Escape to a Castle by the Sea

By Lara Dunning

Alexander’s Castle’s three-story, rampart-edged brick tower strikes an impressive pose against a sapphire sky. Built in 1882, it is the oldest structure at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, and from the view in its lofty tower, Admiralty Inlet gleams in the sunshine.

This unique abode—a Victorian American-made castle—is my accommodation for the night. Inside, its antique furnishings speak of another era and I picture Reverend John Alexander, the original owner of this masterpiece, living within its simplistic yet charming rooms.

Alexander's Castle 3

 

In the bathroom with a claw foot tub, he might have manicured his jet-black mustache. In the dining room with its table for six, he might have enjoyed a sip of wine and played a game of cards, as he was known to do, while his large shaggy dog cozied up next to the fireplace in the living room. From the bedroom window, he might have gazed at the moon and reminisced about his ladylove that married another. And in the mornings, he might have donned his pleated Norfolk jacket, grabbed his cane and strolled outside with his dog by his side through the misty woods.

I even imagine the rumored ghost, a man who drowned in the well beneath the house, wandering the rooms as a lost and lonely soul, and the Post Tailor, who fashioned military clothes during World War II.

Dining Room

Today, Fort Worden Public Development Authority is the castle’s proud manager, and under their care, vintage mixes with modern amenities. The fully-stocked kitchen has a stove, microwave, refrigerator and coffeemaker. The bathroom has thick white towels, and the shower has better water pressure than my own home. The bedroom has a king-sized bed with luxurious linens and piles of pillows.

Bedroom

After investigating the rooms I head outside. Battery Putnam, one of Fort Worden’s many gun batteries is a short walk away. (Its claim to fame—the backdrop to a scene in An Officer and a Gentleman.) I climb up the concrete gun emplacement to its grassy knoll. From here, the 434-acre park, which bustled with military personnel and their families from 1897-1953, spreads out in rows of large white dormitories, brick apartments, Victorian officers’ and non-commissioned officers houses and cottages. There are even two campgrounds; one near the beach and one in the woods.

Kitchen 1

 

Besides rental accommodations, businesses thrive here. Centrum is a gathering place for artists and musicians, and schedules workshops, performances and festivals. The Commanding Officer’s Quarters Museum is an authentically restored Victorian-era military home. Madrona MindBody Institute offers yoga and dance classes, as well as massages. The Port Townsend Marine Science Center has natural history exhibits and marine life touch tanks. Fort Worden Historical State Park has miles of hiking and biking trails through the woods and in and out of gun batteries and concrete buildings. With so much going on I don’t see how anyone could get bored.

Being a history geek I go on a 2-hour docent-led battery tour. Kevin, my knowledgeable guide, walks me up hillsides, through tunnels and passageways, sometimes by flashlight (a definite must-have for exploring the fort!). Then, I tour the Commanding Officer’s House and get a glimpse into what life was like for those in charge.

Moroccan Chicken

 

After a day of exploring, I dine out at The Fountain Café in Port Townsend. My order of Moroccan chicken and warm gingerbread revives me for my next excursion—watching the sunset at Point Wilson Lighthouse.

That night, as I slip into bed my mind drifts back to the ghost. Will he make an appearance tonight? I snuggle further down into bed and tell myself the only sounds I hear will be those of a settling 133-year-old castle.

 

Links

Fountain Café http://www.fountaincafept.com/

Fort Worden Home page http://fortworden.org/

Fort Worden Stay Here page http://fortworden.org/stay-here/

Fort Worden State Park page http://parks.state.wa.us/511/Fort-Worden

Port Townsend Marine Science Center http://www.ptmsc.org/index.html

Centrum http://centrum.org/

Madrona MindBody Institute http://www.madronamindbody.com/

Commanding Officers Quarters Museum http://jchsmuseum.org/Sites/CommandingOfficersQuarters.html