Jefferson County Parks: Memorial Athletic Field

Posted 11/26/11

When the first white settlers arrived in Port Townsend and staked their claims, the area they platted for a city had two portions, a flat, composed of beach and rather marshy ground, backed by a …

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Jefferson County Parks: Memorial Athletic Field


When the first white settlers arrived in Port Townsend and staked their claims, the area they platted for a city had two portions, a flat, composed of beach and rather marshy ground, backed by a plateau that could be reached by scaling a bluff. The flat area where the present memorial field is was at that time cut in two by a lagoon. S'Klallam & Chimakum Indians numbering about five hundred were living on the beach above high tide. Their homes were built of cedar planks fastened to uprights, with native rope made from sapling roots. Woven mats were used for doors. As they moved along the Straits following the fish, this was a temporary village, traditional used each year as the Salmon returned to the streams.

The city grew and it's need for more downtown land just before the "boom days" became important for the development. At some point between 1880 and 1890 the bluff was removed and added as fill in the lagoon area. St. John's Episcopal Church, which had been on the bank for many years was removed to its present location on Jefferson & Tyler in 1885. By 1890 the Chinese Community, various saloons and a house of ill repute occupied the property, but in 1900 the buildings were destroyed in a serious fire. In later years a small area was used for baseball games, and was called Norby Field.

In 1935 a Port Townsend Leader editorial appeared, "Natural Athletic Area Proposed" Coincident with the development of the block North of the Eagles' Hall [Now Jefferson School] on Washington Street comes a new proposal that merits more investigation. This is the cutting away of Quincy Street grade between Washington & Jefferson streets so the present field can be extended through two blocks. It is believed by the conceivers of the idea that sufficient room can be obtained to allow any kind of sport to be played on this enlarged area and that the entire boundaries may be made into whatever bleachers, grandstand, or parking space is needed to make of the tract a natural amphitheatre.

Such dirt as is in the Quincy Street fill could be put over the floor of the area to raise it above the point where seepage water would interfere. Adequate drainage can easily be provided. It is said that owners of lots in the area, including the county owned portions, would listen favorable to such a program of civic improvement. The popularity of such a place is foreordained. One has but to visit the lot the nights of softball games to see what possibilities exist for this improvement."

The city planning commission considered the project in November of 1935 with the idea that it could be a WPA[Works Progress Administration] project which would be a dual purpose development, one to beautify that portion of the downtown district and the other for public entertainment such as athletic events of all kinds. The land included three blocks, Nos. 53, 54 and 92, Original Townsite, lying between Washington Street and the bluff between Quincy and Monroe Streets. The deal involved vacation of some and regrading of other parts of the streets in the area, the grade of the field was raised two feet by the regrading work, without involving serious curtailment of street service. Madison Street was vacated under the preliminary plan between Jefferson and Washington Streets.

The majority of the lots in the block were held by Jefferson County on tax foreclosures. It was hoped that lots owned by private interest could be purchased for a nominal sum. In May of 1936 the Leader ran an article, "Players Urged to Help Clear Softball Field" The request was for softball players to put the field in condition for the coming season. In 1940 a request for the creation of a civic field was asked, and in 1946 the Junior Chamber of Commerce met with city council and Jefferson County Board of Commissioners to discuss plans for the new ballpark and events field. It was proposed that the field as an honor to the men and women of Jefferson County who had served in the military, the county tagged $4,750 for the project. By this time WPA funds were no longer available.

In 1946 Construction of Memorial Field was started. Port Townsend Leader September 12, 1946 "Under direction of County Engineer Jack Lay, a crew was on the site Monday cleaning out old bulk heading located at various places around edges of the two block area. A county bulldozer was on the job this week removing the Madison Street fill. Earth removed from the fill is being spread over the area and will raise the floor of the field an average of about 18 inches. The fill contains about 5,000 yards of earth and Lay expected the earth moving project and bringing the area to grade level will involve about three weeks work. A crew of about seven men was on the job. While the work is going on no part of the field will be usable, the engineer said. During the past few months one block was used as the city softball field. Immediate plans for the park's development call for removing the Madison Street fill between Washington and Jefferson and bringing to grade the two-block continuous area thus created. The floor of the field will be 500 feet in length and 200 feet in width. The field will have a 12-inch crown. Installation of drains is expected to get under way after grading is completed. Storm sewers will be located along both Jefferson and Monroe streets to tidewater to carry off drainage that now flows into the field area from higher adjacent ground. The city council approved a $1,600 emergency appropriation to cover expenses of installing the drains. The actual appropriation is subject to an emergency resolution."

By March of 1947 a grant was approved for the memorial field project. In September of 1947 Cotton corporation won the bid for bleachers at a cost of $25,443, lights were added and the first game under the lights was the Port Townsend High School vs Port Angeles, which Townsend won 7-0. There were 1500 fans who paid $865.36. The use of the field was $70, Federal and city admission tax was $172.85. Admission paid for lighting and the high school collected more than $600. Another source of income was advertisement on the fence, $50 for a portion of the fence. It must have been an exciting time for Jefferson County residents.

There is a plaque at Memorial Field giving the names of World War I & II veterans that the field was meant to honor, sons, brother, uncles, cousins, friends lost in the wars. Two cannons stand at the entrance of Memorial Field the names listed alphabetically, names of men gone to war for their country, never expecting that their home town would one day honor them.

Jefferson County Memorial Athletic Field

Dedicated May 21, 1948, as a lasting tribute in honor of those from Jefferson County who sacrificed their lives for their country in the two World Wars.

World War I:

1917 - 1918

James A. Anderson, Fred W. Anderson, John W. Anderson, Edwin A. Bartlett

George W. Chadwick and Allen W. Clements, Richard C. Hill, John H. Reczuck, Louie Kunz, Louis P. Mutty, Samuel P. Putnam and Frances C. Voderburg.

[These names are also on the memorial plaque at the Jefferson County Courthouse]

World War II:

1941 - 1945

Woodrow Andrus, Charles F. Berkshier, Joseph Burton Bowman, James Broshear, Homer Cameron, Marvin Cays, Jack Currie, Morris Eldridge, Robert C. Ely, Howell Emley, Melvin E. Glen, John M. Gray, James Hulburt, Howard Johnston, Ralph H. Kiel, Thomas A. Maraldo, Bruce Matheson, Jr., Jack L. McInnes, William H. McNeil,

Orivel K. Morris, John J. Odell Jr., Edward L. Paddock, Richard L. Pierson, Joseph A. Pisczsek, LeRoy C. Porter, William H. Poston, Arthur C. Ramsdell, Luz G. Rogers, Merritt S. Sanders, Chester A. Smith, Donald Snook, David H. Strong, Theodore A. Stuart, David H. Swartz, Harry Fredrick Valliere Jr., Walter Wills, Lonnie B. Wimberly.

Memorial Athletic Field is located at 550 Washington Street, Port Townsend, it has a full size football field, baseball field, stadium with seating, roof, team rooms, showers, restrooms and maintenance shed. A state of the art in ground automatic irrigation system, was donated and installed in 2010 by a group led by Rich Stapf Construction, and Roger Hall of Discovery Bay Landscaping. The labor for the work was donated by the firefighters of East Jefferson County Fire and Rescue. Rich Stapf Jr., Roger Hall and the Port Townsend School District along with a large group of volunteers maintained the field for 18 months when there was no funding for it, from January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011.

Today, field maintenance is paid for by funds from Jefferson County, from fees for field use, and by the City of Port Townsend, using revenue from the new .3 of one percent sales tax that past as Proposition One in November of 2010, funding began in June of 2011 and is scheduled to last as long as May of 2015.

The field is used for many events besides Jefferson County sports, the Rhododendron Carnival, Kiwanis Car Show, Rakers Car Show, Andy Mackie Music Festival and other events make use of the facility.

Memorial Athletic Field has been a place where many important events have occurred for my family, soccer, baseball, football, among others, but not just Port Townsend, Chimacum school sports, Rec center sports, it's always been there for us. When I sat in the bleachers watching my children play soccer, high school sports, recreation sports, I see not only my children and grandchildren, but nieces and nephews, friends children, the excitement of winning a game, the rain and wind, the cold nights, the families gathered to cheer on their children. I also see the Indians camped at Point Hudson, the Chinese gathered, most without families but providing services for the community, the carnival, the fun, a place for community and family.

Next: Port Townsend Recreation Center