One hundred years at Fort Casey
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:59 AM
"Fort Casey - Whidbey Island's best-known and most-visited historical landmark - is 100 years old this year. And everybody's invited to the big birthday party. Thousands of visitors from far and wide are expected to turn out next Saturday, June 10, for a day of music, military pomp, and memories of the fort that was Whidbey's first military base.The centennial souvenir that's likely to be most in demand is a series of 10 postcards featuring old photos from the early days of the fort. The cards are the work of Steven Kobylk of Coupeville, a member of the newly created Friends of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse and the national Coastal Artillery Study Group. Kobylk, who is also a Boeing engineer, took faded, but rare and unusual photographs of the fort, and used his computer to enhance the quality. The photos are from Kobylk's own collection, which includes pictures from the National Archives, from members of the Coastal Artillery Study Group, and other sources. All the photos he has used were taken before 1918.I've been collecting for years, Kobylk said. The sets of 10 cards include historical images of the old and new lighthouses, the parade ground, officers' homes, rapid fire guns of four different sizes, the 12-inch mortar, the remote controlled searchlight, and the fort's post office. When visitors see these cards, they are going to be blown away, said John Willson, co-chair of the centennial celebration. We expect the 500 we are printing to sell very quickly. Proceeds from the sale of the cards will benefit the Friends of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse.A special stamp featuring the 10-inch disappearing gun has been designed, and Coupeville Post Office representatives will be there on the day to hand-cancel the post cards.It's a day that will be filled with nostalgia, as more than a dozen Islanders share their memories of the early days at Fort Casey, which got its first gun emplacements in 1899 and was completed in 1907. The fort was used for a variety of military purposes until 1953, when the flag finally came down. For all of that time, it was an important part of Whidbey Island life. When it was built, to defend the entrance to Puget Sound against the British, Fort Casey was equipped with the most modern weapons and fortifications ever designed, Willson said. While the big disappearing guns never fired a shot in anger, the fort was one of three forming a triangle of fire at the entrance to the Sound.Six months of intensive planning headed by John and Kathy Willson of Clinton has brought together a centennial program that begins with an 11 a.m. opening ceremony, with the U.S. First Corps Army Honor Guard, the 133rd Army Band, the Straits of Juan de Fuca Men's Barbershop Chorus and special guests. Attractions during the day include a display of vintage horseless carriages, all built before 1915; Friends of Willie and Joe, a group of World War II collectors of vintage Army jeeps and troop carriers; a life in the Army display with a circle of 70-year-old tents and government-issued implements from the period when Fort Casey was active. Guided tours of the gun batteries and the lighthouse will go on all afternoon.Kite flying, picnicking and more will round out the day."