Fort Nisqually in Point Defiance Park will soon be the site of construction activity. Metro Parks Commission approved a contract for $1.18 million with Serpanok Construction to build two structures at the fort during its Oct. 8 meeting. The local firm has worked on the bathhouse project in Wapato Park.
Prior to putting the project out to bid, Metro Parks staff set a maximum cost of $1.2 million. Much of the funding comes from the 2005 bond measure passed by local voters. A grant from the state, Capital Projects for Washington’s Heritage, is providing $350,000.
Melissa McGinnis, historic and cultural resource manager for Metro Parks, said the origin of this project goes back to a bond measure passed in 1986. It funded a master plan for Fort Nisqually. Among its findings was a need for a new interpretive center.
“That has been the driving force of this project,” McGinnis commented.
The project will have two new buildings that will resemble two built in the 1850s.
One is the men’s dwelling house, which served as a dormitory for employees. The new structure will have an exhibit, museum gift shop and an area to watch videos about the fort.
The other will be the store, which was similar to a warehouse. Fort workers used it to store supplies, including furs from the Northwest awaiting shipment to England. The new building will have two stories. The first floor will have an education component, and space for storing artifacts. The second floor will contain offices and a research library.
McGinnis said Curator Bill Rhind and Education Curator Mike McGuire did considerable research in planning the new buildings. They examined sketches and paintings of the original structures. “They were constantly pouring through all the documentation we could find,” McGinnis remarked.
Tacoma Fire Department issued requirements for fire protection before the project could proceed. This will take the form of what is called a bladder, essentially a large pouch of water inside a hut. A pipe from the bladder will connect to a fire hydrant in another section of the park. There will be a pump to maintain water pressure. McGinnis said this was needed because Fort Nisqually is at the highest elevation in the park, and thus has low water pressure in the current system of water pipes.
A groundbreaking is scheduled for Nov. 10, the same day as Fort Nisqually’s annual Arts of the Fur Trade event.