The School of Regenerative Design is located in the historic Fort Ward community on the southern portion of Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound. The school will be housed in the old Barracks Building which is currently being restored and renovated.
The Fort Ward Barracks building was originally built in 1910, and served as commissary and later a barracks for 48 years. In 1960 the Fort Ward State Park was formed, and the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
We believe in historic preservation and re-purposing buildings and creating community. We think the school will become a new community anchor for Fort Ward and will be good for the neighborhood and the local economy. We envision reinvigorating the Fort Ward community by conserving and re-using this nationally designated site.
The History of Fort Ward
During the 1880s, the Endicott Board, convened by Secretary of War William C. Endicott made sweeping recommendations for new or upgraded coastal defense installations and weapons systems. As the 20th century approached, American military strategists realized that heavy, fixed artillery required a very different training program than lighter, mobile field artillery.
Fort Ward was originally known as Beans Point and was established in 1890 as one of several U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Corps installations, including Fort Flagler, Fort Casey and Fort Worden, built to defend Puget Sound from enemy warships. Its primary objective was to protect the nearby Bremerton Naval Shipyard.
In 1903, the U.S. Army officially designated Beans Point as a seacoast fort and named it Fort Ward in honor of Colonel George H. Ward. Activity in and around the fort continued as new buildings were constructed and new troops arrived.
In the 1920s, Fort Ward was placed on inactive status, but a small number of men were still stationed there. In 1928, the fort was essentially left abandoned. The fort remained abandoned for several years, until 1935, it served as a state-operated fresh air camp for inner city children from Seattle.
In 1938, the U.S. Navy took over Fort Ward from the U.S. Army, and confiscated several surrounding properties and evicted the owners. The U.S. Navy found the fort to be attractive after tests had shown that it was an outstanding location to eavesdrop on radio communication transmitted from the Far East, chiefly Japan. In August 1939, the U.S. Navy relocated the Astoria, Oregon intercept site to Fort Ward. This was the beginning of the development of Fort Ward as a top-secret military listening post.
Rhombic antennas were installed on the Parade Ground, and the old post exchange/gymnasium building was converted into a top secret listening post code-named “Station S”. Inside “Station S”, men and women worked 24 hours a day, listening in on Japanese naval communications, which were transmitted in the Japanese Morse Code. This building is now a private home. The listening post activities were so top secret that personnel on the base were instructed not to look at the building when they walked by it.
Meanwhile, the Navy developed a “cover story” for what was happening at Naval Radio Station Bainbridge Island. The story—that it was one of the few Naval Reserve Radio Schools in the nation—received a full page of coverage in the Seattle Times on January 11, 1941. Some of the sailors pictured in the article actually worked at “Station S” after their training. Photos show the sailors copying Morse code in a classroom, setting up a Morse Code-sending machine, and marching from their school building to noon mess.
After World War II, personnel on the base (which was transferred back to the U.S. Army in 1956) continued to listen in on radio transmissions—first Korean and then Soviet. Activity continued at the radio station until 1956.
The U.S. Army abandoned all operations in 1958. Upon this second deactivation, the Washington State Park System negotiated for acquisition of part of the fort in 1960, which became Fort Ward State Park. In 2011, it was transferred to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District and became Fort Ward Park. The naval radio transmitting station located at Battle Point was deactivated on March 31, 1959, and the equipment was removed in 1971. The location is now Battle Point Park, administered by the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District.
Over the years, some of the buildings have been converted into homes, and the area, the parade ground of the community of Fort Ward has been designated a National Historic Site, the only one of its kind on Bainbridge Island. Many of the homes are also listed on the City of Bainbridge Island’s Historic Register.