Visited 18 Apr 2010
At the end of our Fort Worden stay we took an extra day to drive down to Fort Ward and Middle Point Military Reservation. We first drove from Fort Worden down to the former Middle Point Military Reservation which is now in Manchester State Park. I didn’t expect much since there was only one Endicott Period gun battery built and it was never armed. I was surprised to find a very large mine storage building and a complete mine casemate.
The mine storage building had been repurposed as a park pavilion but still contained clues to it’s origins and had several interpretive signs so it was easy to imagine it in use. The tracks used by the mine transfer trolleys are still in the floor, pointing out and down to the water. The mine casemate was three empty rooms with a very clouded interpretive sign that you really had to get close to to figure out what it said. A trail led off to the right, along the shore, to Battery Mitchell not far down the trail.
Battery Mitchell is a bit unusual because it is completely level with the ground and completely surrounded by concrete, it kind of looks like a rectangular saucer buried up to the edge. The battery is surrounded by a waist high link fence and looks to be in good shape. It faces out into the Rich Passage and was originally intended to protect the mine fields launched from the mine storage building and controlled from the mine casemate. The reason the battery was never armed was that the guns of Fort Ward, just across Rich Passage, provided sufficient firepower to protect those mine fields.
Fort Ward – We had briefly visited Fort Ward State Park last year on our way home and managed to really only see Battery Vinton and not much else. I was better prepared on this trip and by a stroke of luck the entrance we used last year was closed and we were forced to wind our way through the community to find another entrance. This new route took us through what looked like a fairly new community of upper middle class homes but I noticed that interspersed among the new homes were some decidedly military looking buildings and when we passed what was obviously a guardhouse I turned back to explore the neighborhood. It turns out that many of the original Fort Ward post buildings have survived and are repurposed. Even a portion of the parade ground survives as an open area for the community. Further down we discovered a barracks fenced off and with signage that indicated it was being restored. It was great to see the buildings in use and surviving after some 100 years.
We hunted for Battery Nash first and finally found it hidden from direct view off of Park View Drive where it becomes NE Point View Drive. The battery itself is on private property and not open to the public but is viewable from a city easement a local neighbor explained. The battery is in disrepair and the subject of some controversy regarding it’s disposition. I did not have time to explore the exact nature of the problems but I did snap some photos and then moved on to locate Battery Warner.
Battery Warner is also on private property but right next to NE South Beach Road Drive, behind a six foot lattice fence, I passed it four times before I figured out where it was. The fence runs right along the edge of the road and you can photograph the battery from the road. It is very close to private dwellings on three sides so you would not think a gun battery could be in that small a space. The Battery appears to be in pretty good condition.
Battery Thornburgh was not where I expected it to be or where my GPS said it was. We finally tracked it down by asking local residents, they indicated it was on a path up a hill just as you come through the northwest entrance to the park. If you get to the boat ramp from the north you have gone too far, that path is just north of the boat ramp and the parking lot. Follow the path up the hill a short way and you will find Battery Thornburgh. The Battery is on Fort Ward Park property but is not as well maintained as one would expect. Leaves and moss are on the emplacements and the magazine rooms are damp and dirty. Trees surround this battery and partially block the view of Rich Passage.
We passed by Battery Vinton but did not explore it because we had done that on a previous visit and there is not that much to see because it is half buried.
The two state parks are somewhat of a contrast with Manchester State Park explaining and taking care of it’s coastal defense heritage while Fort Ward State Park is more about being a public park and less about explaining how it came to be. Both great places to visit but study a bit before you go.
This post was written by JohnStanton on April 30, 2010