Bremerton, Washington

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Bremerton is a city located in Kitsap County, Washington, USA. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 37,259. It is home to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Bremerton Annex of Naval Base Kitsap. Bremerton is connected to downtown Seattle by a 50-minute ferry ride, which carries both vehicles and walk-on passengers.



Location of Bremerton, Washington

Bremerton is located at 47°34'12" North, 122°39'9" West (47.570017, -122.652625)1. It is located on the Kitsap Peninsula north of Sinclair Inlet and west of Port Orchard. The city is divided by the Port Washington Narrows, a strait spanned by two bridges. The part of the city to the north and east of the narrows is referred to as East Bremerton.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 67.5 km² (26.0 mi²). 58.7 km² (22.7 mi²) of it is land and 8.8 km² (3.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 12.98% water.



Bremerton was platted by German immigrant-turned-Seattle entrepreneur William Bremer in 1891. Three years earlier, a U.S. Navy commission determined that Point Turner, between the protected waters of Sinclair and Dyes inlets, would be the best site in the Pacific Northwest on which to establish a shipyard. Recognizing the large number of workers such a facility would employ, Bremer and his business partner, Henry Hensel, purchased the then-undeveloped land near Point Turner at the inflated price of $200 per acre. In April 1891, Bremer sold 190 acres to the Navy at $50 per acre. This land became part of the initial footprint of the Puget Sound Navy Yard.


Bremerton was officially incorporated on October 15, 1901 with Alvyn Croxton serving as the city's first mayor. Progress in the new city soon faced a major crisis, as Navy Secretary Charles Darling moved all repair work to the Mare Island Navy Yard in November 1902. Darling cited reports from commanders that the Bremerton waterfront was rife with prostitution, opium houses and frequent strongarmed robberies of sailors. Politics were probably also at play, as local newspapers reported that the city's incorporation left the shipyard essentially landlocked without room to expand. A dispute ensued between Mayor Croxton, who wanted to shutter all saloons in Bremerton, and three members of the city council, who attempted to block his efforts. Croxton eventually won out and the council voted to revoke all liquor licenses in June 1904. With the ban, Darling reestablished the navy yard as a port of call. Saloons had begun to return to business within two years, however.

In 1908, the city library and Union High School were established to serve the educational needs of the 2,993 residents recorded in the 1910 U.S. Census. During World War I, submarine construction and the addition of a third drydock caused the shipyard's workforce to balloon to over 4,000 employees. Growth due to the war effort and the 1918 annexation of the city of Manette, east of Bremerton on the Port Washington Narrows, can be seen in the 1920 census, which reported a population of 8,918. Bremerton absorbed Charleston, its neighboring city to the south in 1927. Population reached 10,170 in 1930.


Manette was linked to Bremerton by a 1,573-foot bridge in June 1930. Prior to this time, the trip could only be made by ferry or a long trip around Dyes Inlet through Chico, Silverdale and Tracyton on mostly unimproved roads. (This wooden bridge was replaced with concrete and steel in October 1949.) Back at the shipyard, the 250-foot tall Hammerhead Crane No. 28 was completed in April 1933. One of the nation's largest, it is capable of lifting 250 tons and continues to dominate the Bremerton skyline.


At the peak of World War II, the Bremerton area was home to an estimated 80,000 residents due to the heavy workload of shipbuilding, repair and maintenance required for the Pacific war effort. Most of the relocation was temporary, though, and only 27,678 citizens were left in the city by 1950. During the 1940s, presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman both visited Bremerton. Roosevelt made a campaign stop at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in August 1944, giving a national radio address in front of a backdrop of civilian workers. During the course of his 35-minute speech, it is believed the president suffered an angina attack, experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain. An electrocardiogram was immediately administered once he left the podium but it showed nothing abnormal. President Truman took a two-day tour of Washington state in 1948, speaking from the balcony of the Elks Club on the morning of June 10. Local legend has it that a man in the large Pacific Avenue crowd yelled the infamous "Give 'em hell, Harry" line for the first time. This is a matter of dispute, however, as local newspapers quoted the man as having shouted "Lay it on, Harry."

With the return of World War II GIs to the homefront, the need for post-secondary education became evident to officials of the Bremerton School District. Olympic Junior College (now Olympic College), a two-year institution, opened its doors to 575 students in the Fall of 1946. Initially, it operated in the former Lincoln School building, gradually moving operations to World War II-surplus quonset buildings at its current 16th & Chester site. About 100 students received associate's degrees at the first commencement exercises held June 10, 1948. President Truman was in attendance and received the college's first honorary degree. Operation of the college transferred from the school district to the State of Washington in 1967.


On the whole, the 1950s and 1960s were a period of stability for the city. A second high school opened in 1954 and two comprehensive high schools operated in the city until 1978. Growth in East Bremerton necessitated the construction of another span across the Port Washington Narrows in 1958. The $5.3 million, four-lane Warren Avenue Bridge allowed for increased traffic on State Highway 21-B (now State Route 303).

The battleship USS Missouri, site of the Japanese surrender treaty signing that ended World War II, was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at PSNS in 1955. For 30 years, she served as the city's primary tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walked the "surrender deck," before the ship was recommissioned in 1985.

Population growth was flat with 26,681 enumerated in the 1960 census, leading Bremerton leaders to annex the shipyard the following year in an effort to include stationed sailors in those figures. While the Vietnam War spawned protests and sit-ins on the Olympic College campus, the city was relatively free of civil disorder during the 1960s.


With the 1973 selection of the Bangor Ammunition Depot (12 miles northwest of Bremerton) as the Pacific home of the new Trident submarine fleet, residential and commercial development began to move closer to Silverdale and farther from the Bremerton downtown core. Numerous failed proposals were made at redevelopment beginning in the early '70s, including discussions of a waterfront hotel and the erection of a large canopy over the central business district. Meanwhile, most of the city's office and retail space remained in the hands of Edward Bremer, son of William Bremer and the sole remaining heir to his wealth. (In order to receive their inheritance, William Bremer's three children were honor-bound to never marry.) Bremer began to neglect his properties, never increasing decades-old lease rates and failing to make necessary maintenance upgrades. In 1978, the Bremerton City Council passed an ordinance declaring the entire downtown a "blighted area."


In 1985, Safeco-subsidiary Winmar Corporation developed the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale. With lower taxes and minimal planning regulations in the unincorporated town, Silverdale achieved virtually unfettered growth. Sears, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Nordstrom Place Two, Woolworth and Rite Aid all closed their downtown Bremerton stores in the 1980s and '90s. Upon the death of Edward Bremer in 1987, the Bremer properties were placed under the complete control of a trust held by Olympic College. Not being in the real-estate business, the college did not actively market its holdings and the downtown was composed almost entirely of very large empty storefronts.


In recent years Bremerton has seen its share of community setbacks. Like many other West Coast cities, Bremerton was also not immune to the influx of street gangs and violent crime, including a 1993 incident in which a crowd of nearly 40 gang members surrounded a Bremerton police officer's patrol car. A police dog was shot and killed after only three months on the city's force in 2001 -- his replacement was forcibly drowned by a fleeing suspect in 2004. Bremerton school teachers were pitted against their district's administration for nearly a month in September 1994 during a contentious strike. Four elderly residents were killed in an enormous three-alarm fire that destroyed the 165-unit Kona Village apartment complex in November 1997. Damages were estimated at $7.5 million.

Beginning with the construction of a waterfront boardwalk in 1992, Bremerton has begun the process of revitalizing its downtown. That same year, the Bremerton Historic Ships Association opened the destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD-951) to public tours at an adjacent dock; the ship had played a major role in the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident that sparked full U.S. engagement in the Vietnam War. This was followed in 2000 by the opening of a nearby multimodal bus-ferry terminal and a hotel-conference center complex in 2004. The high-rise Norm Dicks Government Center also opened that year, housing City Hall and other government offices.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 37,259 people, 15,096 households, and 8,468 families residing in the city. The population density is 634.9/km² (1,644.2/mi²). There are 16,631 housing units at an average density of 283.4/km² (733.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 74.97% White, 7.50% African American, 1.95% Native American, 5.53% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 2.57% from other races, and 6.56% from two or more races. 6.59% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 15,096 households out of which 30.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% are married couples living together, 13.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 43.9% are non-families. 35.4% of all households are made up of individuals and 11.9% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.30 and the average family size is 2.98.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 15.5% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 17.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 31 years. For every 100 females there are 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 103.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $30,950, and the median income for a family is $36,358. Males have a median income of $28,320 versus $23,523 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,724. 19.4% of the population and 16.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 25.7% of those under the age of 18 and 11.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Notable Bremertonians

  • The pop-punk band Mxpx hails from Bremerton, which they mention in their song "Move to Bremerton."
  • Bill Gates Sr, father of the Microsoft billionaire, was born in Bremerton and began his law career with the local firm of Merrill Wallace. The elder Gates' father operated a furniture store and ice cream parlor in downtown Bremerton.
  • Jazz legend Quincy Jones moved to Bremerton at age 10. As a teenager, he first met up with Ray Charles after traveling to clubs in Seattle.
  • Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard attended Union High School and wrote his early works while living in Bremerton during the late 1930s and early 1940s.
  • Long-time KJR radio disk jockey and general manager Pat O'Day (nee Paul Berg) is a 1953 graduate of Bremerton High School. He began his concert-promotion empire by holding teen dances at Bremerton's Sheridan Park Recreation Center and the Spanish Castle in Seattle. He would later go on to promote such noted acts as Merilee Rush, Heart, The Wailers and Jimi Hendrix.
  • Fifteen-term U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks was born and raised in Bremerton, the son of a Puget Sound Naval Shipyard worker. Dicks serves as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and also sits on the Select Committee on Homeland Security.
  • Seattle Mariners utilityman Willie Bloomquist was born in Bremerton and grew up in nearby Port Orchard.
  • Actor Howard Duff, best known as the radio voice of Sam Spade and later as Det. Sgt. Sam Stone in the late-'60s NBC television series Felony Squad, was born in Bremerton.
  • The Tonight Show show host Johnny Carson was stationed aboard the USS Pennsylvania (BB-38) while it was in Bremerton for repairs following a 1945 torpedo strike.
  • The indie rocker Ben Gibbard, known for his work in The Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie, and All-Time Quarterback, was also born in Bremerton, Washington.
  • Marvin Williams, a graduate of Bremerton High School, signed to the NBA team Atlanta Hawks in 2005. As a senior at Bremerton High School, Williams averaged 28.7 points, 15.5 rebounds, five blocks and five assists and earned McDonald’s and Parade All-America honors. He attended the University of North Carolina for one year.
  • Dana and Tara Kirk attended Bremerton High School and received scholarships in swimming to attend Stanford University. They later won medals in the Olympics.

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