Once a year Camp Casey opens its door to the general public.
At Camp Casey’s annual Open House held this past June, attendees were fortunate enough to get an opening lecture from Dr. Bill Woodward. Dr. Woodward earned his PhD in American Diplomatic History from Georgetown and is a long time Professor of History at SPU. Specializing in the history of the Pacific Northwest (especially military history) makes him uniquely suited for providing both an entertaining and educational presentation.
Once a year Camp Casey opens its door to the general public. Visitors don’t normally have access to the Colonel’s house, but today were permitted to wander through the house and several of the historic buildings. Facilities open included a number of the barracks and a mess hall and the Sea Lab. The Sea Lab is a marine biology teaching center normally only available to school groups.
As Dr. Woodward coaxed us to join him on the front lawn of the Colonel’s house, he asked us to look out across the water and imagine how and why Ft. Casey was built. He walked us through time from the 1730s when clans of docile native people lived here and then moved us forward 40 years when tribal leaders became concerned about how to protect themselves from the Haida tribe of warriors. He then asked us to imagine the 1790s when Vancouver discovers “Protection Island.” From there he jumped coasts to what he described as George Washington‘s foray into national security (our first Homeland Security efforts). The results of Washington’s plans where a series of sea coastal fortifications being established. Lastly he advanced us to the 1860s where new settlements between California and the NW needed harbor defenses to protect against threats of invasion and succession from the Union.
Camp Casey, originally known as Fort Casey, opened in 1890 by the U.S. Military. By 1903 there are 3 forts including Fort Worden and Fort Flagler built with “disappearing gun emplacements” protecting the Puget Sound from potential warships. This created what became part of the “triangle of fire.” By the 1910s these emplacements are all but obsolete. Casey then becomes a training base during WWI. Later in the 40s, with the threat of the Japanese, we find a new flurry of activity before its final closure after World War II.
As we moved up the steps to this grand Colonial Revival home constructed in 1904, Electrical Sergeant First Class, Steven Kobylk, was introduced as our house tour guide. He is dressed in a 1902 full dress uniform. His knowledge of the former Fort and the construction of the buildings (both those that have long since been torn down as well as the current architecture) makes standing in the hot sun worth the time. As we moved through the rooms, he points out the moldings and flooring (all of which were sourced from manufacturers in the Puget Sound area). He described the use of each of the rooms, including the front Master Bedroom at the top of the steps that was exclusively used by the Colonel. It was custom that the spouse would sleep in the 2nd Master bedroom. As a special personal touch, SFC Kobylk shared his collection of medals, patches and badges used at the time, as well as his father’s military hat and a prized sword. Adding to the military history, he pointed out the use of phones in the library – one for fire control and the 2nd for the duty office.
It’s an afternoon well spent – experiencing the rich history of Ft. Casey and being able to share and walk the grounds of SPU’s Camp Casey. Watch for it next year!