Strong winds topple historic barn at Fort Steilacoom Park

Staff writerFebruary 12, 2014 

The collapsed ruin of one of one of the barns at Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood drew a steady stream of curious on-lookers Wednesday.

DEAN J. KOEPFLER — Staff Photographer Buy Photo

The crumbled peak of a moss-covered roof is all that’s left of a century-old barn at Fort Steilacoom Park’s eastern edge after strong winds ripped through the region early Wednesday morning.

It was one of six barns and a shed located on the eastern edge of the park near Waughop Lake.

“It’s been through earthquakes, wind storms and this was the final one that brought it down,” said Lakewood Parks, Recreation and Community Services director Mary Dodsworth.

“It’s probably our most fragile barn. It’s not one that’s had restoration done.”

Winds up to 30 miles per hour were reported early Wednesday morning and gusts reached 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

The gusts were strong enough to knock down the structure, one of eight built when patients from Western State Hospital farmed the land as a form of therapy. Many were built more than 100 years ago.

Beyond boarding its windows and doors and periodically checking on it, the city had left the decaying barn alone because it “wasn’t a usable resource,” Dodsworth said. There was no equipment inside at the time of its collapse.

Pierce County previously leased the 340-acre park from the state but the city of Lakewood was in charge of maintenance. The city assumed control of the park from the state last month. The state owns the land and its historic barns.

Twelve years ago the county and city put new roofs on three barns to keep them from falling into disrepair, Dodsworth said. The barn that fell overnight was not among those that got a new roof.

On Wednesday, the city fenced off the area around the barn and is asking people to stay away from the rubble. The city will remove the debris soon and will look at what can be reused or saved for historic purposes, Dodsworth said. It will leave the slab foundation.

The city knows restoration work is needed for the remaining barns, but it has no plans to inspect them or do major improvements, she said.

“We do as much restoration and preservation as we can with the resources we have available,” Dodsworth said. “We’ve done what we can to restore those facilities.”

Strong winds also knocked out power to thousands across the region Wednesday morning, prompting the Puyallup School District to impose a two-hour delay at Pope and Edgerton elementary schools. Downed power lines and trees also slowed the morning commute along state Route 410 between Enumclaw and Greenwater.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467

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