For Sale: Fort Lawton

Exterior of one of the Fort Lawton buildings.  Photo: Fort Lawton Homes

If you’ve ever frequented historic Fort Lawton, located within the 534 acres of Discovery Park, one can imagine how it must have felt to live there over 100 years ago when the army base served as an outpost to protect Seattle from outside naval threat. And second, ironically, to protect Seattle from itself: by curbing rampant lawlessness in newly-formed Seattle.

Panoramic aerial views of Fort Lawton.  Photos: Fort Lawton Homes

The panoramic views are still incredible today, and the beautiful old homes, which are registered as national landmarks, have been fully renovated inside while retaining the character of the original build: the original windows, woodwork, fireplaces, and often a roomy three stories + a basement. As many Magnolia natives know, Fort Lawton is also very convenient to the downtown Seattle core: only 15-30 minutes away.

Historic photo of Fort Lawton and soldiers.  Photo: Museum of History & Industry. All rights reserved.   Neg# SHS7164

In 2011, the last military presence occupying the site, the Army Reserve, relocated to Marysville, WA. The U.S. Navy personnel who were then living in the dwellings were moved. And the historic residences, built in 1900, went on sale in 2015. Many people have applied to buy these 26 homes: well over 2,000 people, in fact. As of this writing, the somewhat smaller homes located along Montana Circle and the larger Officers’ Row homes have all sold with the exception of two: 4002 & 4216 Washington Ave. W. (plus an additional one pending). The remaining two are priced at $1.79 million and $1.975 million.

Fort Lawton, in the course of its long history, has seen many things. 20,000 U.S. soldiers were processed through, whether embarking or returning from four different wars. It held German and Italians prisoners of war during World War II. A riot against Italian prisoners’ privileges erupted, resulting in a murder and numerous injuries. African-American soldiers were accused of the murder on shaky grounds, and years later the army publicly apologized for these soldiers’ imprisonment, reinstating honorable discharges, and provided back pay to their families. Native Americans protested their rights to the land and encamped at the site when the surplus land was decommissioned in 1970, which resulted in the formation of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. A fire broke out in one of the buildings being renovated only a year ago. And our city’s largest park (and most pristine in this writer’s humble opinion), Discovery Park, began when the military gave the rest of the surplus land to the city.

Interior of Fort Lawton home.  Photo: Fort Lawton Homes

Many of Fort Lawton’s Colonial Revival buildings have withstood the test of time. And now you can tour the restored homes, in-person (at least for the moment), or vicariously peruse the photos below.

Photos and video of the Fort Lawton homes:
http://ownfortlawton.com

http://seattlerefined.com/the-home/the-most-unique-new-neighborhood-in-seattle

https://seattle.curbed.com/2016/9/16/12938138/fort-lawton-officers-row-homes-4002-washington

The Fort Lawton Riot

Fort Lawton Riot

The Fort Lawton Riot was a tragic event that took place during World War II, and involved late-night violence between Italian prisoners of war and US soldiers at Fort Lawton in Magnolia.

On the night of August 14th, 1944 a group of African Americans and a group of Italians came across each other after a night of drinking, and words were exchanged. One thing led to another and a fight broke out between the two groups. After the riot was over, Italian prisoner of war Guglielmo Olivotto was found dead. The result of this riot was the court-martial of 43 soldiers–all of whom were African American. 28 US soldiers were ultimately convicted and imprisoned.

In 2005, Jack Hamann wrote a book called On American Soil which played a significant role in helping convince the U.S. Army Board for Correction of Military Records that there were extreme errors committed by the prosecution and and that all convictions should be reversed. Hamann called the Fort Lawton Riot the “most overlooked civil rights event in American history.”

In 2008, President Bush signed a decree ordering the Army to compensate the defendants or their family for the errors made throughout the investigation.

This event has a ton more information, twists, turns, etc…we just tried to provide a brief summary, so if you’d like to learn more please check out Wikipedia for an overview, The Seattle Times article on the apology to the soldiers, or possibly even the book On American Soil.

 

Fort Lawton Officially Decommissioned

After the cannons were fired, and the flag was taken down, Seattle Army base Fort Lawton was officially decommissioned this past Saturday. It was here that in 1944, 28 African American soldiers were court marshaled for allegedly hanging an Italian prisoner of war. In 2008, Fort Lawton was also the setting where the remaining surviviving soldiers were honored after their convictions were lifted, because they hadn’t been given a fair trial.

On Saturday afternoon’s decommission ceremony, politicians and generals said their goodbyes and many people attending took the opportunity to tour the old fort in Magnolia. Fort Lawton was built in 1901, to keep an eye out on the surging labor boom. The federal government still owns the fort property, but the City of Seattle will have the opportunity to take over. The City has already claimed ownership of a chunk of the original Fort Lawton property, including what is now Discovery Park. Believe it or not the government has already tried to sell Fort Lawton to the city of Seattle once previously in 1938 for $1; City declined due to lack of funding for the property upkeep. Maybe they’ll have better luck this year.