Fort Steilacoom museum reopens after being closed due to pandemic

Come see us! Historic Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood will reopen at least one weekend a month this summer so visitors can walk through and tour four buildings that witnessed key events in the early U.S. settlement of Washington Territory.

Fort Steilacoom is a history museum where guests of all ages can explore military life of enlisted soldiers, officers, the families of soldiers, civilians that worked for the garrison and those that visited from the community. Soldiers from the fort went on to serve in the U.S. Civil War.

The three cottages and interpretive center that remain from the original complex will be open for tours from 1 to 4 p.m. on the first Sunday of the month, starting June 6; or, in case the first Sunday is a holiday, the second Sunday of the month. The exact dates are June 6, July 11, Aug. 1, Sept. 12, Oct. 3 and Nov. 7, 2021.

There are some changes because of the pandemic. The museum will have more volunteers and tour guides than usual to keep groups small, and visitors will be required to register in advance so the museum can keep capacity at safe levels. People can sign up and pre-pay for tours at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/tour-the-four-buildings-of-historic-fort-steilacoom-tickets-152800511443

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington and securing United States interests in the region. 

From the U.S. Army’s arrival in 1849 until its departure in 1868, many soldiers and civilians brought the post to life with their daily tasks and calls to duty. As you tour the four remaining buildings, museum interpreters will help you connect with those that came before us and their everyday lives

For more information, visit http://www.historicfortsteilacoom.org, call 253-756-3928,  or connect with the fort at https://www.facebook.com/HistoricFortSteilacoom

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at:

9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498

June Talk: The Pig War of 1859

July Talk: The myth of the M1855 rifle musket: Weapons of the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858

Join us for a member’s speaker series at 2 p.m. PST on Sunday, July 18, 2021 as Chris Fischer talks about the weapons of the 1858 Coeur d’Alene War in Washington Territory.

For years, historians believed the success of the Army during the Coeur d’Alene War of 1858 came from the use of the new model 1855 Springfield Rifle Musket. The leader of the campaign, Colonel George Wright, even credited the weaponry with military success.

Chris Fischer, public historian who has spent years researching the antebellum period of history, will address our members on this topic. This presentation will include a quick synopsis of why the Coeur d’Alene campaign was undertaken, its relationship to the Yakima War, and a brief synopsis of the arms used in the early part of the 1850’s. Finally, Fischer will discuss how the failures of the Yakima War were corrected during the follow up Coeur d’Alene War and how the new weapons contributed to success. This campaign resulted in the battles of Four Lakes and Spokane Plain.

By way of context: Our association acknowledges the complex history of the Fort and its role in the colonization of the area. We are actively working to incorporate the diverse perspectives and experiences of all individuals and communities who interacted with the Fort.

Members of the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. Individual memberships are $15 to $20. To become a member visit http://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/.

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region. Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all
donations are tax deductible. The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is: Sharing and
preserving the first U.S. Army Post in the Puget Sound Region with guests.

May Talk: From Schuylkill Arsenal to Fort Steilacoom: U.S. Army Clothing & Equipage

Join us for a member’s speaker series at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 16, 2021, as Ephriam D. Dickson III talks about Schuylkill Arsenal clothing and  equipping the soldiers of Fort Steilacoom in Washington Territory.

As the mission of the U.S. Army shifted from the war with Mexico in 1848 back to the newly expanded western frontier, its logistical system  struggled with new challenges. The Quartermaster Department, which  provided clothing and equipage for all enlisted soldiers through Schuylkill  Arsenal near Philadelphia, worked to update designs but it took years for  these new patterns to reach remote frontier garrisons such as Fort Steilacoom located in today’s City of Lakewood, Washington.

picture of Mr. DicksonEphriam D. Dickson III is the chief curator at Yosemite National Park. He served as the curator at the Fort Douglas Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah, and more recently as the Deputy Chief of Field  Museums at the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Members of the Historic Fort Steilacoom Association will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. Individual memberships are $15 to $20. To become a member visit  http://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/.

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its  establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American  interest in the region. Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible. The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is sharing andpreserving the first U.S. Army Post in Puget Sound with guests.

For more information, visit http://www.historicfortsteilacoom.org.

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at: 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498

Fort Steilacoom hosts April talk about Mountain Artillery in the Pacific Northwest

Join us for a member’s speaker series 2pm on Sunday, April 25, 2021 as Colonel (Retired) Paul R. Rosewitz, a military historian, discusses the artillery used by the regular army stationed at Fort Steilacoom and around the American West.  

Paul Rowewitz photo
Military Historian Col. (Ret.) Paul Rosewitz

As the U.S. Army sought to standardize its System of Land Artillery in the 1830s, the Army quickly realized Mountain Artillery should be included in the inventory as it moved ever westward and over the various mountain ranges of the expanding United States. Col. Rosewitz will explain the development and employment of U.S. Mountain Artillery from its French origins and how its use quickly transformed from traditional mountain warfare to employment in a variety of environments in all the major conflicts from the 1830s to the 1870s and its final phased retirement in the 1890s.

Members will receive the Zoom link to the presentation prior to the event. To become a member for a reasonable donation, visit http://historicfortsteilacoom.org/membership/

Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its establishment in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region.  Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.  The Historic Fort Steilacoom Association’s mission is: Sharing and preserving the first U.S. Army Post in the Puget Sound Region with area guests.

The photo of the firing Howitzer is from our sister U.S. fort, Fort Vancouver.

Three talks focus on Women’s History Month in March

The lives of 19th Century women in the Pacific Northwest will be celebrated in March as Historic Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood marks Women’s History Month.

The programs on three consecutive Saturdays, March 13, 20 and 27, focus on

  • The role of the laundress at military posts such as Fort Steilacoom, the first official U.S. presence in Puget Sound.
  • The day-to-day lives of women. 
  • The lives of women who could be found in Pierce County in 1850.

There is a charge for the virtual programs; the fort’s privately managed four buildings are 165 years old and require considerable care so all support is much appreciated. 

All events start at 2pm:

March 13:  Airing Your Dirty Laundry

Historical Interpreter and Museum Professional Peggy Barchi presents “Airing Your Dirty Laundry.” Learn about the daily grind that army laundresses endured and the skills it took to be one. Get your ticket here. 

March 20: In Her Shoes: Tracing the Footsteps of Pierce County Women in the mid-1800s

Public Historian Claire Keller-Scholz presents “In Her Shoes: Tracing the Footsteps of Pierce County Women in the mid-1800s.” Learn about the women and girls who lived on the Puget womenSound around 1850. Get your ticket here. 

March 27: Women’s Work in Washington Territory

Tacoma Historical Society’s Curator, Elizabeth Korsmo, presents “Women’s Work in Washington Territory.” Learn about the day-to-day lives of women in the 1850’s to 1860’s. Get your ticket here. 

Fort Steilacoom played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its construction in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as a beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington Territory and securing American interest in the region. 

The mission of the nonprofit Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is to share and preserve the first U.S. Army post in Puget Sound. The four surviving buildings are currently closed to tours but reopening is expected this spring.

For more information, visit http://www.historicfortsteilacoom.org.

Historic Fort Steilacoom is located on the grounds of Western State Hospital at 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498

Get a letter from a 19th century soldier

Here’s a new way to enjoy the past: Get a letter from a 19th Century soldier.

The re-enactors at Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA, will be offering hand-written letters in their historical personas of soldiers who were actually stationed at the first fort in Washington Territory. If you make a donation through Feb. 11 at this website, you can enjoy your own personal letter. ((note: the offer expired in mid-February))

At Historic Fort Steilacoom our mission is to share and preserve the first U.S. Army post in the Puget Sound region with everyone. We have expenses, everything from the cost of exhibits to insurance. And we haven’t had as many visitors to drop off donations. As a non-profit organization, we can’t educate young and old alike without the support of our community and people like you!

Please consider donating to help keep our local history alive for generations to come.

As a thank you for your donation, you will receive a personalized handwritten letter on reproduction stationary, from one of our volunteer reenactors as their historical persona. Get a
glimpse into the lives of the men stationed at Fort Steilacoom and experience what it must have been like to receive a letter from a 19th century soldier in the field.

Fort Steilacoom occupies an important position in the history of early America and the Pacific Northwest. The fort played a significant role in the settling of Washington Territory. Beginning with its construction in 1849 and ending with its closure in 1868, Fort Steilacoom served as beacon of American power and promise, promoting the migration of settlers to Washington & securing American interest in the region.

Historic Fort Steilacoom Association is a non-profit organization and all donations are tax deductible.

The fort is not presently open but you can always visit by turning right at the main entrance of Western State Hospital at 9601 Steilacoom Blvd SW, Lakewood, WA 98498. You’ll recognize the fort by its cannons.

Warmest Wishes for the New Year

Well, 2020 was a historic year whether you volunteer at a museum or not. We missed seeing visitors at the fort. Our living history interpreters love to show you firsthand what it was like to be a soldier, or civilian, or someone else associated with the fort. We created these videos to let you know how much we miss you .. and how happy we are for a new year.

Of course, in our case, the new year is 1859!

And here’s another version with the same re-enactors. We’re really grateful for everyone who participated and loved ones and friends who came along. If you’d like to share these videos or leave a supportive comment, you’ll find them on our Facebook page as well.

The Way We Ate

Following the Historic Fort Steilacoom annual meeting, food historian Jacqueline B. Williams, author of The Way We Ate, Pacific Northwest Cooking, 1843-1900 (WSU Press) will make a presentation on Sunday, November 15th.
Jacqueline plans to share with us what would have been available in Steilacoom and its environs to observe Thanksgiving on November 26, 1863, and how the meal would have been most likely prepared.
In her book she describes cooking and dining practices from the earliest years of settlement to the time when railroads transported the latest ingredients and utensils, shedding significant light on a mundane aspect of our past.
In early October of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued his proclamation calling on the nation to observe a day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November. This proclamation is credited with establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.
This presentation will follow short reports and election of officers. To register for the annual membership meeting and/or the lecture, email info@historicfortsteilacoom.org.
This public program is funded in part by the City of Lakewood Lodging Tax Grant.  Donations are always welcome and can be made through our website, www.historicfortsteilacoom.org/support.