Kilmer Visits Under-Construction Makers Square

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, of Washington state’s 6th congressional district, got to observe the construction of Fort Worden’s Makers Square firsthand on Feb. 20, when he visited the site and informed his constituents how developments in Washington, D.C. could impact their endeavors.

Kilmer was escorted through Buildings 305, 308 and 324 by “the two Daves” — David Robison, executive director of the Fort Worden Public Development Authority, and David Opp-Beckman, director of facilities and capital projects for the Fort Worden PDA.

Kilmer helped secure a $500,000 grant for the project to restore one of the historic buildings through the “Save America’s Treasures” grant, but he warned Robison and Opp-Beckman that the “Save America’s Treasures” program has been targeted for elimination by the White House’s detailed budget request to Congress for fiscal 2020.

Robison said that Building 305, the oldest at Fort Worden, was built in 1905 as the Quartermaster Storehouse, and will serve as the nucleus for new arts, culture and education programs on campus, while Buildings 308 and 324, which were also built in the 1900s for storage, should be able to support workshop and studio spaces for artists and art organizations, after being rehabbed to meet modern building codes.

Ironically, while neither Buildings 308 nor 324 had water or sewer connections, an estimated 500 toilets were discovered in Building 308 when renovations began, earning it the nickname “the porcelain palace.”

With $1.3 million in work left to do, Opp-Beckman eagerly anticipates infrastructure upgrades to not only install heating systems and eliminate overhead power lines, but convert the buildings’ previous side canopies into ADA-accessible decks that could host outdoor covered classes and performances.

“A key feature of the historic preservation has been putting the loading docks back onto the buildings,” Robison said.

Robison identified KPTZ 91.9 FM, which supplied $750,000 in funds for tenant improvements, as the below-ground tenant of Building 305, which Opp-Beckman explained would be upgraded to accommodate the needs of a radio station broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

At the same time Opp-Beckman touted the musical performance room and acoustic measures installed for the radio station in Building 305, as well as the spaces for classes, lectures and receptions that all three buildings would boast on their main floors, Robison called Kilmer’s attention to the long hallways that will run the length of each building, serving as showcases for both artwork and exhibits that tell the history of Fort Worden.

“We’ve salvaged a lot of what we’ve found in these buildings for future use, including the bi-parting barn doors,” Opp-Beckman said. “We have patches on the walls that aren’t pristine, to let the history bleed through.”

A number of names have been found graffitied on the buildings’ interiors, and when possible, have been kept as part of the buildings’ history.

The upper attic level of Building 305 will serve as open gallery space, overlooking the main floor at both ends to provide a “visual connection” between the two floors.

Prior to major construction, the PDA had to spend $50,000 in bat guano cleanup of the attic space.

Robison also expressed pride in being able to hire graduates of the Port Townsend School of Woodworking and the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building to work on the restoration of the original windows in the buildings, thereby serving as a hands-on learning lab for historic preservation techniques and training crews to undertake other widow restoration projects across campus.

When asked about the possibility of unearthing Native American remains, Robison emphasized they have taken appropriate measures as necessary, but also pointed out that the grounds of Fort Worden have been so heavily modified over time, due to its use as a military fort, that the possibility is unlikely.

Kilmer was impressed that Fort Worden receives 1.5 million visitors per year, and reiterated his concerns about the possible loss of Save America’s Treasures monies, especially when Robison noted that Fort Worden still has 72 historic buildings with roughly “$100 million in deferred maintenance.”

Kilmer spent that afternoon conducting a roundtable discussion at the Commons in Fort Worden to hear from Port Townsend-area artists and art-advocates, which will be covered in the March 4 issue of The Leader.

Source: The Leader