Alexander’s Castle still a haunting attraction

Fort Worden Recollections

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Located on Madrona Hill in Fort Worden, the brick tower resembling a rook from a giant chess set has a long and storied past.

The story starts in 1886, when John B. Alexander, who was rector of St. Paul Episcopal Church at the corner of Tyler and Jefferson streets, purchased land on a bluff overlooking Point Wilson from Mary Fowler for $250, payable in gold. According to legend, he built the home for his Scottish bride-to-be and in a style reminiscent of their native country.

Alexander returned to Scotland to fetch his fiancée only to find she had married another. When he returned to Port Townsend, Alexander resigned from the ministry in 1887 and accepted the position as Queen Victoria’s British vice consul in Tacoma. He continued to live in his castle home, which served as his consular residence until 1892, when he placed the property in the care of Oscar Klockers and moved permanently to Tacoma.

Alexander’s departure from Port Townsend was felt in social circles as well as the business community. James G. McCurdy, banker and local historian who had business dealings with Alexander, described him as “a physically large man, a charming bachelor and a social lion at afternoon teas.”

McCurdy noted Alexander was a natty dresser with “a heavy jet-black mustache. He acquired the popular nickname of ‘The Jack of Clubs’ because of the huge cane he invariably carried and his unusual physique and manner of dress.”

Leaving his castle in the care of Klockers, who lived on Jefferson Street in a house that still stands, the three-story structure served as a rental property. The upper floor with its parapet roof held a large water tank and the basement a deep cistern for the collection of rainwater.

Unfortunately, no record of who the tenants were has been found because, as the late great local historian James Hermanson wrote, “It was during this time the only known tragedy took place. A man who had been living there drowned when he fell into the cistern in the building.”

The castle changed hands again in 1894, when local banker Col. Henry Landes acquired the title and held it until it was sold to the U.S. government for the fort construction project.

After the buildings and barracks went up all around the castle, McCurdy mused, “... before there was any parade ground, or officers’ row, or cluster of barracks, or guns on the hill, the Castle dominated this locality. Now the other buildings have deprived the Castle of the solitary dignity it had earlier.”

In 1908, Alexander was bequeathed a legacy, requiring his return to England to serve as guardian to his orphaned niece. He remained there until he died in 1930 at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, which was Capt. George Vancouver’s birthplace.

During the time the castle was Army property, it served as the original post exchange and later the post’s tailor shop.

Joseph Bruzas, a Russian immigrant, operated the shop until the fort was decommissioned in 1953. The Fort Worden newspaper, the “Salvo,” noted in its May 9, 1941 edition, once the British Consul residence, now “ … in the east-wing room where Mr. Bruzas sews chevrons and measures waists, there is little indication today that here the fastidious Reverend Alexander used to wax his mustache and adjust his Norfolk jacket, but weathered and deglamorized, the Castle carries on in its humbler role amid the bustle of the modern Harbor Defenses of the great Puget Sound.”

No longer the humble little workshop, the castle now provides overnight guests with comfortable surroundings, amazing views and a sense of history that enlightens the experience of staying at Fort Worden.

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