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SPU offers a rare open house at Camp Casey

Broad View Elementary School third grader Beatriz Mosquera, 9, holds up a giant sea cucumber at Camp Casey Conference Center’s Sea Lab.  - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Broad View Elementary School third grader Beatriz Mosquera, 9, holds up a giant sea cucumber at Camp Casey Conference Center’s Sea Lab.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

Hoping to create a big splash with the seasonal opening of the Camp Casey Conference Center pool, Seattle Pacific University will crack its doors this month and afford the public with a rare glimpse of one of the historic site’s oldest treasurers.

On Friday, June 18, camp officials will conduct three scheduled tours of the Colonel’s House, one of three officer quarters buildings still remaining at the historic U.S. Army Base. The home has for years been reserved for use by high-ranking university officials.

“We thought it would be fun to sneak a peak of the Colonel’s House,” said Robyn Wynn, manager of conference services and the Fort Casey Inn. “People are always trying to sneak a peak.”

The fort, opened in 1890, was named after Brig. Gen. Thomas Lincoln Casey, the last Army chief of engineers, according to Camp Casey’s website. It was built to form one point in a “triangle of fire” designed to protect Admiralty Inlet, the entrance to Puget Sound. With its 10-inch guns, the fort would coordinate fire with Fort Worden and Flagler.

By 1920, the fort was the fourth largest in the state, with 10 officers and 428 enlisted men. Changes in warfare, mainly the development of the airplane, made the base obsolete and it was declared surplus in the 1950s.

The portion of the fort overlooking Puget Sound became a state park, while the university purchased the northern portion, which included officers’ housing, barracks, and storage buildings. Except for a few buildings leased by the Coupeville School District for its Cedar Program, the facility has been primarily used as a conference center for the university and nonprofit organizations.

But while it’s utilized by about 300 groups a year, ranging from local schools to seasonal soccer camps, people in Central Whidbey still know little about the facility, site manager Darrell Jacobsen said.

“It seems like nobody really knows who we are or what we do,” he said.

For example, the university has operated an educational Sea Lab since 1960. Although it’s not open to the public, it’s frequented by schools from all over Puget Sound. Earlier this month, it was visited by two third-grade classes from Oak Harbor’s Broad View Elementary School.

The university has decided to open the facility to the public on Fridays, beginning June 18, from 2 to 3 p.m. It will share the same open dates and admission costs as the pool, which closes on Labor Day.

Along with the open house, the university will also be having a surplus sale. Items ranging from 1940s-era military wardrobe lockers to vintage office and classroom furniture will for sale. For more information, call conference services at 678-5050.

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