Thoughts from Places: Fort Stevens and Fort Columbia

(If you don't wanna read all of the text just watch the video) 

Amanda Zito in front of the Peter Iredale Shipwreck on the Oregon Coast in Fort Stevens State Park
So, I had the awesome pleasure of being escorted to Fort Stevens in Warrenton, Oregon and then to Fort Columbia across the river in Washington, by three awesome people! Before I go into my little story, I want to say a huge thanks to Kathy and Beth Kerner for taking Sean and I to the Forts on Friday.

         So, my little history/back story starts with the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, featured behind my awesome friends here; Sean Sartin , Donnie Standerfer, and Kathy Kerner.  Over a century since her hull breached the sandy shores of the Clatsop Spit, the Peter Iredale's bones are bleached -or in this case rusted- in the Oregon coast, standing as a  tourist attraction. However, the tale of the lonely bones isn't that exciting. No Pirates, cataclysmic storm,  mythical creatures or even a mutiny!
    It was sailing from Salina Cruz, Mexico around the end of September of 1906 on it's way to Portland, carrying in her bosom some one thousand tons of ballast and a crew of 27, which intriguingly included two stowaways. Truth be told, it was a very boring voyage until the night of October 25, when things got spicy!  Captain H. Lawrence sighted the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse at about 3 a.m. -he must have been a night owl like me. The crew altered course to enter the Columbia River in Oregon's notorious thick mist, but they found themselves being flung by strong winds into the shore. They tried and failed to stop her from mating with the shore, and shortly after a lifeboat was sent to escort the sailors to Fort Stevens.
   See I told you! No excitement! Not even during World War II, when the Oregon Coast saw live bombardment from the Japanese submarines. The ship was in the line of fire, but she got off scott-free without a scratch on her from the gun play. She must have some kind of force field around here, seriously. 

        The second part of my little history/nerd rant is Fort Stevens! It's namesake is from a Washington Territory governor (of course) who became a general during the Civil War, Isaac Stevens. The massive Fort itself, was built during the Civil War, originally named Fort at Point Adams, then renamed in 1865 after Stevens was killed in action. This Fort, Fort Columbia, and Fort Cape Dissapointment... wait did they really name it "Cape Dissapointment"!? That is so perfeeee...oh . ... they renamed it Fort Canby later. Awww.   Anyway! The three forts were built to defend the mouth of the Columbia from potential British attack, ya know, 'cuz we weren't on such good terms with our wonderful fore-bearers. However, the Fort didn't see much excitement, I mean they got to be all "we can offer you refuge!" to the crew of the Peter Iredale, but other than that not much happened until World War II.  

 Now, this is when Fort Stevens gets to hunker down and get ready to whoop ass with all of it's massive guns right? Nope.
In June 1942, a Japanese submarine with orders to destroy enemy ships and engage the enemy on land shot several rounds at Fort Stevens. The rounds missed! Most of them struck a nearby baseball field and a swamp. There were no casualties  At most, the only damage that was done was to several large telephone cables. The Fort called in a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber to attack the submarine but it dodged the bombs and submerged undamaged.
  The attack, however unremarkable, helped create the 1942 West Cost Invasion Scare. From Point Adams southward, rolls and rolls of barbed wire were strung along the beach. Some even entangled the Peter Iredale until the end of the war. 

    Fort Stevens and Fort Columbia (pictured above), were both decommissioned  in 1947-1950.  All that is left now are their hollow cement corpses, graffiti and the echo of the footsteps of tourists.  Both of them are apart of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, and Fort Columbia features twelve historic wood-frame buildings that still stand.  The Steward's House and Scarborough House are available as vacation rental homes. 

    Even though their history isn't very exciting, the Forts still have the resounding echo of being apart of times in our Nation's history when men had a kind of romantic sense of patriotism. When over 1800x the amount of casualties in Iraq died protecting our freedom and our country. When I think about that, walking through the hollow shell of any Fort active during World War II is a haunting experience. Thinking about the thousands of men that walked up and down the halls of the buildings that are now caked in grime, rust, and graffiti and how homesick most of them were, staring at the same scenery day in and day out, wondering when the war would finally end.
     Of course, I can't deny that the Fort also holds a kind of beauty to my eyes. The kind of beauty you see in dilapidated buildings from the Homesteader days, or the look of an old Ford with sagging tires given over to the weeds and tall grass. The rust of Fort Stevens is like lace, the grime like an embroidered bodice, and the hollow buildings its' skirt. 

Next week I shall have more sketches and things in progress to show you! See you then! - Zito