Tag Archives: Fort Steilacoom

Around Waughop Lake, with birds and flowers

It’s 60 degrees outside!  And the sun is shining!

Naturally, I went for a walk.

Waughop Lake is part of Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood, Washington.  It used to be a farm for the mental hospital across the road, where the patients doing farm work was considered therapy back in the old days.  Nowadays it’s a city park, with soccer fields and a bark park (as my sister calls off-leash areas) and trails.  And an old cemetery managed by a wonderful group called Grave Concerns.

Waughop Lake is not a Native American name, even though it sounds like it ought to be, at least to me.  It’s named after a former superintendent of the mental hospital.

Anyway, it was a lovely spring day, and my new camera lets me take much better photos than my old one.  So here’s some of what I saw.

A view across Waughop Lake from the miniature boat area (they have races there in the summertime).
A view across Waughop Lake from the miniature boat launching area (they have races there in the summertime).
Ducks. Mallards, although the angle of the sun makes it harder to see their coloration.
Ducks. Mallards, although the angle of the sun makes it harder to see their coloration.
Canada geese are ubiquitous around here.
Canada geese are ubiquitous around here.
You may remember a recent photo I posted of some Glory of the Snow in my garden. These (and lots more) were growing in the grass near the lake. Back in the day, the wife of one of the former superintendents landscaped the area around the lake. It's mostly gone back wild, but some of the non-natives still grow and thrive there.
You may remember a recent photo I posted of some Glory of the Snow in my garden. These (and lots more) were growing in the grass near the lake. Back in the day, the wife of one of the former superintendents landscaped the area around the lake. It’s mostly gone back wild, but some of the non-natives still grow and thrive there.
I'm not positive what this is. I've heard them called coots. They're all over the place around water in this part of the world. Salt and fresh.
I’m not positive what this is. I’ve heard them called coots. They’re all over the place around water in this part of the world. Salt and fresh.  ETA:  According to my birder friend Katrina, this is an American Coot.
Forsythia, a non-native, but gloriously sunshine yellow.
Forsythia, a non-native, but gloriously sunshine yellow.
I'm not sure what kind of bird this is, but there's no way I'd ever have been able to take a photo like this with my old camera.
I’m not sure what kind of bird this is, but there’s no way I’d ever have been able to take a photo like this with my old camera.  ETA:  Same source, Downy Woodpecker.
Plum blossom. Everybody and his cousin has a pink or a white ornamental plum in his or her yard here.
Plum blossom. Everybody and his cousin has a pink or a white ornamental plum in his or her yard here.
Not sure what this little guy is, either. The only reason I noticed him was because the closer I got to him the louder his chirps got.
Not sure what this little guy is, either. The only reason I noticed him was because the closer I got to him the louder his chirps got.  ETA:  And this little dude is a Song Sparrow.
The pussy willows are just about done already. But they're so pretty.
The pussy willows are just about done already. But they’re so pretty.
A view back towards where I took the first photo, from the opposite side of the lake.
A view back towards where I took the first photo, from the opposite side of the lake.

And that was my walk at Waughop Lake.

Welcome to my exhibit!

Well, actually, to the Lakewood Historical Society’s new exhibit, which I researched, designed, created, and installed (in my other life as a freelance museum curator), about Lakewood’s long and deep connection with the military, from Fort Steilacoom in the mid-1800s, through Camp, later Fort, Lewis and McChord Air Force base, and on to what is now called Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  Anyway, here are some photos of the exhibit, which I finished installing today, and which opens on Saturday. Do forgive the photography.  Using a flash in the museum is not a good idea, and I obviously need to buy a tripod.

The introductory panel.
The introductory panel, with two photos of the main gate at Fort Lewis, one not long after it was built during WWI, and the other as it is now.
The first exhibit case, including a Civil War era forage cap from Fort Steilacoom, and a WWI era bugle from Camp Lewis.
The first exhibit case, including a Civil War era forage cap from Fort Steilacoom on the right, and a WWI era hat and bugle from Camp Lewis.
The panel about Fort Steilacoom and the early maneuvers in the Lakewood area.
The panel about Fort Steilacoom and the early maneuvers in the Lakewood area.
A timeline panel, a couple of photo panels, and the panel about Camp Lewis.
A timeline panel, a few photo panels, and the panel about Camp Lewis.
Another timeline and more photos.  The panel in the upper lefthand corner is a reproduction of WWII-era "smileage coupons" purchased by civilians, given to soldiers, who could redeem them for movie tickets, food, and other non-necessities.
Another timeline and more photos. The panel in the upper lefthand corner is a reproduction of WWII-era “smileage coupons” purchased by civilians, given to soldiers, who could redeem them for movie tickets, food, and other non-necessities.
The other exhibit case, full of commemorative regimental coins and a plaque with a replica Stryker vehicle from Lakewood's community connector program.
The other exhibit case, full of commemorative regimental coins and a plaque with a replica Stryker vehicle from Lakewood’s community connector program. Oh, and three sets of dog tags. One from WWI, one from WWII, and one from Vietnam, all from local soldiers.
And more photo panels as well as the panel telling about JBLM and the community connector program.
And more photo panels as well as the panel telling about JBLM and the community connector program, which connects local communities with specific military units as a mutual support program.

If you are in the vicinity (here is the link to the Lakewood Historical Society’s website) between noon and two o’clock on Saturday afternoon, May 3rd, for the grand opening, we’d love to see you there.  And if you can’t make it then, the exhibit will be open to the public until next spring — the museum’s hours are noon to four, Wednesday through Saturday.

A day at the mental hospital

No, this entry isn’t at all what you think it’s going to be.

The Heritage League of Pierce County, Washington, holds an annual outing for its members every summer, in which we (I’m a member of the board) showcase one or more of our members’ museums or other facilities.  In this case, three closely-related organizations.

At one end of Fort Steilacoom (STILL-a-come) Park in the city of Lakewood, which used to be part of the grounds of what was once called the Washington State Insane Asylum, now Western State Hospital and one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S., is a cemetery, where the remains of over 3000 early inmates and some staff members of one of the oldest facilities for the mentally ill west of the Mississippi are buried.  For many, many years, these graves were only marked with a number, and the records of who was buried where were kept private because of the stigma of mental illness.  In 2000, concerned citizens formed Grave Concerns, a group which eventually got state law changed so that these graves could have proper headstones with the proper information on them, and started raising the money to replace the old numbered gravestones.  They’ve made a lot of progress, and we spent an hour or so being taken by Laurel Lemke, the current president of Grave Concerns, on a tour of the cemetery, in a beautiful spot sprinkled with trees, between rolling hills.

After a picnic lunch in Fort Steilacoom Park, we crossed Steilacoom Blvd. to the current hospital grounds, where we met with Kathleen Benoun, who runs the Western State Hospital Museum, in the basement of the main building.  Because of its location, the museum is open only by appointment, but it’s well worth the trouble to call and make one.  The history of mental illness and its treatment is, in equal parts, scary and fascinating.  Some of the equipment, housed in the museum, for these so-called treatments is enough to give a person nightmares.  But seeing how the treatment of the mentally ill has changed over the last almost 150 years is heartening, too.

The hospital has a long history for this part of the world.  It opened its doors in 1871, the same year that our first national park, Yellowstone, was created.  It’s had a few famous patients over the years.  The most famous, or infamous, was Frances Farmer, the actress whose story was immortalized in the movie Frances, starring Jessica Lange.  The museum devotes a whole room (albeit a small one) to her.

The museum itself is housed in a few of the old treatment rooms, which definitely gives an air of authenticity to the whole place, especially with the echoing tile walls.

The third museum of the day was historic Fort Steilacoom itself, first built and manned as a defense against Indians in the 1850s.  It was decommissioned in 1868, and the land and buildings given over to what is now Western State Hospital, but several of the fort’s original buildings still survive on the grounds.  It’s open on weekends in the summer, staffed by volunteer re-enactor docents, and is also well worth a visit all on its own.  The main building houses exhibits as well as an enormous diorama depicting the fort in its heyday, and several of the smaller buildings are furnished as they would have been originally.

And that was my day at the state psychiatric hospital (to use the modern and more appropriate term).  I highly recommend a visit there for anyone.  Just be sure to make that appointment to see the hospital’s museum ahead of time.