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About Bremerton

Bremerton is a city in Kitsap County, Washington, United States. The population was 37,259 at the 2000 census. Bremerton is home to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Bremerton Annex of Naval Base Kitsap. Bremerton is connected to downtown Seattle by a 55-minute ferry ride, which carries both vehicles and walk-on passengers.

Geography

Bremerton is located at 47°34′12″N 122°39′9″W / 47.57°N 122.6525°W / 47.57; -122.6525 (47.570017, -122.652625). It is located on the Kitsap Peninsula and is bounded on the southeast and east by Sinclair Inlet and the strait of Port Orchard respectively. The city is divided by the Port Washington Narrows, a strait spanned by two bridges that connects Dyes Inlet, which lies northwest of the city, to Port Orchard. The part of the city northeast of the narrows is referred to as East Bremerton.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.0 square miles (67.5 km²), of which, 22.7 square miles (58.7 km²) of it is land and 3.4 square miles (8.8 km²) of it (12.98%) is water.

Politics

Bremerton is divided among three state legislative districts in Kitsap County. The 23rd legislative district to the north, 35th legislative district in the center and 26th legislative district to the south. Also, the line separating the first and sixth Congressional districts runs through East Bremerton. Elected in 1976, sixth district Rep. Norm Dicks regularly defends the area's significant economic ties to the military, sitting on the House Appropriations Committee and the Select Committee on Homeland Security.

Mayor Cary Bozeman, first elected in 2001, ran unopposed in the 2005 general election. He was previously the three-term mayor of Bellevue, Washington, and is generally credited with spurring economic growth in both cities. Incorporated as a first-class city, Bremerton has been governed by a nonpartisan strong mayor and nine-member city council since 1985. Each member is elected from one of nine wards who in turn elect one member.The current form of government was established by a 1983 charter that eliminated a decades-old city commission composed of a mayor, public works commissioner and finance commissioner.

Each member of the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners represents a portion of the city of Bremerton. This arrangement was an attempt to balance Bremerton's commercial influence with the remainder of the county, though most of its sales tax base has since relocated to unincorporated areas. The revenue shortfall has been compensated by increased revenues collected from traffic infractions, making Bremerton a notorious "speed trap."

Bremerton politics can vary in intensity, with some city council positions regularly unopposed and others having as many as four candidates in the 2005 primary election. Redevelopment projects have been a major source of debate, including the 2007 construction of a federally funded tunnel that would route ferry traffic under the downtown core as well as a planned waterfront boardwalk extension. As with most cities in the region, Bremerton precincts have historically been more favorable for Democratic candidates in state and federal elections, contrasting with more conservative-leaning voters in rural areas of the county.

History

1890s

Bremerton was platted by German immigrant-turned-Seattle entrepreneur William Bremer in 1891. Three years earlier, a U.S. Navy commission determined that Point Turner, between the protected waters of Sinclair and Dyes inlets, would be the best site in the Pacific Northwest on which to establish a shipyard. Recognizing the large number of workers such a facility would employ, Bremer and his business partner, Henry Hensel, purchased the then-undeveloped land near Point Turner at the inflated price of $200 per acre. In April 1891, Bremer sold 190 acres (0.77 km2) to the Navy at $50 per acre. This land became part of the initial footprint of the Puget Sound Navy Yard.

1900-1930

Bremerton was officially incorporated on October 15, 1901 with Alvyn Croxton serving as the city's first mayor. Progress in the new city soon faced a major crisis, as Navy Secretary Charles Darling moved all repair work to the Mare Island Navy Yard in California in November 1902. Darling cited reports from commanders that the Bremerton waterfront was rife with prostitution, opium houses and frequent strongarmed robberies of sailors. Politics were probably also at play, as local newspapers reported that the city's incorporation left the shipyard essentially landlocked without room to expand. A dispute ensued between Mayor Croxton, who wanted to shutter all saloons in Bremerton, and three members of the city council, who attempted to block his efforts. Croxton eventually won out and the council voted to revoke all liquor licenses in June 1904. With the ban, Darling reestablished the navy yard as a port of call. Saloons had begun to return to business within two years, however.

In 1908, the city library and Union High School were established to serve the educational needs of the 2,993 residents recorded in the 1910 U.S. Census. During World War I, submarine construction and the addition of a third drydock caused the shipyard's workforce to balloon to over 4,000 employees. Growth due to the war effort and the 1918 annexation of the city of Manette, east of Bremerton on the Port Washington Narrows, can be seen in the 1920 census, which reported a population of 8,918. Bremerton absorbed Charleston, its neighboring city to the south in 1927. Population reached 10,170 in 1930.

1930s

Manette was linked to Bremerton by the Manette Bridge, a 1,573-foot (479 m) bridge constructed in June 1930. Prior to this time, the trip could only be made by ferry or a long trip around Dyes Inlet through Chico, Silverdale and Tracyton on mostly unimproved roads. This wooden bridge was replaced with the present concrete and steel version in October 1949. At the shipyard, the 250-foot (76 m) tall Hammerhead Crane No. 28 was completed in April 1933. One of the nation's largest, it is capable of lifting 250 tons and continues to dominate the Bremerton skyline.

1940s

At the peak of World War II, the Bremerton area was home to an estimated 80,000 residents due to the heavy workload of shipbuilding, repair and maintenance required for the Pacific war effort. Most of the relocation was temporary, though, and only 27,678 citizens were left in the city by 1950. During the 1940s, presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman both visited Bremerton. Roosevelt made a campaign stop at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in August 1944, giving a national radio address in front of a backdrop of civilian workers. During the course of his 35-minute speech, it is believed the president suffered an angina attack, experiencing severe chest and shoulder pain. An electrocardiogram was immediately administered once he left the podium but it showed nothing abnormal. President Truman took a two-day tour of Washington state in 1948, speaking from the balcony of the Elks Club on the morning of June 10. Local legend has it that a man in the large Pacific Avenue crowd yelled the infamous "Give 'em hell, Harry" line for the first time. This is a matter of dispute, however, as local newspapers quoted the man as having shouted "Lay it on, Harry." Despite this, there is a bronze plaque attached to the corner of the building declaring that exact spot to be the place where the phrase "Give 'em hell, Harry" was first uttered. With the return of World War II GIs to the homefront, the need for post-secondary education became evident to officials of the Bremerton School District. Olympic Junior College (now Olympic College), a two-year institution, opened its doors to 575 students in the Fall of 1946. Initially, it operated in the former Lincoln School building, gradually moving operations to World War II-surplus quonset buildings at its current 16th & Chester site. About 100 students received associate's degrees at the first commencement exercises held June 10, 1948. President Truman was in attendance and received the college's first honorary degree. Operation of the college transferred from the school district to the State of Washington in 1967.

1950-1970

On the whole, the 1950s and 1960s were a period of stability for the city. A second high school opened in 1954 and two comprehensive high schools operated in the city until 1978. Growth in East Bremerton necessitated the construction of another span across the Port Washington Narrows in 1958. The $5.3 million, four-lane Warren Avenue Bridge allowed for increased traffic on State Highway 21-B (now State Route 303).

The battleship USS Missouri, site of the Japanese surrender treaty signing that ended World War II, was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at PSNS in 1955. For 30 years, she served as the city's primary tourist attraction. Hundreds of thousands of visitors walked the "surrender deck," before the ship was recommissioned in 1985.

Population growth was flat with 26,681 enumerated in the 1960 census, leading Bremerton leaders to annex the shipyard the following year in an effort to include stationed sailors in those figures. While the Vietnam War spawned protests and sit-ins on the Olympic College campus, the city was relatively free of civil disorder during the 1960s.

1970s

With the 1973 selection of the Bangor Ammunition Depot 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Bremerton as the Pacific home of the new Trident submarine fleet, residential and commercial development began to move closer to Silverdale and farther from the Bremerton downtown core. Numerous failed proposals were made at redevelopment beginning in the early 1970s, including discussions of a waterfront hotel and the erection of a large canopy over the central business district. Meanwhile, most of the city's office and retail space remained in the hands of Edward Bremer, son of William Bremer and the sole remaining heir to his wealth. (In order to receive their inheritance, William Bremer's three children were honor-bound to never marry.) Bremer began to neglect his properties, never increasing decades-old lease rates and failing to make necessary maintenance upgrades. In 1978, the Bremerton City Council passed an ordinance declaring the entire downtown a "blighted area."

1980s

In 1985, Safeco-subsidiary Winmar Corporation developed the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale. With lower taxes and minimal planning regulations in the unincorporated town, Silverdale achieved virtually unfettered growth. Sears, J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, Nordstrom Place Two, Woolworth and Rite Aid all closed their downtown Bremerton stores in the 1980s and '90s. Upon the death of Edward Bremer in 1987, the Bremer properties were placed under the complete control of a trust held by Olympic College. Not being in the real-estate business, the college did not actively market its holdings and the downtown was composed almost entirely of very large empty storefronts. As of 2009, many buildings remain vacant.

1990-present

In recent years Bremerton has seen its share of community setbacks. Like many other West Coast cities, Bremerton was also not immune to the influx of street gangs, methamphetamine and violent crime, including a 1993 incident in which a crowd of nearly 40 gang members surrounded a Bremerton police officer's patrol car. A police dog was shot and killed after only three months on the city's force in 2001 -- his replacement was forcibly drowned by a fleeing suspect in 2004. Bremerton school teachers were pitted against their district's administration for nearly a month in September 1994 during a contentious strike. Four elderly residents were killed in an enormous three-alarm fire that destroyed the 165-unit Kona Village apartment complex in November 1997. Damages were estimated at $7.5 million. A replacement senior apartment building has since been built.

Despite a hard-fought battle throughout the Mid-1990s by local politicians to have the decommissioned and mothballed USS Missouri, already in the Bremerton Navy Yard, stay in Bremerton as a museum ship and tourist attraction. Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton, awarded the ship to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, HI in 1998. It now sits near the USS Arizona memorial to demonstrate where U.S. involvement in World War II started on December 7, 1941, and where it ended by the signing of the Peace Treaty by the Japanese onboard the USS Missouri, on September 2, 1945.

Beginning with the building of a Waterfront Boardwalk and Marina in 1992, Bremerton had begun the process of revitalizing its downtown community. That same year, the Bremerton Historic Ships Association opened the destroyer USS Turner Joy (DD-951) to public tours at the end of the boardwalk; the ship was built in the Puget Sound area in 1958, commissioned in 1959 and had played a back-up role in the alleged 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Incident that further escalated U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War with the Congressional passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, allowing President Lyndon B. Johnson to send fighting troops in addition to the "advisors" already on the ground in Vietnam.

In 2000, Bremerton saw the opening of the waterfront multimodal bus/ferry terminal and a hotel/conference center complex in 2004. The high-rise Norm Dicks Government Center also opened that same year, housing City Hall and other government offices. The Waterfront Fountain Park and Naval History Museum adjacent to the Bremerton Bus/Ferry Terminal opened in 2007, and a newly expanded marina with more boat capacity was completed in 2008. Plans to build an extension to the current boardwalk from the USS Turner Joy to Evergreen Park is in the litigation stage. Even though the boardwalk extension project is fully funded, opposition to the extension by the Suquamish Indian tribe concerning the impact to their fishing rights threatens the project, however. Condominiums have been built on the downtown waterfront to lure more people to live and shop in the downtown area as part of the revitalization effort. A new hotel is currently under construction on the site of the old City Hall building made obsolete by the new Norm Dicks Government Building.

A tunnel underneath downtown, traversing from the ferry terminal to Highway 304 (Burwell Street), has been newly opened that allows for a smoother egress for vehicles exiting the car ferry and make for a more pedestrian friendly downtown. A new fountain park above the tunnel blends water and art, along with the bow of a ship and the conning tower of a submarine as a tribute to the workers at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard over the years. The stations along the walk include pictures of the shipyard, workers, and shipbuilding and repair statistics.

Every fall since 1990, The Blackberry Festival has taken place over a 3-day weekend on the waterfront boardwalk to celebrate everything Blackberry. Local residents, shopkeepers and growers bring their Blackberry ice creams, pastries, pies, jams, jellies, candies, and even ciders and wines to this annual event. Free entertainment includes music by local musicians and entertainers performing throughout the three day festival, the Berry Fun Run and the Blackberry Criterium Bike Race. Bremerton National Airport sponsors the annual Blackberry Festival Fly-In with shuttle service provided by Kitsap Transit to the festival. As the Festival's background story goes, the downtown waterfront of Bremerton where the festival takes place, was a massive overgrowth of wild blackberry bushes that were removed to build the waterfront Fountain Park, Boardwalk, Marina and Bus/Ferry Terminal.

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 37,259 people, 15,096 households, and 8,468 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,644.2 people per square mile (634.9/km²). There were 16,631 housing units at an average density of 733.9/sq mi (283.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.97% White, 7.50% African American, 1.95% Native American, 5.53% Asian, 0.93% Pacific Islander, 2.57% from other races, and 6.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.59% of the population.

There were 15,096 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.9% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.5% under the age of 18, 15.5% from 18 to 24, 30.3% from 25 to 44, 17.2% from 45 to 64, and 12.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,950, and the median income for a family was $36,358. Males had a median income of $28,320 versus $23,523 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,724. About 16.0% of families and 19.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.7% of those under age 18 and 11.4% of those age 65 or over.

Based on per capita income, one of the more reliable measures of affluence, Bremerton ranks 341st of 522 areas in the state of Washington to be ranked. Because of the military base Bremerton's demographics are extremely diverse.

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