Fort Ward’s Concrete Bunkers: Uncovering the Hidden History

Bainbridge Island, Washington, is home to a number of historical concrete structures that are remnants of the island’s military past.

The presence of the United States naval base in Bremerton was one of the reasons for the establishment of coastal defense sites like Fort Ward. The Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton has been an important facility for the United States Navy, particularly during the World War I and World War II eras when the threat of naval invasion was considered significant.

Fort Ward and other military installations in the Puget Sound area were part of the Harbor Defense of Puget Sound, a network of forts designed to prevent enemy ships from entering the inland waters and attacking naval assets, industrial facilities, and cities like Seattle and Tacoma. The strategic importance of protecting these naval and industrial resources led to the development of comprehensive coastal defense systems, including gun batteries, minefields, and observation posts, to secure the area against potential threats.

At lease five concrete bunkers are identified in the article below. If you know of more, please see the last FAQ below and let us know where it is!

Fort Ward’s Concrete Bunkers

Fort Ward was established in the early 20th century, around the time of World War I, and was later expanded during World War II. The fort was part of a larger network of military installations intended to defend the important industrial and military facilities in the Bremerton area and the Seattle harbor.

The concrete structures you see scattered around the park include gun emplacements, bunkers, and ammunition magazines. These were built to be sturdy and long-lasting, and many have survived to this day, offering a glimpse into the area’s military history. Some of these structures were designed to house large guns that could fire on enemy ships, while others were used for storing ammunition or for housing troops and command centers.

After World War II, the need for coastal defenses like Fort Ward diminished, and many of the military installations were decommissioned. The land was eventually turned over for public use, and Fort Ward became a state park then a city park.

Today, visitors to Fort Ward Park can explore these concrete structures, which have been preserved as historical artifacts. The park also offers recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking, camping and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.

The history of Fort Ward is a reminder of the strategic importance of the Puget Sound region in national defense plans during the first half of the 20th century. The remaining structures serve as a physical connection to the past and are a point of interest for both locals and visitors interested in military history. A more detailed history can be read in the Wikipedia entry.

The Bunkers in North Fort Ward, up the hill from the parking lot at 47.58990° N, 122.53166° W

The Bunkers in South Fort Ward at 47.58179° N, 122.52638° W

The Sign From the Bunkers in South Fort Ward at 47.58179° N, 122.52638° W

Battery Vinton is one of four batteries at Fort Ward. It had two 3 inch 1897 model guns. These guns, along with the other batteries, guarded an underwater mine field placed across Rich Passage. The guns were removed on July 19th, 1920-never having been fired for defense, and were to be shipped to France for use in WWI.

FORT WARD: A Puget Sound Fort
Fort Ward, originally known as Bean Point, was established in 1890 as part of the Coast Artillery Corps. The purpose of the Corps was to defend the Pacific coastline, in particular, San Diego, San Francisco, and the Columbia River.

It was only after the Bremerton Naval Shipyard was established that the Corps saw a need for the defense of Puget Sound. Forts Casey, Flagler, and Worden protected the northern entrance to the sound. Should enemy ships make it past these forts and head south, other forts provided defense. Fort Ward, along with the Middle Point fortification (a part of Ft. Ward), was the last line of defense for the Bremerton Shipyard.

Bean Point was left undeveloped until 1900 when the first batteries and buildings were constructed.

In 1903, the Army designated Bean Point as a seacoast fort and named it Fort Ward in honor of Brevet Brigadier General George H. Ward.

Activity continued to increase as new buildings rose and troops arrived. Then suddenly in 1911, the Army placed Ft. Ward on inactive status. However, a small number of men were always on hand and ready to act. With the threat of WWI, these last men were sent to Europe and all the guns were removed by 1923.

In 1938, Ft. Ward was again full of activity. The Navy installed a Radio Station which remained in use until late 1956. Soon after, they abandoned their operation and in 1958 the Army so left Ft. Ward for good.

The Private Bunkers at 9751 NE South Beach Drive at 47.58179° N, 122.52638° W

The Bunkers on Fort Ward Watch Hill Dr at 47.58179° N, 122.52638° W

FAQ About the Decommissioned Fort Ward Concrete Bunkers

Q: What are the concrete bunkers at Fort Ward?
A: The concrete bunkers at Fort Ward are historical military structures that were part of the coastal defense system during World War I and World War II. They include gun emplacements, ammunition storage areas, and observation posts.

Q: When were the Fort Ward bunkers built?
A: The Fort Ward bunkers were built in the early 20th century, with construction starting around World War I and continuing through World War II as part of the fort’s expansion and modernization.

Q: Why were the bunkers at Fort Ward decommissioned?
A: The bunkers were decommissioned after World War II when advances in military technology and changes in defense strategy made coastal fortifications like Fort Ward obsolete.

Q: Can the public visit the Fort Ward bunkers?
A: Many of the bunkers located within Fort Ward Park are accessible to the public and can be visited during park hours. However, some bunkers may be on private property and not open to the public.

Q: Are there any restrictions on modifying or demolishing the bunkers?
A: Restrictions on modifying or demolishing historical structures like the Fort Ward bunkers depend on local preservation laws and the historical status of the structures. Property owners should consult with local authorities before making any changes.

Q: Do the bunkers have any historical significance?
A: Yes, the bunkers are significant as they represent the military history of the Puget Sound region and the United States’ coastal defense strategies during the early to mid-20th century.

Q: Are there guided tours available for the Fort Ward bunkers?
A: Availability of guided tours varies. Visitors should check with the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum or local tour operators for current offerings.

Q: Is it safe to explore the bunkers?
A: While many of the bunkers are safe to explore, visitors should exercise caution as some may have deteriorated over time. It’s important to obey any posted signs or barriers and to avoid entering areas that appear unsafe.

Q: How are the bunkers being preserved?
A: Preservation efforts for the bunkers are typically managed by local historical societies, parks departments, or other preservation organizations. These efforts may include maintaining structural integrity, preventing vandalism, and providing educational materials about their history.

Q: Can the bunkers be rented for events or photography sessions?
A: Policies on renting the bunkers for private events or photography sessions vary and are subject to local regulations. Interested parties should contact the local parks department or relevant authorities for more information.

Q: What should I know about the Bunker House at 1577 Parkview Dr NE?
A: The Bunker House is a distinctive private residence on Bainbridge Island that incorporates a decommissioned World War II-era military bunker. It was creatively transformed into a modern home by Eggleston Farkas Architects, blending historical preservation with contemporary design. The property is privately owned, and the current owners’ privacy should be respected. It is not open to the public for tours or visits. As for its value, the Zillow estimate for the Bunker House is around $2 million. For more details, you can view the property on Zillow. Please remember not to disturb the current owners or attempt to access the property without permission.

Q: How can I learn more about the history of Fort Ward and its bunkers?
A: To learn more about the history of Fort Ward and its bunkers, you can visit the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.

Q: I know of another bunker! How do I notify you to update this article?
A: Use this contact form to contact our editorial department.