Port of Silverdale is created by special election on April 13, 1920.

  • By Catherine Hinchliff
  • Posted 1/09/2011
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 9628
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On April 13, 1920, the Port of Silverdale is formed by a citizen vote in a special election. Silverdale is an unincorporated community in Kitsap County located on the northern tip of the Dyes Inlet on the Kitsap Peninsula. The port will serve boats and will ease the transportation of people and goods to and from Silverdale. The port will lie dormant from 1950 until 1965, but it will revive and provide Old Town Silverdale with a beautiful park, a boat launch, fixed pier, and transient boat moorage floating docks. In the twenty-first century, the port will focus on economic development of Old Town Silverdale.

From Logging to Farming

Silverdale, a community of about 15,000, lies about seven miles north of Bremerton. Loggers first came to the area in 1854, beginning their operations on the shoreline and then moving  inland. They lived in floating bunkhouses moored along the shoreline. Scandinavian immigrants, the first permanent settlers to Silverdale, arrived in the 1880s. The new settlers pulled and burned stumps left by loggers and started farms. In 1887, Silverdale farmers formed the Farmer’s Cooperative and sold their surplus crops, as well as eggs, chickens, and milk, to Bremerton and Seattle markets. They relied on the Silverdale wharf and dock and the burgeoning Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet (privately owned steamers so numerous that they were said to "swarm") to transport their crops.

The community grew around the wharf and by 1920 featured the Silverdale State Bank, hotels, and stores. The Bremerton News noted on April 7, 1920, that Silverdale would soon have a drugstore and a bakery. With the formation of a Silverdale Port District, the community could continue to grow.

Port of Silverdale District  

In 1911, Washington State Legislature passed the Port District Act. The act authorized voters to establish port districts to acquire, construct, improve, and operate harbor facilities. Port districts could levy taxes and issue bonds, and port-owned property was exempt from taxation. 

In early 1920, Silverdale residents concluded that a publicly managed wharf would best serve the needs of the growing community -- especially those who made their livelihoods sending goods to Bremerton and Seattle. They drafted a proposal and filed a petition with the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners to create a Port District at Silverdale. On March 17, 1920, the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners accepted the petition and announced that Silverdale voters would decide on the port proposal in a special election on April 13, 1920. The commissioners appointed M. Thueson as elections inspector and F. B. Bourg and Mrs. A. D. Bartlett as judges of the election.   

On April 13, 1920, Silverdale residents voted in favor of establishing a port district to be known as “Port of Silverdale.” The proposal passed with a vote of 138 in favor and 16 opposed. Silverdale residents also elected three port commissioners: Thor Hagener of District No. 1, C. E. Greaves of District No. 2, and Guyl McCollum of District No. 3.

Improvements on the Waterfront  

Prior to the establishment of the Port of Silverdale, the Silverdale wharf had been run by the Silverdale Poultry Association. In October 1921, port commissioners formally took over the operation of the wharf. Around the same time, the Port of Silverdale also took over the Silverdale Cooperative Association Dock.

Upon taking over the wharf and dock, the port became the destination point for boats that ferried people and goods around Kitsap County and to Seattle. Employees of the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Bremerton traveled to and from work by boat. Silverdale farmers also used the port to export eggs, chickens, and milk and to import feed. 

Dormancy and Reinvigoration

During the 1920s and in the decades following, the area around the Silverdale Cooperative Association Dock had served as the commercial center of the community. During the 1950s and 1960s, driving on the main Bremerton-to-Poulsbo highway became the primary means of transportation from Bremerton to Silverdale and Silverdale’s shopping district moved away from the waterway and toward the highway.

As a result of this shift, the Port of Silverdale lay dormant from 1950 until 1965. In the 1960s, the old dock fell into disuse and disrepair.  In April 1965, three new commissioners, John “Buz” Riplinger, Bud Frazier, and George Harrison, re-established the Port of Silverdale. In in March 1966, George Harrison resigned and Olaf Svenson was assigned in his place. The new commissioners concluded that they should expand the function of the Port from operating trade and water-related transportation facilities to also promoting industrial, recreational, and rail and airport transportation activities.

The Port acquired new waterfront property to the east of the old dock and, in partnership with the Rotary Club, repaired and extended a concrete boat launching ramp. The Port set aside $500 for concrete and the Rotary Club hosted a working party on May 7, 1966, during an extreme low tide. In May 1966, the Port treasury had $6,000, which the commissioners planned to use on worthwhile projects such as the boat launching ramp and additional paved parking space.

By 1979, the Port of Silverdale owned and maintained this launching ramp along with 450 feet of waterfront property and one residential house. The commissioners had reinvigorated the Port and hoped to improve Old Town Silverdale by using their land to develop a waterfront park and to serve local recreational and pleasure boat needs. During this time the Port commissioners also explored the possibility of adding an airport or industrial properties to the port, but never added these features. 

County Waterfront Park

In their cooperation with the Rotary Club, the Port commissioners became interested in developing a waterfront park for Silverdale. At the same time, Kitsap County, which owned land to the west of the Port’s property, had expressed a desire to develop its land into a park. In 1976, the County and the Port came to an interlocal agreement to jointly obtain development funds to build and maintain a public park and a recreational moorage facility. In February 1980, the Port of Silverdale received $8,214 from the state Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation as a first payment for the new waterfront park. Though the total cost of the park would be $162,500, the U.S. Defense Department had agreed to pay $121,875 to the Port to mitigate the impact of the construction of the Trident Submarine Base in nearby Bangor.

In order to give the waterfront park a home, the Port and the County actually agreed to swap their waterfront properties in 1984. This enabled the County to spearhead development of the park and the Port the opportunity to build a fixed pier and transient moorage facilities for visiting pleasure boats. The Port partly funded the project through a $100,000 bond issued in 1986, payable in semi-annual $10,000 increments through 1991. The new dock's final inspection occurred in March 1988.

Into the Twenty-first Century

After completing the pier and park project with the help of Kitsap County in the late 1980s, the Port of Silverdale continued to add amenities to its property for recreational and pleasure boating use. In 1993, the Port developed a large boat launch to the west of the pier as well as a parking area for boat trailers and vehicles. In 2001, the Port acquired more property. And from 2003 to 2005, the Port, as part of a joint Port-County project, updated the restroom facilities, added shower and laundry facilities for boaters, and enhanced the boat trailer parking area.   

In April 2010, the Port of Silverdale made news after commissioners refused to allow a 9/11 monument to be placed on port property. (The monument would have commemorated the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, in New York City and Washington D.C.) Although they were in favor of the monument, the commissioners concluded that the Port of Silverdale was not the appropriate place for a 9/11 monument.

In October 2010, the Port acquired wetlands and tidelands west of its boat launch. It intends to install a kayak launch to the west of the wetlands. In addition to the wetlands property, the Port of Silverdale owns three parcels of land that support boat parking, restrooms, and a lawn. They also own four unpaved lots, and six more lots that contain former residences converted to commercial uses. Together these lots total 2.98 acres. On the water, the Port’s transient mooring docks provide 1,300 linear feet of berthing. 

The Port’s primary goal for the future is to attract residents of Silverdale and the surrounding areas, as well as tourists to the community’s Old Town neighborhood. By creating a pleasant waterfront to visit by boat or by foot, the Port hopes to attract visitors to nearby businesses. In its Comprehensive Plan, the Port proposed creating mixed-use buildings to further promote the local economy. However, as most of the businesses in Silverdale are service-based, the Port will not pursue industrial development.


Brynn Grimley, “Silverdale Port Says No to Proposed 9/11 Monument,” Kitsap Sun, April 16, 2010 (http://www.kitsapsun.com); Grimley, “Old Town Silverdale Loses Chief Watchman,” Ibid., December 2, 2008; Grimley, “New Buildings Seen as Boost for Old Town Silverdale,” Ibid., September 30, 2007; Michael Wagar, “Silverdale: Port Chief: We Need More Parks,” Ibid., January 29, 1999; “Silverdale Park OK’d for Boat Ramp, Lot Paving,” Ibid., December 14, 1992 ; “Port of Silverdale Gets Grant for District’s Waterfront Park,” The Seattle Times, February 7, 1980, p. G-2; “F.A.A. Approves Funds for Study,” Ibid., February 20, 1975, p. E-3; “Port Takes Over Wharf,” Ibid., October 6, 1921, p. 11; “Port of Silverdale Meets Thursday Night,” Silverdale Breeze, April 27, 1966, p. 1; “Building Boom is Felt at Silverdale,” Bremerton News, April 7, 1920, p. 10; “Silverdale Will Vote on Port Proposal Next Month: April 13 is Date of Special Election Set by County Commissioners,” Bremerton News, March 19, 1920, p. 1; Paula M. Craig, The Early History of Silverdale (Silverdale: the Friends of Ray M. Hess Memorial Library of Silverdale, 1974); Frank G. Hopkins Jr., Port Auditor, Special Purpose District Annual Statement, RCW 36.96.090, Port of Silverdale (December 27, 1979), Port of Silverdale records; Port of Silverdale, “Silverdale Port Commissioners 1920-2009,” Port of Silverdale records; Port of Silverdale, Port of Silverdale Comprehensive Plan, Port of Silverdale website accessed October 28, 2010 (http://www.portofsilverdale.com); HistoryLink.org Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History, “Kitsap County -- Thumbnail History,” (by David Wilma), "Puget Sound’s Mosquito Fleet" (by Larry E. Johnson), and “Washington Public Port Districts -- Part 1” (by Kit Oldham) http://www.historylink.org (accessed October 28, 2010); “Silverdale Heritage,” Silverdale website accessed October 28, 2010 (http://www.silverdale.net/heritage/index.htm); Phil Best, email to Catherine Hinchliff, October 28, 2010, in possession of Catherine Hinchliff, Seattle, Washington.

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