After walking around the town in Port Townsend, we drove a short distance to check out Fort Worden. This base is now turned over to the community and the base buildings are used for a variety of enterprises. The whole area is a state park so we renewed our annual pass (it hadn’t been needed when we were going nowhere!) and talk a walk up to the old gun emplacements.
One of the things I like about these old installations in the state parks is that they are almost unchanged other than the guns having been removed. There is no fencing and so you can wander around and climb the ladders up on top if you chose (and you can fall off the edge if you aren’t careful!). It looks much like it would have a century ago. The only thing now is that a lot of trees have grown up where once there would have been open views.
We wandered along the rows of concrete works and read about the different batteries and who they were named after. There were large iron rings set in the walls which caught our eye and these were used for mounting block and tackle to allow the guns to be hauled in to place. On a sunny day the whole place felt very relaxing to walk around but I imagine the concrete structures were a lot less pleasant on a damp and cold winter’s morning. Some interesting history to check out.
I posted about the lighthouse at Fort Casey here but the fort is obviously a lot more than just a lighthouse. It was built to defend Puget Sound and this meant some big gun emplacements. Much like similar emplacements along the west coast, most of the hardware is now long gone but some has been kept in place to show how things once were. The emplacements themselves are pretty substantial and are well maintained by the park team. With the guns gone, you see just how big the space taken up by the guns was.
Meanwhile, a couple of installations are still equipped. One has a gun elevated to the firing position while the other has the mechanism retracted. The complexity of the gearing to raise, lower, elevate and rotate the guns is old school engineering at its best.
Behind the guns are some of the spotting towers. From here the crews would have identified targets and called in the sighting requirements to the gun crews for them to engage. They are painted green to blend in with the background since they would have been a primary target for any invaders. As it happened, no-one came so these forts never engaged any enemies.
I mentioned our trip to Fort Ward in this blog post. The fort was designed to protect the harbor at Bremerton. Therefore, it would not be silly to assume that there had been some form of armaments here. Just like our explorations of the Marin headlands here and Baker Beach here, it turns out that there was a gunnery battery covering the entrance to the harbor. The guns are long gone but the concrete emplacements are still in place. The ground has clearly done its best to try and reacquire control of things. Doorways to lower levels are now partially filled in with earth with just the tops of the doors still showing above ground level.
Our visit to Baker Beach included something I hadn’t realized was there. The coast around the entrance to the Golden Gate is dotted with old gun batteries and it turns out that Baker Beach is another location. This gun emplacement is called Battery Chamberlain. While the concrete installations are still pretty much intact, the majority of the battery is long gone. However, one of the gun positions has been preserved and the gun is installed.
I took a quick look around while one of the guys who looks after things was working on the gun mechanism. He was changing the elevation of the gun and working on the mechanism that aligns the gun. I was able to peer down the barrel and take a look at the rifling. Apparently they run tours periodically but I just took a quick mooch around before heading on my way.
The Marin Headlands provide a great place to enjoy some lovely coastal scenery. They were also a militarily significant location for many years. Protection of the entrance to San Francisco Bay meant that a string of forts were built along the coast here. The high ground provided an excellent base for large guns to take on an attacking fleet. Some of these forts were operational while other emplacements were built just in time to be considered obsolete and they were never finished. Now you can walk through the gun emplacements and imagine what they would have been like when operational.