Little is left of Bainbridge Island's Puget Sound Naval Academy. The academy was housed in the stuctures that now house Messenger House, an elder care facility. The facility began in 1906 as Chataquas Resort community. It was later purchased by Frank Moran – son of Robert Moran, a shipbuilder and former Mayor of Seattle. It became the Moran School in 1914 and for two decades it educated the sons of Seatlle's leading families. After falling into financial straits during the Great Depression, the school was purchased by Joseph A. Hill, for back taxes amounting to $5,000. Hill opened the Puget Sound Naval Academy there in 1939 and stood as its first president in addition to Hill Military Academy in Porland, Oregon. The Bainbridge school lasted until 1951 preparing young men for leadership positions in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
Predating the Messenger House Care Center founded in 1960, the buildings became the Stonehall Rehabilitative Center, advertising salt air and physical therapy for those with crippling diseases. While Messenger house occupies much of the remaining structures, the four-story theater building has been left for the most part un-occupied. It has fallen into disrepair. In 2010, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation listed the building as one of the "10 Most Endangered Historic Properties for 2010."
Across the few miles of Puget Sound lay the Seattle skyline, poking into low-lying clouds, the old Smith Tower now no longer the tallest building. Ahead the road rose away from the beach front, twisting sharply to the left. […]
He rounded the bend, as if it were yesterday, instantly recognizing the surroundings. […]
Houses, mostly new, a few familiar, moved quietly by. He waited anxiously for the final turn directly ahead. As the nose of the Buick rounded the bend, there was… the academy?
Where were the tall white wooden columns which held the heavy crossbar? And the huge white mailbox where the postman delivered his letters and packages filled with those delicious treats from home? And even the road wasn't right. He stopped the car, shut off the engine and got out. Then he realized what was wrong; there was no drill field. A long row of houses, flanked by shrubbery, blocked the view of the sound. […]
The old flagpole no longer stood at the far end of the property. He looked up at the building once called the "U.S.S. Bainbridge," or "Bainbridge Hall." On the top left side were the windows of the room he and Eddie shared. The building looked deserted now, yet the front door was open. He walked over and stepped inside.
"Hello? Anyone home?"
A workman stepped from what had been the superintendent's office. "Help you?"
"Oh, I just wanted to look around a bit, if it's alright. I used to go to school here. I won't get in the way or anything."
"I guess it'll be alright. Excuse the mess, we use it for a storage building now, y'know. Go ahead."
Charlie looked in the opposite office where he'd gathered his share of demerits at Captain's Mast. He walked into the auditorium and looked at the sloping floor leading to the stage. All the seats were gone but even so, how small it seemed now.
Walking back out he climbed the steps to the first landing. On the wall a black piece of wood was all that remained of the pay telephone. […]
He sighed and mounted the next few steps to where a big red machine once held ice -cold Cokes. Of course, it too was gone. The ship's store, where he'd bought paste, shoe polish, paper, pencils, ties, hats, Scotch Tape, Wildroot Crème Oil and those precious rate patches… empty.
On the next floor he wandered through the deserted school rooms. They, too, seemed much smaller than he remembered them. […]
Climbing the back ladders, he remembered with each step how often he'd swept, swabbed and polished them. […]
He walked slowly up the passageway. […] He went into room 13 which he shared with Ken. It was tiny! […]
He looked out the windows, the old ropes still holding onto heavy iron counterweights. The trees had grown huge, blocking the view of the old drill field. […]
Everything was so different … yet so familiar.
He walked down the front ladders, which had been available to him only as an officer, past the school deck, past the old ship's store, past the telephone and down to the bottom floor again. He stuck his head in the office
"I'm done now. And thanks a lot."[…]
Excerpted from Charles W. Lindenberg's novel, The Academy, a true account of his experiences at the Puget Sound Naval Academy, published in 1998 by Morris Publishing, Kearney, NE. Mr. Lindenberg now lives in the San Juan Islands.