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Photo showing an open trench with the water main.

Laying the water main.

CHAPTER TWO
From Orchards to Ordnance
1914-1919

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Photo of the undeveloped pennisula.
"The peninsula lies in the shape of a flask with a narrow neck," Navy attorney C.F. Riddell said in a letter to Ira Bennett of the Washington Post on July 21, 1913, "and is almost entirely surrounded by tidewater, which at no point is less than a quarter mile wide. In an entirety, it affords an ideal location for secrecy." (photo courtesy of Alice Norum Peterson)

Commanding Officers
Commander Henry N. JensonNovember 11, 1914-November 1916
Lieutenant Commander Bruce L. CanagaNovember 1916-November 1917
Lieutenant Frederick G. KeyesNovember 1917-July 7, 1918
Lieutenant Otto E. RehJuly 7, 1918- October 5, 1919
Commander Willis W. BradleyOctober 5, 1919-June 20, 1920
It was late in the year 1908 when a special task force of Naval officers was first sent to the west coast of the United States to scout for a clear water site, not over 10 fathoms deep and not under five, with a sandy bottom and virtually no current. Furthermore, this body of water, they were told, must have little tide and must not be too cold.

With this shopping list in mind, the officers searched from San Diego to British Columbia, looking for the ideal site for a proposed torpedo station.

In June of 1910, Congress brought the proposed torpedo station to life, okaying an appropriation of $145,000 with which to purchase the necessary land.

By September, the word was out. The Navy intended to buy a peninsula of land at Keyport, Washington. Several low-priced offers of land, which had come in

  from Port Orchard and Bremerton, were turned down. And the city of Union, Washington, had even offered to donate some land on Hood Canal, but Keyport was the only site with those special qualities necessary to a Navy station of such importance to the nation.

The news came as a big disappointment to the cities of Tacoma and Bellingham, Washington, and Los Angeles, California, all of which had lobbied vigorously for the torpedo station.

But none were so surprised and shocked as the Keyport land owners, all of whom were not willing to sell-not for any price.

The Navy began condemnation proceedings against the 88 Keyport acres anyway, but in 1911 decided to drop the case, opting to establish the torpedo station at the nearby Puget Sound Navy Yard (PSNY) in Bremerton.

 
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Officials at the Navy Yard didn't feel their site was appropriate for the torpedo station and the debate continued over the next two years. In February 1913, the Secretary of the Navy decided to re-open negotiations for the Keyport land.

From a letter written by CF. Riddell to Ira Bennett of Washington Post: "This stuff is waterfront property with a prospective value as summer home sites. You of course are aware of the effect which the growth of a large city has on property of that character."

Finding the land owners still unwilling to sell, the Navy went full steam ahead into condemnation proceedings, skippered by U.S. Attorney, Charles F. Riddell.

An official appraisal set the property's price tag at $109,767.83, but Secretary of the Navy, Josephus M. Daniels, adamantly proclaimed that the budget wouldn't allow such a high price and he vowed to inspect Keyport himself, to make his own decision as to how much the land was worth.

He came, and by early 1914 the battle over Keyport was finished. The land owners each received a share of a $60,850 pot.

The land was officially turned over to the Navy on July 20. Rear Admiral V.L. Cottman, Commandant of PSNY was responsible for the new torpedo station and in one of his first actions, he allowed the residents to stay until their crops could be harvested, but no later than November 1.

 

Photo of Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels.
In July 1913, Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, made a special effort to view the controversial property at Keyport while on a trip to the Puget Sound. He wanted to make a determination for himself as to whether this peninsula of land was worth all the fuss and expense. He left the Puget Sound area convinced that Keyport had great potential and was worth fighting for.

July 21, 1914, a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, from Blamer: "Request authority temporary appointment two watchmen two dollars per diem including Sundays to guard property." Frank Comstock and Alfred Petterson were selected.
Two photos of the former Norman home.
Who would believe this quiet farmland is an up and coming torpedo station? A garden, planted and kept up for the Commanding Officer, at what used to be the Norum home, makes for a vision of the pioneering past, while the walls of the new torpedo shop (Building #1) to the far left in the distance, and the American Flag speak boldly of a new future for the Keyport Peninsula. (photo courtesy of Hannah Norum Langer)
 
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Photo of Building #1
Building #1 was built in 1915. As the Station's first permanent structure, it housed almost the entire Station operation: administrative offices, torpedo overhaul shop, carpenter shop, machine shop, electric and pipe shops, and had space left over for the power plant. That may sound small by today's standards, but for the 16 Navy men and eight civilians, Building #1 was just right! Building #1 is still used today. (photo courtesy of Ron Hoff)

  Photo of torpedo storehouse in 1915.
Laborers finish construction of the torpedo storehouse in 1915. Buildings such as this were constructed to accommodate the Station's narrow-gauge railroad. The battery operated electric train, according to Oscar Ekstedt, had a row of flat cars which went in one side of a building and out the other, hauling torpedoes and freight to and from the piers. A steam locomotive later replaced the electric car.
 
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Photo of machine shop in Building #1.
The brand new machine shop in Building #1. (photo courtesy of Ron Hoff)

  Torpedoes in the new Torpedo Storehouse.
Torpedoes are neatly lined-up in the new Torpedo Storehouse. (photo courtesy of Ron Hoff)
 
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Photo of the spring well engine pump.
This photo of the latest model of spring well engine pump, located at Quarters G, was taken on June 1, 1915.

In November, Lieutenant Commander Henry N. Jenson was detoured from an assignment to the USS Oregon to take over the awesome responsibility of creating a torpedo station, one hailed by the Navy Department as a step towards greatly improved efficiency of torpedo repair and ranging. With this new station, Navy officials told the press, the Pacific Fleet would no longer need to send torpedoes to Newport, Rhode Island, the only station at that time equipped to handle such work.

Lieutenant Commander Jenson arrived at Keyport

 

Photo of a team of horses pulling.
In 1916 the Station received its first team of horses which were promptly named Tom and Jerry. The horses are being used here in 1917 to aid in the mammoth task of building a road to Radio Hill. Herb Hindle wrote that these horses, the pride of the Station, were retired upon arrival of motor trucks, after many years of service. (photo courtesy of Juanita Bloomquist)


  Photo of tents and quarters.
Marines were assigned to PCTS beginning in 1916 to serve as guards. Until permanent quarters could be built, they lived in tents, shown here at right, overlooking the former beachfront store and grange hall which were used as barracks for the Navy enlisted men. (photo courtesy of Juanita Bloomquist)
 
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Photo of radio towers.
If you look carefully, you can see men perched here and there on the tower being constructed over the road to Radio Hill. This photo was probably taken from the tower on Radio Hill. The construction of the three towers was literally a mammoth task, especially for 1917.
  Photo of a marine sentry standing below one of the new radio towers.
A Marine sentry is dwarfed by one of the new radio towers. The radio station, center, was headquarters for transmissions that connected the west coast with distant lands. Herb Hindle wrote of the arc created when the electronics were fired up to send a message: "it sounded like a fourteen-inch rifle."

  Photo of a group of workma outside a small building.
The Workman Lobby was a favorite gathering place for the laborers, many of whom pondered on its doorstep for this photo, circa 1917. (photo courtesy of Thelma Bjorlie Nensteil)
 
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Looking south over rooftops of Quarters E and D
Looking south over rooftops of Quarters E and D in March 1918, we see Station laborers hard at work to the right and new quarters on Radio Hill to the left. Just beyond Quarters D are Quarters C, left, and Quarters B, right.

  Workers setting a telephone pole size fence post by hand.
Station laborers in 1918 pause to allow a photographer to record a moment of their hard work on film. This group is setting posts for a barbed-wire fence that was to surround the huge radio tower that straddled the lagoon causeway. (photo courtesy of Rosemay Olson)
 
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on November 11 and the new Navy base was officially commissioned as Pacific Coast Torpedo Station (PCTS).

The first order of the day in 1915 was to bring on the workforce. Sixteen enlisted men and eight civilian laborers were put to work. The military men worked with torpedoes and the laborers cleared the land and erected much needed buildings.

In 1916, PCTS put Keyport on the map by installing a radio station with three towers that were 400 feet high. With this station, Keyport became one of the nation's first communication links with U.S. island

In the days when the base was being built, area roads were, in an understatement, primitive. Oscar Ekstedt remembers driving to be an ordeal: "In the winter, there would be deep ruts, and when a car got in these ruts, it was like being on a railroad. There was no way of getting out of these deep ruts until you ran out of them." It was a real case of sharing the road, he said, since oncoming cars had to pull off and wait for those stuck in ruts to go by before proceeding.
  Photo showing two water tanks towering over some buildings.
Two wells were built in 1918 and with them, two 40,000-gallon elevated water tanks, shown towering behind Quarters D, E, and F. The landmark water tanks were taken down in 1979.
Photo of about 30 men posing in front of door.
The entire civilian workforce turned out for this first Pacific Coast Torpedo Station group shot. Some of the more notable people include, front row, Bennie George and Louie Strom, sixth and seventh from left, and row two, Miss Cease and Herman Boldt, fifth and sixth from left.
 
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Photo of torpedo separated into its sections in the wooden structure shop.
A torpedo makes the rounds at Keyport in 1918. From the torpedo shop...

"Torpedoes, when tested," according to a Bremerton newspaper, "are driven through nets placed at a distance of 500 feet apart, and while one man holds a stop watch, and others armed with powerful binoculars, trace the path of the torpedo by bubbles which follow in its wake, the general evolutions of the machine are followed by experts who are able to tell whether the test is a success, always providing that the torpedo doesn't take a sudden notion to head for the bottom or a bank."

Torpedo shown on a small float.
...to the firing range in Port Orchard Inlet, just south of the Station's industrial area....

  The float with torpedo is shown with a motor launch alongside.
...to the pier and firing float...

Torpedo being loaded with a davit onto a small torpedo carriage.
... and hoisted back on the pier after a test run. (succession of photos courtesy of Juanita Bloomquist)

 
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Station personnel pose with their vehicles.
Station personnel pose with their vehicles during the 1919 Fourth of July picnic. Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Otto Reh is fifth from the right.

  Construction on the Duples Barracks.
Construction on the Duples Barracks, Building #35, is moving right along in this March 1919 photo. Horses provided the "steam" by which the landmark building was constructed. Often called the Marine Barracks, it was commissioned in May of that year and today is home to the enlisted quarters, mess facilities, and military services offices. (photo courtesy of Juanita Bloomquist)
 
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possessions such as Guam and Hawaii. Later expansion included communications with the orient. As the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, PCTS continued to grow and develop its trade, but it was barely aware of the turmoil overseas. Navy ships from the Pacific Fleet made occasional stops to load and unload torpedoes, but the pace never quickened until World War II.

New roads, magazines for ordnance storage, buildings and a 60-line telephone system were all put

  to work this year. The new phone switchboard was manned by Marine guards who later enthusiastically turned that duty over to three newly assigned yoemanettes.

PCTS received its first motor vehicle, a Garford one half ton canopy truck, in 1918. This was the beginning of the end of handpulled carts used to haul building materials and the like around the Station.

Small end of section scroll graphic element.


 
Torpedoes, in the early days of testing, frequently exhibited strange behavior. Herb Hindle, one of the first employees, wrote of two "freak shots:" "a torpedo left the tube, made a right turn, followed the shore line, passed between the end of the bar running to radio hill and the beach, and ended up in the south lagoon." The other shot, he wrote, "cut straight across the bay. There were some Indians working on fish nets on the beach and this fish (torpedo) came roaring out of the water and landed in the middle of the works. They were very much surprised."

 
Photo of the ferry at the pier.
The arrival of the Saturday night boat from Seattle was a big social event for many of the town's people who gathered to meet friends and loved ones, or to just watch the comings and goings. Alf Watland born and raised in Keyport, remembers racing with his friends-in horse and buggy-to meet the boat Some of the older folks looked down on that practice, said Alf "They would say, 'somebody ought to kick 'em off the road!" (photo courtesy of Rosemay Olson)
 
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Two marines and a friend posed in front of a car.
Two Marine buddies and a civilian friend strike a pose on the grounds of the largely undeveloped torpedo station. (photo courtesy of Ron Hoff)

  A young sailor dances before two woman and two soldiers.
A young sailor entertains friends with his song and dance routine on Pier #1. (photo courtesy of Ron Hoff)
 
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A Young Boy Set Forth From Quarters "G":
The Story of Louis Strom

One of the most well-known, and perhaps most admired, employees of all time was Louis Strom. An original Keyport worker, Louis dedicated his entire 43-year government career to the torpedo station on Dogfish Bay.

He was born in 1896 in Calamet, Michigan and was seven years old when he moved to Keyport to live with his uncle and aunt, Peter and Gunda Hagen.

The Hagen farm, which was situated at the mouth of the lagoon, was one of the original five to be condemned by the government for the torpedo station. In 1914, Louis and his relatives barged their belongings - livestock and all - across the bay to Lemolo.

On May 5, 1915, a young Louis rowed to his first day of work at the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station where he was a laborer. From that day and for nearly 20 years, he rowed back and forth each day from his home at Lemolo.

Over the years, Louis held numerous positions of authority; his final position, master mechanic, made him the Station's top civilian, a title he held from 1948 until his retirement in 1954. During the first 40 of those years, he didn't take even one hour of sick leave.

Captain William Moore standing with Louis Strom in front of a Strom Ave street sign.
Captain William Moore unveils a sign in 1958 dedicating a new name for the Station's main street. Strom Avenue. Station plank-owner and retired leader Louis Strom, referred to as 'Mr. Keyport," is pleased with the honor.

 

Two well dress young men in an open car with a road backdrop behind them.
A young Louis Strom, left, posed with an unknown friend for this fanciful photo. Louie went on to be a leading figure in the Naval Torpedo Station's history. (photo courtesy of Katie Jensen)

Navy officials held Louis' service in high regard and four years after his retirement, the Station renamed its street leading from the main gate Strom Avenue.

Louis Strom passed away on February 6, 1964. Captain William F. Wright, USN, Commanding Officer, paid special tribute to Louis in the Station's Plan of the Day, of which part is reprinted here:

"Three score and some years ago, a young boy set forth from Quarters 'G,' Pacific Coast Torpedo Station, to make a name for himself (unknowingly) in Keyport history, such as 'Strom Avenue.'

"The young man made friends easily, was dependable, assumed responsibility and somehow envisioned tremendous development in what could be termed 'primitive territory.' As the years passed, a growing man knew from memory the millions of pipelines, the thousands of telephone cables, the thousands of building foundations, the intent, the purpose, the war, not to mention the throngs of employees who had endeared themselves to his particular type of administration.

"He had dignity, character and formidable foresight. Louis Strom left Keyport knowing its infancy or rather, the conception of a truly remarkable child. He knew the ultimate goal and challenge of working together."

 
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