Fort Lawton was a United States Army post located in the Magnolia neighborhood of Seattle, Washington overlooking Puget Sound. In 1973 a large majority of the property, 534 acres of Fort Lawton, was given to the city of Seattle and dedicated as Discovery Park. Both the Fort and the nearby residential neighborhood of Lawton Wood are named after Maj. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton.
While Fort Lawton was a quiet outpost prior to World War II, it became the second largest port of embarkation of soldiers and materiel to the Pacific Theater during the war. The fort was included in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list. Fort Lawton officially closed on September 14, 2011.
Fort Lawton post exchange and gymnasium
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference #||78002752|
|Added to NRHP||August 15, 1978|
In 1896, the Secretary of War selected what would later be Fort Lawton for construction of an artillery battery intended to defend Seattle and the south Puget Sound from naval attack. Local citizens and governments donated 703 acres (2.84 km2) land to the United States Army for the installation the next year.
Fort Lawton was named after Maj. Gen. Henry Ware Lawton (1843–1899), a veteran of the American Civil War, the Indian Wars, and Spanish–American War campaigns, who was killed in action in the Philippines. The fort opened on February 9, 1900 on a 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) site, which was redesigned in 1902 for infantry use. In 1910, a design overhaul, to include housing for officers and enlisted men, was prepared by landscape architect John C. Olmsted. In 1938 during the Great Depression, the Army offered to sell Fort Lawton back to the city of Seattle for one dollar, but the city declined, citing maintenance concerns.
On October 5, 1909 the United States Army's 25th Infantry Regiment which primarily consisted of African American soldiers transferred from the Philippines to Fort Lawton. These men are known as the Buffalo Soldiers. They acquired the name from the indigenous people of the Great Plains in the 1870s and 1880s. It was due to their appearance that the indigenous people entitled the Buffalo Soldiers, as their dark curly hair resembled the coat of a buffalo. The soldiers welcomed name with honor and pride for the buffalo has a fighting spirit and is fiercely brave. The following year the soldiers' families arrived. The initial 900 men stationed at the fort and their families accounted for about a third of Seattle's African American population.
During World War II, at least 20,000 troops at a time were stationed at Fort Lawton, with more than 1 million troops passing through both before and after the war. It was the second-largest port of embarkation for US forces and materiel to the Pacific Theater during the war.
The post was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp, with more than 1,000 Germans imprisoned there. Approximately 5,000 Italians were passed through en route to Hawaii for imprisonment. On August 15, 1944 an Italian POW, Guglielmo Olivotto, was found murdered at Fort Lawton after a night of rioting between Italian POWs and American soldiers. Twenty-eight African-American soldiers were later court-martialed, convicted of the crime, and sent to prison. They and their families challenged the convictions; after an investigation, the convictions were set aside in 2007. A formal army apology ceremony was held on July 26, 2008; officials also presented the relatives of former US soldiers and the two remaining survivors with years of back pay, following the overturn of their dishonorable discharges.
On Memorial Day 1951, a grove of trees and monument honoring the war dead was dedicated near the post chapel. The Korean War brought a flurry of activity as troops headed to or returned from Korea were processed through Fort Lawton. In February 1953, the Fort Lawton Processing Center transferred half of its functions, the outbound tasks, to Fort Lewis (now called Joint Base Lewis McChord). Returnees continued to process through Fort Lawton.
In the late 1950s, Nike anti-aircraft missiles and Air Force radars were in use at Fort Lawton, but in 1968 the site was rejected for proposed defense upgrades. In 1970, the Fort was occupied for three weeks in March by a group of Native Americans, led by Bernie Whitebear, claiming that the Native Americans had claim to the land that was about to be surplussed. The Native Americans succeeded in garnering 40 acres of land and the establishment of the Daybreak Star Cultural Center, but 534 acres (2.16 km2) of the land was surplussed by the Army in 1971. The property was transferred back to the city in 1972, and dedicated as Discovery Park in 1973.
In 2005, the fort was included in the Base Realignment and Closure list for that year. Fort Lawton's family housing has been used by the U.S. Navy for Navy and Coast Guard personnel for almost 40 years. It is currently being vacated, with the officer and NCO housing scheduled to be sold to the public when the market improves. The Capehart Housing in the center of the park was vacated by December 2009 and demolished during the summer of 2010; the land has become part of Discovery Park.
Fort Lawton officially closed on September 14, 2011, and the 364th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the last U.S. Army Reserve tenant on the post, moved to its new facility in Marysville, Washington. A closing ceremony took place on February 25, 2012. The remainder of the fort property (with the exception of the military cemetery on site) was transferred to the City of Seattle in 2012. As of 2018, there are plans to convert the property into low-income housing.
The Fort Lawton Historic District (FLHD) in the heart of Discovery Park contains numerous historic buildings and structures that were once in, and part of, Fort Lawton. The following list includes only buildings and structures that survived at least into the 1980s.
|640||Double Officers Quarters||1904|
|642||Double Officers Quarters||1904|
|644||Double Officers Quarters||1904|
|653||Air Defense Operations Building||1960||torn down 2008|
|654||FAA Radar Building||ca. 1959||torn down 2008|
Building 672 and 670 can also be seen at left, and 640–644 at right.
|655||FAA Radar Antenna Dome||ca. 1959|
|670||Single Officers Quarters||1904|
|672||Double Officers Quarters||1899|
|676||Double Officers Quarters||1899|
|679||Double Officers Quarters||1899|
|730||Double Barracks||1904||Destroyed by fire February 13, 1983|
|733||Post Exchange and Gymnasium||1905|
|735||Bakehouse||1902||Bakery until ca. 1938, offices until ca. 1960, no longer exists|
|754||Quartermaster Shops||1905||no longer exists|
|755||Civilian Employees Quarters||1908|
|T-756||Commissary Warehouse||1939||no longer exists|
|757||Quartermaster Storehouse||1899||no longer exists|
|T-760||Storehouse||1938||Used at some point as a garage for a fire truck, no longer exists|
|T-761||Bus Stop||1949||Scenes from movie Expiration Date (released 2006), filmed at this location|
|901||Double NCO Quarters||1933|
|902||Double NCO Quarters||1933|
|903||Double NCO Quarters||1904|
|904||Single Family NCO Quarters||1930s||Burned down approximately 2000|
|905||Double NCO Quarters||1899|
|906||Single NCO Quarters||1902||Former hospital steward's quarters; previously adjacent to post hospital, north east of administration building, moved to present location around WWII|
|907||Double NCO Quarters||1899|
|909||Double NCO Quarters||1904|
|915||Quartermaster Storehouse||1905||no longer exists|
|915A||Addition to Quartermaster Storehouse||1939||no longer exists|
|915B||Bulk Storage Warehouse||1938||no longer exists|
|S-918||Post Engineer Facility and Vehicle Storage Building||1904||Later turned into a groundskeeper's building, no longer exists|
Source for buildings, construction dates, comments:
Chapel-on-the-Hill is outside the Historic District, has the status of a city landmark. In July 2008, The City Council passed an Ordinance that changed the boundary of the Fort Lawton Landmark District to include The Chapel and the Chapel Grounds.