Early Years on the Peninsula
The city of Bremerton is located on the Kitsap Peninsula, which, prior to the arrival of Euro-Americans, was within the ancestral territory of the Suquamish Tribe. These peoples spoke a Salishan language and lived in communal longhouses situated along the shores of the numerous bays and inlets of the west side of Puget Sound. They subsisted primarily on fish and shellfish, but also gathered roots and berries, and hunted game.
The first mapping of Puget Sound was conducted in 1792 under the command of British Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798). A later exploration of the sound occurred in 1841, during which U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) noted the land where downtown Bremerton is now situated and called it Point Turner. In 1853, Washington Territory was organized. The newly appointed territorial governor, Isaac Ingalls Stevens (1818-1862), arrived that year and, in 1855, he negotiated the Point No Point and Point Elliot treaties, through which he persuaded and cajoled several tribes, including the Suquamish, to cede their lands and relocate to reservations.
Bremerton and Manette
The settlement of the Kitsap Peninsula was driven by the availability of vast quantities of virgin timber, which was in great demand, especially in San Francisco, which had a tendency to periodically burn down. Towns grew up rapidly around several lumber mills, including Port Orchard, Port Madison, Port Blakely, and Port Gamble. The wide availability of timber and the presence of numerous safe harbors attracted the attention of the U.S. government, which was interested in establishing a naval shipyard in the region. In 1877, Navy Lieutenant Ambrose Barkley Wycoff (1848-1922) visited Puget Sound. Impressed, the lieutenant launched a crusade to establish a naval facility in the sound. A naval commission was established in 1888 to conduct a study, and it chose Point Turner as the site of the proposed shipyard.
Lieutenant Wycoff was sent to Puget Sound with orders to purchase property at an authorized price of $50 per acre. Landowners were aware of the plan and determined to hold out for a price of $200 per acre. Two businessmen, Henry Paul Hensel (1871-1935) and William Bremer (1863-1910) saw an opportunity and bought land at the higher price and sold to the U.S. Navy at a loss. They had chosen wisely, and a town developed adjacent to the site of the naval shipyard after the shipyard was established in 1891.
The town was incorporated in 1901 as Bremerton. The shipyard developed rapidly and eventually became the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the largest single employer in Kitsap County, one that especially boomed during times of war. In 1918, Bremerton annexed the community of Manette, located nearby but separated by the channel of Port Washington Narrows.
Edmund S. Meany, early cataloger of Washington place names, states that the word Manette came from the name of the first steamer that stopped at the town wharf shortly after it was built. In 1930, Manette was, and still is, a mostly residential community. It did boast some successful businesses, however, including the Meredith Red and White Store, the Aldrich Variety Store, the A. W. Jacobson Garage, the Manette Fuel and Transfer Company (which provided fuel and trucking services for the Manette Bridge project), the Manette Greenhouses (operated by Japanese American T. Shimasaki), Oscar Etten’s Manette Meat Market, two real-estate offices, and two barber shops. The town also had several schools and churches. The community’s grandest building was said to be the Masonic Temple, with a large auditorium that hosted public gatherings.
Getting to Work, Getting to a Bridge
The population of both communities expanded rapidly due to employment offered by Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. To reach the shipyard, workers from Manette had to either commute by boat or travel by automobile 16 1/2 miles out of their way around Dyes Inlet. For years a bridge across the Narrows was contemplated, but in the post-World War I economy, financing was a major problem.
It was becoming clear that the bridging of the Port Washington Narrows would be in the best economic interests of the two communities, which were joined through incorporation but only loosely with regard to transportation. But construction of the bridge would be the biggest engineering feat ever attempted in Kitsap County, and few thought that the resources could be found to complete such an achievement, especially during the economic downturn that followed World War I.
The persons credited with first giving serious thought to the bridge were George A. Sears (d. 1925), president of the Union Bridge Company’s Portland branch, and John P. Hartman, a Seattle attorney. The original version of the Union Bridge Company was created in 1884 with the merger of several other bridge construction companies. It initially operated out of Buffalo, New York, but by 1919, the firm had offices in Portland and Seattle. In 1922, the company completed the construction of the Pasco-Kennewick Bridge, a steel cantilever truss bridge nearly two-thirds of a mile long. The company designed other major bridge structures in the Northwest, including the Columbia River bridge in Brewster, Washington, the Okanogan River bridge in Omak, Washington, and the Snake River gorge bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho, which, in 1930, was the highest standing bridge in the United States.
John P. Hartman was a prominent promoter of improved transportation in the Northwest and once served as president of the Washington Good Roads Association. At a 1925 meeting in Hartman’s Seattle office, the men discussed the Bremerton-Manette situation, and both saw an opportunity for the Union Bridge Company and for the citizens of Kitsap County. George Spears was so enthused that he set out to visit Bremerton to speak with city officials and other individuals. He also discussed the bridge with U.S. Navy Admiral Chase, for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard had great municipal influence as the town’s largest employer. The proposed bridge would also open up a more direct route between the shipyard and the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station, located in northern Kitsap County. Thus, Spears planted the seed of the Manette Bridge idea. Unfortunately, several months later, George Spears died suddenly at a Spokane hotel.
Spears’s enthusiasm for the Manette Bridge project was taken up by Charles G. Huber, who succeeded Spears as president of the Union Bridge Company. Mr. Huber convinced several civic leaders to support the project, including Rear Admiral Samuel Robinson, who had replaced Chase as commandant of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. On December 4, 1926, a franchise for construction of the bridge was granted to W. E. Buell, and on June 14, 1926, a Congressional permit was granted. After these preliminary steps, however, the project languished for several years, and many despaired that it would never come to fruition.
What Bremerton Builds, Builds Bremerton
In early 1929, interest in the Manette Bridge project picked up as publicity swirled around Tacoma’s interest in constructing a bridge across the Tacoma Narrows. This prompted people in Bremerton and Kitsap County to begin pushing their own bridge project. In the end, the Manette Bridge would be built before the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was not built until 1940. (Famous as "Galloping Gertie," that bridge would collapse into Puget Sound shortly after.)
A meeting was called at the Bremerton city hall on January 6, 1929, to discuss the bridge project. It was attended by about 30 citizens of Bremerton and Manette, as well as by John P. Hartman, Charles G. Huber, and Karl Keeler, all of Seattle. Bremerton's mayor, C. E. B. Oldham, presided. At this meeting a course of action was outlined that would address raising the money necessary to built the bridge, a plan that involved private stock sales. On February 11, the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce endorsed the plan. On February 15, it was announced that a company called the Bremerton Bridge Company had been formed. Its principals were Mayor Oldham, C. P. Kimball, L. A. Bender, and Charles Huber, who represented the Union Bridge Company. To assist them, the company had contracted with the Hockenbury System, a business group that was the largest builder of hotels in the United States. They were brought in because they had developed exceptional abilities at public fundraising. Karl Keeler was their Western representative.
The fundraising campaign was launched on February 19, 1929, with a full-page newspaper ad. The formation of an executive committee was announced, with Mayor Oldham as its president. The campaign slogan was "What Bremerton Builds, Builds Bremerton." It was the duty of the executive committee to raise the first $100,000 needed to fund the bridge. Groups of bridge promoters hit the pavement, pressing upon their fellow citizens to purchase stock in the Bremerton Bridge Company. Campaign buttons and window placards appeared throughout the county, and the bridge project became a universal topic of conversation on the street. The most aggressive of the stock salesmen was William J. Abbott, who led a group of bridge advocates that earned the nickname "Hell Raisers."
The campaign received a big boost on March 6, when the new commandant of the shipyard, Rear Admiral H.J. Ziegemier, announced his and the Navy’s ringing endorsement of the project. Next, on March 9, the Puget Sound Power & Light Company pledged $4,000 to the campaign, demonstrating to the public that a major business had confidence that the Manette Bridge was a good investment. Other businesses followed suit as the campaign continued to gain momentum. On March 23, 1929, the executive committee announced that it had reached the $100,000 goal. This opened the way for other funding sources to contribute another $75,000, and the project became a viable proposition.
An exclamation point was given to the campaign on March 27, when the Pioneer, the ferry that operated between Bremerton and Manette, experienced an accident that delayed a boatload of shipyard workers. The ferry’s owner, Bob Carter, was one Bremerton citizen firmly opposed to the bridge project. He was quoted as saying that supporting the campaign would be like "handing a fellow a rifle and furnishing the ammunition with which to shoot himself." (Mr. Carter passed away before the bridge was completed.) The ferry incident proved to be minor, but the scare substantially increased bridge stock sales. The Bremerton Bridge Company’s funding campaign was a stunning success, and the project proceeded.
Building Manette Bridge
The Union Bridge Company was the obvious choice to design and build the Manette Bridge, since its representatives were key components of the funding campaign. The project went under the ultimate supervision of Charles G. Huber. Company engineer G. R. Edwards was selected to design the structure. On-site construction was under the immediate direction of D. B. Wheaton, a Canadian who had nearly 30 years of bridge-building experience, including working with Charles Huber and the Union Bridge Company. (Mr. Wheaton’s 10-year-old daughter, Elsie, became the first girl to walk across the entire length of the Manette Bridge, when it became possible to do so.) Lester S. Tubbs, a former marine and seven-year Union Bridge Company employee, assisted in work supervision as the resident engineer. He was in turn aided by assistant engineer G. Arden Peabody. Ralph McCarthy served as the project financial officer and accountant. The structural steel foreman was Ole Hovind. Concrete operations were overseen by John Long, a resident of East Bremerton. The bridge tollhouse, which was described as "artistic," was designed by Lee Boutelle. C. W. Huckins was the chief deep-sea diver in charge of investigations of the sea bottom beneath the bridge and of pier placement and construction. W. C. Dennis, of Seattle, was the structural steel painting subcontractor.
The materials used in the construction of the Manette Bridge came from various sources, mostly local to Puget Sound. Timber pilings for the temporary superstructure and the bridge approaches were supplied by A. G. Wilson of Port Orchard. Lumber came from Bender and Parker, the Lofthus Lumber Company, and J. S. Kenyon. Towing services were provided by the Bremerton Tug & Barge Company. Trucking services and fuel were provided by the Manette Fuel and Transfer Company. Oils and greases were procured from the Shell Oil Company. The contract for electrical work was granted to the Fred Fein Company, of Bremerton. The plumbing contract went to L. O. Lent, of Bremerton. Concrete was provided by the Crosby Lighterage Company, which also supplied the unique floating concrete mixing plant. Structural steel was acquired from the Wallace Company, of Seattle.
The location of the Manette Bridge was selected after taking depth soundings and sending divers to examine ground surfaces beneath the waves. After site selection, a temporary superstructure of braced wood pilings was built across the sea passage. This structure required 60,000 lineal feet of pilings that averaged 10 to 14 inches in diameter.
The next step was the construction of crib, or coffer, structures that could be positioned on the sea floor and weighted down with loads of gravel. These were probably constructed of wood pilings. They were made watertight by caulking the seams with oakum, just as in wooden boat construction. One crib was built for each of the six poured concrete piers required to support the bridge. The top edges of the cribs were several feet above the high water mark. A clamshell excavator, operating from a small derrick, was used to dig downward, within the crib, to a hardpan surface. As the excavator dug, the weighted crib would sink down into the sea bed. When the harder surface was reached, concrete was deposited at the bottom through a pipe. In this way the pier’s foundation, or seal, was created. Each seal averaged 16 inches deep, about 30 feet wide, and 50 feet long. These hardened under the surface of the water, which rose and fell with the tide. A gate in the crib wall allowed this natural tidal action.
Once the concrete was solid, the crib gate was closed and the water pumped out. The initial concrete surface was then scraped with wire brushes, and another layer of concrete, five feet thick, was poured on top of the foundation. Following the creation of these anchoring blocks, which rose to the high water mark, the forms were constructed for the reinforced concrete piers. The steel work of the bridge trusses was laid atop these piers.
Completion of the floating concrete-mixing plant delayed the start of bridge construction for about one month, but on November 15, 1929, the work commenced. Resident engineer Lester S. Tubbs later provided dates for the progression of the work: "Pier 1 completed April 10; pier 2, May 8; pier 3, June 7; pier 4, April 28; pier 5, March 21; pier 6, March 21, all of this year. Steel work was commenced March 14 and completed June 12" (Daily News Searchlight, June 21, 1930). By the middle of April 1930, 75 men were employed in construction of the bridge. On April 13, 1930, Mr. Tubbs predicted that the bridge would open for traffic by June 15. By May 8, 1930, builders were still optimistic that the June 15 opening was likely. The concrete work was nearing completion and forms were being removed. This allowed the construction of the steel trusses to accelerate. The trestle approaches were also approaching completion.
The only fatality associated with construction of the Manette Bridge occurred on the morning of April 9, 1930. Steel worker Conrad Anderson (d. 1930), recently arrived from Montana, fell 25 feet to his death into the waters of Port Washington Narrows. No one witnessed the accident, but when Anderson’s body was dragged up it was noted that he had a shattered jaw and missing teeth, indicating that he probably hit the framework of the bridge when he fell. It was thought that a heavy wrench was attached to his belt, which probably pulled him quickly to the bottom. Other workmen dived in after the splash was noticed, but the water at that point was 45 feet deep, and no one could reach Anderson. Dragging operations directed by steel foreman Ole Hovind recovered the body shortly before noon. Anderson was survived by a wife and a 9-year-old child.
The Grand Dedication
Saturday, June 21, 1930, was the day selected for the grand dedication of the new Manette Bridge. In the weeks leading up to the big day, a contest had been sponsored by a local charitable organization called the Sunshine Society, which had for several years been engaged in fundraising efforts for the support of the Kitsap County Children’s Home of Manette. The contest was a sort of popularity/beauty contest among young women of the county, who were sponsored by various civic organizations. The method of selection was through a popular vote among the residents of the counties, who apparently were required to purchase tags to register their votes. From the sale of these tags, $4,795.28 was raised for the Children’s Home, an amount sufficient to support the Home for about two years. This was the most successful fundraising campaign conducted by the Sunshine Society to that date.
The winner of the contest was to be designated Miss Sunshine and given the honor of christening the bridge at the dedication ceremony. Among the local organizations that sponsored candidates were the Bremerton Kiwanis Club, the Port Orchard Kiwanis Club, the Lions Club, the Bremerton and Charleston American Legion clubs, and the Business Women’s Club. Helen Joldersma, the Bremerton Kiwanis Club selection, won the contest with over 110,000 votes. She was the daughter of Lt. Commander R. D. Joldersma and his wife, further evidence of the close ties between Kitsap County and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.
Another woman selected for honors at the bridge dedication was a Native American who was reportedly 106 years old. She was a niece of Chief Seattle, and remembered the time before the white man had arrived. Her Duwamish Indian name was Putte-Pash, but she became Jane Garrison in 1853, when she married an African American man who had come to the Puget Sound as a cook on a British trading ship. The couple had 10 children over the years, but by 1930 seven of them had passed away, as had Jane Garrison’s husband. Even at her advanced age, she continued to live in her own house in Manette, even climbing down steep steps to the sound to gather clams, which she cooked beneath wet gunny sacks over heated rocks.
The festivities of June 22, 1930, began with a noon luncheon hosted by the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce at the Enetai Inn, a forested retreat on the east shore of the Manette Peninsula. The guests of honor were the Rear Admiral H. J. Ziegemeier, commandant of the Naval Shipyard, and Miss Sunshine, Helen Joldersma, who was accompanied by a retinue composed of the other contest candidates. Bremerton mayor C. E. B. Oldham presided over the luncheon, and Chamber of Commerce president C. Russ Wood acted as master of ceremonies. Also attending were several officers of the Bremerton Bridge Company; Karl Keeler, representing the Hockenbury System; various bridge engineers; and prominent local citizens who had been involved in the bridge fundraising campaign.
At 1:45 p.m., attention shifted to the bridge itself, with "bombs," probably large fire crackers, used as signal cues to action. A threat of rain never materialized, and the wind calmed. The local fire brigade had gaily decorated the bridge and its approaches with bright flags and bunting. Two delegations were formed, one on the Bremerton side of the bridge, the other on the Manette side. The processions approached each other, meeting at the center. Present with the Manette delegation was Jane Garrison, enthroned in a specially constructed seat carried on an automobile. The two groups must have moved spritely, for at 1:50 p.m. Helen Joldersma christened the bridge by using a hammer to shatter a bottle, containing Port Washington Narrows water, that was held against a steel brace of the bridge (a plaque was later placed at the point where the bottle was broken). Mayor Oldham then dedicated the bridge, reportedly stating, “The child is born.” An airplane buzzed overhead.
After this brief ceremony, the crowds moved to a grandstand assembled near the west end of the bridge, where dedicatory addresses were given beginning at 2:00 p.m. The main speeches were by mayor Oldham and Rear Admiral Ziegemeier. The citizens were also congratulated by Fred W. Strang, representing the Chamber of Commerce of Seattle. Many luminaries who participated in the financing and construction of the bridge were introduced and expressed their pleasure at the successful outcome. Among them were John P. Hartman, representing the Bremerton Bridge Company, Charles G. Huber, of the Union Bridge Company, and Karl Keeler, fundraiser from the Hockenbury System.
At 3:00 p.m., the throng dispersed to a variety of scheduled entertainments. These included an open air wrestling match, races and sports for children along Manette Street, and a baseball game at the Manette ball park. At 6:30 p.m., a banquet was held at the Manette Masonic Temple for bridge workers and their guests. Finally, at 9:00 p.m., dances were held, one sponsored by the Bremerton Elks and the other by the Manette Masonic Temple. During the day, tickets to cover the bridge toll sold briskly. The first was purchased by C. H. Warrington. Presumably, he drove over the bridge the next day, when it was thrown open to the public.
The Manette Bridge
The original Manette Bridge, as constructed in 1929-1930, consisted of a riveted-steel through Petit truss span (a through truss is the kind you drive through and under as you cross the bridge) and four riveted-steel Baltimore deck truss spans (a deck truss supports the bridge from under the roadway with its top chord). These truss spans were supported by six poured concrete piers.
The Petit truss denotes a particular configuration of the truss. It is a variation of a Pratt truss, Parker sub-type, which has a polygonal top cord, as viewed from the side, instead of a top cord that is parallel to the bottom cord. The Petit truss also has more sub-struts than the standard Parker truss. Such trusses are often called “camel back.”
A Baltimore truss is another variation of a Pratt truss. It is similar in that both upper and lower cords are parallel, but the Baltimore has additional sub-struts. The arrangement of these trusses on the Manette Bridge is not symmetrical; a Baltimore truss at the west end is succeeded by the Petit truss, directly to the east, which is itself succeeded by the three remaining Baltimore trusses extending to the east.
In the original bridge structure, these primary spans were connected to the mainland at either end by a series of wood trestle structures supported by timber pilings driven into the sea bed. The original road deck was constructed of wood planks laid lengthwise on floor beams. The planks were covered with an asphalt surface. A pedestrian walkway was cantilevered along the south side of the bridge. Wood guard rails ran along both edges of the bridge, and a wood frame toll house was situated at the west end. A canopy with a shallow-pitched gabled roof, under which drivers would pass, sheltered the central toll booth.
The toll house was removed after the toll requirement was dropped in 1939. Bridge improvements undertaken in 1949 replaced the wood trestle approaches with steel deck beam and girder spans, four at each end, supported by poured concrete piers. The original wood-plank deck was removed and replaced with steel-grated panels filled with concrete. It was likely at this time that the original wood guardrails were replaced with a steel balustrade.
The renovated Manette Bridge was about 1,573 feet long. The Petit truss span, situated at the highest point on the bridge, was 243 feet long. Here, the bridge deck was about 80 feet above mean sea level. Each Baltimore deck truss was 186 feet long. These primary spans were connected to the mainland by five 74-foot-long steel-girder spans, two 80-foot-long steel-girder spans, and one 36.5-foot-long steel-beam span. The Manette Bridge was one of two large, privately financed bridges completed in the early 1930s in Washington, the other being the Lewis and Clark Bridge at Longview. These were the last privately financed highway bridges of their size to be constructed in the state.
The Monster Illumination and After
In 1938, the Manette Bridge was purchased by the Washington State Department of Highways (now the Washington State Department of Transportation) for $320,585.66. On January 28, 1939, the bridge crossing toll was discontinued, allowing drivers to pass for free. This event was celebrated on the Saturday afternoon of that day. At 4:00 p.m., traffic on the bridge was halted. A ceremony followed on the bridge, with speeches by Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin (1884-1955), Naval Shipyard Admiral Edward B. Fenner, and other distinguished guests. At 5:30 p.m., State Senator Lulu Haddon cut a symbolic ribbon, after which the bridge was opened to toll-free traffic. At 6:00 p.m. a celebratory dinner was held at the Manette Masonic Temple. At 7:30, aerial fireworks gave the signal for previously distributed red flares to be lit at "every home and vantage point" within sight of the bridge. Participants were urged to make as much noise as they could. Naval battleships and tugs turned on their searchlights, adding to the effect. This "Monster Illumination of the Manette Bridge" lasted until 8:30 p.m. ("Free Bridge Celebration"). Afterwards, gatherings and dances took place at all of the nearby communities, and travelers were encouraged to visit the celebrations. It was expected that thousands of vehicles would cross the bridge that evening. Presumably, the toll house at the west end of the bridge was demolished shortly after the toll was lifted.
By 1949, the bridge was showing its age. The wood trestle approaches were out-dated, as was the wood plank deck. The McRae Brothers Company of Seattle was contracted to address these shortcomings. The approach trestles were replaced with steel deck beam and girder spans, four at each end, supported by poured concrete piers. The original wood plank deck was removed and replaced with steel-grated panels filled with concrete. The carbon steel used in undertaking these improvements was provided by Pacific Car and Foundry. Presumably, the steel balustrade replaced the original wood guardrails at this time.
One thing the 1949 improvements could not do was widen the 18 1/2 foot-wide bridge deck, and the booming traffic volume was causing an increasingly troublesome bottleneck. To address the problem, another bridge was constructed across the Port Washington Narrows in 1958. The Warren Avenue Bridge was located about a mile north of the Manette Bridge. A toll was imposed on crossing the new bridge to pay for the construction. To prevent another bottleneck on the Manette Bridge, tolls were re-imposed there. By 1972, the Warren Avenue Bridge had been paid off, and tolls were removed from both spans.
Despite the 1949 improvements and the construction of a second bridge in 1958, increasing traffic volumes remained a transportation problem for the Kitsap Peninsula. After reviewing possible alternatives, it became apparent that the old Manette Bridge must be removed and replaced with a modern, wider structure. The Manette Bridge was replaced by a new bridge, complete in February 2012, that has 11-foot-wide lanes, 5-foot-wide shoulders, and a 10-foot-wide pedestrian walkway, and that was built to current engineering standards.