosed many years ago. Fortunately, we had the other pair (and the original 1908 blueprints from the National Archives) to work from and copy.

The new knee-brace system supporting the bakery’s front porch overhang.

But this was an interdisciplinary element that also required some crafty work by our masons. More on that in a moment; first, the braces. While the work isn’t quite done, the two new braces got plugged in recently to see how they fit – very nicely indeed. Note how the diagonal brace is inset slightly into the horizontal beam end with an angled cut to support the load above, negating the need for a vertical pillar. Old-school engineering.

As noted in an earlier post, these stout beams were custom milled from island timber by David Kotz Woodworking of Day Road. Custom corbel cutting (the fancy scroll work at the end) was done by Casey, our construction lead. Now, here’s where the masons came in: The diagonal brace is supported at the wall by a protruding brick plinth.

The newly rebuilt corbel plinth.

Unfortunately, the plinth on this side had been hammered flat sometime in the past. But we still had the original plinth on the other side to model, plus those handy blueprints. The masons had to chip out the voids where the plinth was structurally set into the wall, then rebuild it to match. And match it they did.

We marvel at the simple elegance of the bakery’s knee-brace design — truly, the B’s knees — which transfers the load of the porch overhang to the building wall. Nice engineering, Army architects of yore! And great work by our bakery restoration team, putting it all back together for the next hundred years.

DIG THIS – PARKING LOT CONSTRUCTION BEGINS: These are the times that try the treasurer’s soul. At one point recently we had no fewer than 10 craftsmen working onsite at the Fort Ward bakery restoration: a slater on the roof, two masons working the walls, everyone else furrowing the very earth. With construction of the community hall’s new parking lot underway, extensive digging and trenching for the stormwater system dominated the week. It was maddeningly precise work, to ensure the system of vaults, catchments and lines were planted at just the right angle and depth – we’re talking fractions of inches – so as to convey rainwater from the southwest corner of the property out to the catch basin under Evergreen Drive.

Installation of the custom stormwater filtration system as the Fort Ward Community Hall’s parking lot takes shape.

The work was complicated by the discovery that seemingly every underground utility in the neighborhood converged right in the path of the new pipe, a veritable farrago of lines to be painstakingly dug around and skirted. This necessitated excavation with a noisy and not inexpensive “vactor” truck, a titanic vacuum that sounded like a 747 revving its engines for takeoff on the SeaTac runway. Sorry, neighbors! This is all in a good cause, we promise. And with no reported outages of power, cable or phone, we think we got it right.

Through it all was the lumbering choreography of the heavy machinery, twin backhoes slinging gravel and earth to and fro in an elaborate mechanized dance. The rattling jackhammers. The thudding compacters. The buzzing generators to power them all. On a per-hour basis, it was probably the most expensive week of the whole restoration. We had to remind ourselves that at the end of the project, our Friends of Fort Ward bank account is supposed to say $0 and that’s okay. Heaven help us, not before then.

In any event, our Park District construction team – David, Casey, Chris and Erik – gave 150 percent putting in the storm system, as did South Point Development Co.’s Dale Flodin, who moves earth with the precision of icing a cake. It gave us pause to reflect on our respective roles in the bakery restoration project. All your correspondent has to do is play General behind the lines – raise money, keep an eye on historical accuracy, and chronicle what goes on with reports like this one.

On this week, the real heroes fought in the trenches. But isn’t that usually the case.

Two more original doors found, will be used in bakery restoration

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – Followers of the Fort Ward bakery restoration will recall what a thrill it was two summers ago, when we discovered the building’s original front double-doors and two fanlight windows –and with them, the prospect of reinstalling these vintage fixtures after 50-plus years out of the building.

How could we follow that? Believe it or not …we’ve found two more original doors. They’ve been hidden away in a crawl space under the bakery’s raised floor for decades – since the Kennedy or Johnson administrations, by our best estimates – and on a recent morning, they came back out into the light.

Restoration team members Casey and Sean of the Park District discovered the doors in December as they started tearing out the building’s false floor, but we weren’t able to extricate them at the time. But once we finally got them out for inspection, the doors lived up to anticipation.

Like the original front double-doors, these doors are absolute monsters: 96x36x2.25in …. thick as bricks and stout as oaks, or in this case, firs. Same robust specs as shown in the original blueprints from 1908. They need to be cleaned up and refinished, but they’re in remarkably good shape.

As we stood the doors up for the first time and took stock, Casey noticed the blue-grey color matched a smear of old paint in one of the exterior door frames (SW corner off the kitchen), which made us think, ‘Hmmm, I bet that’s where it goes….’

So we mounted the hinges and within a few minutes the door was up and swinging away — a perfect fit. We happened to have one of the original fanlight windows onsite with us, so we test-fit that over the newly hung door …. again, a perfect fit. Add a piece of framing over the door and attach a vintage knob, et voila — a historic doorway restored.

While we’re just now starting to put the bakery back together after a protracted removal of non-original elements (tearing out the false floor closes out the demolition phase), this was our first really big “moment” where we could envision the finished product. Seeing the newly discovered door in place, the decorative fanlight above — even in their un-refinished state — that was worth a few words in the journal.

Oh, and the second door fits the northwest entrance. So of the bakery’s five exterior doors, four will be original to the building – a restoration coup.

Mostly we’re amazed that 50-60 years ago, when the Navy moved out of Fort Ward, private parties moved in and homesteaded the old bakery, raised the floor to create a crawl space and put in smaller doors, they had the foresight to go, “you know, someone someday may want these big doors again” and tucked them away like a time capsule … which on this day, we opened. And they were right.

Bricks came out, now bricks are going back in

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND — The ace duo from Masonry Restoration Consulting have been onsite for about six weeks now, giving Fort Ward’s historic  brick bakery its nip and tuck.

To date this has mostly been an exercise in addition by subtraction: opening up the big windows and doorways bricked over by the Navy in the 1940s, and removing damaged bricks and mortar for replacement and repointing.

This week marks a significant turn: bricks are going back in. PJ and Toby have started on the north face, cleaning up window openings and filling holes, voids and breaches.

They’re drawing from the stacks of newly reconditioned vintage bricks that have accumulated over the past few weeks, with new units to be mixed in where appropriate. After each brick is selected for color and fit, cut to size (as needed) and mortared into place — like removal, a very deliberative process — the visible gaps will be repointed with color-corrected mortar to match the aged and weathered material around it.

We’ve found the existing mortar tends to have a yellowish hue, although after 100 years of random weathering it varies somewhat around the building and even on the same wall. But color tests continue, and we think the team is getting pretty close. Once the right hue is determined, final repointing should go pretty fast, and when it’s dry you should have to look pretty close to see the difference, old to new.

And the first element of reconstruction: the corbel plinth to the left of the front doorway. The original plinth — a little protruding brick ledge that buttresses the two stout beams holding up the front porch overhang — was hammered away decades ago when the porch was enclosed. This morning, PJ built a new plinth to match the one on the other side of the doorway. Once the mortar has firmed up, we can install the new beams and peel away the last vestiges of the ugly wraparound that has blighted the facade since the 1960s or ’70s.

Here’s a slideshow of today’s work, including the bakery’s new corbel plinth.

New year finds historic Fort Ward bakery restoration in full swing

FORT WARD, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND – Happy New Year from Friends of Fort Ward and the Fort Ward Community Hall project! 

The turning calendar finds us knee-deep in sawdust, awash in the vigorous clatter of our historic bakery restoration (minor pause for the holidays), and propelled by great press coverage and your ongoing enthusiasm and support en route to project completion in 2019. From a dream, to a concept, to a plan, to this moment: the Fort Ward Community Hall is happening

For friends, fans and supporters at every level, THANK YOU for a fantastic past 12 months in which we’ve accomplished so much. On the threshold of the new year, here’s what’s going on: 

An ace team from Lake Stevens-based Masonry Restoration Consulting has been onsite for the past six weeks, giving our little brick bakery a thorough makeover. These skilled masons recently reopened all windows and doors bricked over by the Navy back in the 1940s, and are now replacing damaged bricks and generally giving the building envelope a good nip and tuck. 

We’ve posted video and stills of their work on our Facebook page and homepage, so you can see these skilled craftsmen in action. It’s painstaking work, and possibly the biggest single component of the restoration … but it’s a brick building, so you’d expect that. Bricks are its essence, so they deserve the attention. 

This phase of the restoration is funded in part by a Sivinski Grant from the WA Trust for Historic Preservation. Recall that this prestigious award was Our Very First Grant (way back in December 2015!), and we’re pleased to finally be spending the “brick & mortar” money on actual brick and mortar. Cheers to the WA Trust for all they do for the cause of historic preservation, and their early support of the bakery restoration. 
Fill and grading for the community hall’s new parking lot begins in early January. The schematics look complicated, but three key points: the drainage will boast custom filtration to keep pollutants out of the waters of Rich Passage, we’re keeping asphalt to a minimum, and we saved most of the significant trees. Design is by Browne Wheeler Engineers, with grading and earthwork by Dale Flodin and island-based South Point Development.  

The slate specialist from Hanley Construction will be on the roof in the next few weeks, tweaking the bakery’s slate shingles to keep the Northwest winter out. The beautiful slate roof is one of the 1910 building’s signature elements, and we’re glad to be shoring it up for another 100 years. Slate tiles for the patch-up are being contributed by the Dennon family on Parkview Drive, supplementing a cache of tiles from top-secret Station S

Those new porch beams custom milled by David Kotz Woodworking will be fitted soon, vintage exterior doors and fanlights installed, and the bakery’s original façade finally restored. Our next big purchase: custom-crafted, period-correct windows. We think we have a vendor picked out, and we’ll be reviewing their proposal and placing an order in the coming days. Plus LOTS more work on the building interior as the community hall’s public spaces take shape … 

Casey Johnson and the team at Port Madison Wood Floors stepped up this year as major contributors – this excellent island firm is donating materials for a beautiful white oak hardwood floor in the hall’s main room. A tremendous gift, which everyone who uses the building will enjoy. Flooring installation and finishing costs will be funded through a community grant by the Bainbridge Island Parks Foundation. We expect the floor to go in sometime in March.  

More big thanks to the Suquamish Foundation for a recent $500 grant. Our neighbors across the bridge have been staunch supporters of our Fort Ward project, with the Foundation’s contributions totaling $4,000 to date. 

Many thanks also to the private donors who’ve given throughout the past year – you know who you are. If you don’t, check out our Donor Wall and look for your name! (And your friends’ names.)

Donations continue to roll in through One Call For All – we are enjoying great support in this, our final Red Envelope campaign. If you’ve given previously, we are so grateful – you’ve gotten us this deep into the bakery restoration. If you want to pad your support or want to join the campaign for the first time, now’s your chance to make your mark on this neighborhood-driven, historic preservation effort. 

The Fort Ward Community Hall project remains a three-way partnership of Friends of Fort Ward, the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District, and Kitsap County (Fort Ward) Sewer District No. 7. We’re also grateful for the ongoing support of Wenzlau Architects, Browne Wheeler Engineers, and Tina Gilbert of the OTWB Inc. project management firm. And our onsite team of David, Casey and Sean from BI Parks. And many, many others! 

And so… Welcome 2019! The year we bring the Fort Ward Community Hall project home – for Bainbridge Island, for historic preservation, for community, all thanks to the continued enthusiasm and support of … You.  

— Douglas Crist, Candy Merifield, Christina Doherty, Ellie Montaperto, Wesley Dreiling & Kate MerifieldFriends of Fort Ward (withbonus thanks from and to the Fort Ward Youth Committee members emeritus: Aila, Erik, Mark, Rachel, Marina, Mallory & Stella)

We made the front page! Thanks, Bainbridge Review

The Fort Ward Community Hall project gets some great coverage from the Bainbridge Island Review in this week’s edition, now available on finer newsstands across the island. 

Big thanks to the Review and editor Brian Kelly for taking the time to venture south to Fort Ward on a recent afternoon to see the masonry restoration phase of our project. What a great way to close out 2018, celebrating current work and looking ahead to bringing the historic bakery restoration home over the next few months.

Pick up a copy today (just 75 cents!), and support the hometown press as they chronicle the many facets of our Bainbridge Island community. Thanks, Review!


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, 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 ( 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!