Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Kaiser Shipyards Exhibit Opens at Pearson Air Museum

The National Park Service at Fort Vancouver, the City of Vancouver, and the Clark County Historical Museum announce the opening of a free new exhibit about the extraordinary history of Vancouver’s Kaiser Shipyard. The exhibit will open at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. 5th St. in Vancouver, in the Fort Vancouver Historic Reserve.

The exhibit will include historic objects—archaeological artifacts recovered from the site, which workers used on a daily basis—as well as reproductions of historic photos and documents in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection. A model of the USS Gambier Bay, one of the “baby flat tops” built in the Vancouver Yard (and the only U.S. Navy carrier sunk by enemy surface vessels) will also be on display.

Also premiering is a 13-minute-long documentary produced by Clark/Vancouver Television, which chronicles the history and legacy of the shipyards through interviews with former shipyard workers and local historians, along with photographs and film archives. The video will be shown in the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum, and will be available for viewing on request in the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center.

Kaiser Shipyards Exhibit Opens at Pearson Air Museum

The National Park Service at Fort Vancouver, the City of Vancouver, and the Clark County Historical Museum announce the opening of a free new exhibit about the extraordinary history of Vancouver’s Kaiser Shipyard. The exhibit will open at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 28, at Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. 5th St. in Vancouver, in the Fort Vancouver Historic Reserve.

The exhibit will include historic objects—archaeological artifacts recovered from the site, which workers used on a daily basis—as well as reproductions of historic photos and documents in the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site museum collection. A model of the USS Gambier Bay, one of the “baby flat tops” built in the Vancouver Yard (and the only U.S. Navy carrier sunk by enemy surface vessels) will also be on display.

Also premiering is a 13-minute-long documentary produced by Clark/Vancouver Television, which chronicles the history and legacy of the shipyards through interviews with former shipyard workers and local historians, along with photographs and film archives. The video will be shown in the Tex Rankin Theater at Pearson Air Museum, and will be available for viewing on request in the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center.

About the shipyards:

When the United States entered World War II, the Allies were in need of ships…fast! The US Maritime Commission hired several contractors to construct the ships needed to win the war. Among them was Henry J. Kaiser, a bold American entrepreneur. That spring, he built three yards in the Portland-Vancouver area.

At the 400-acre Vancouver Yard on the Columbia River waterfront, construction moved at a rapid pace, operating around the clock and setting production records. By war’s end, the Vancouver Yard had launched 10 Liberty Ships, 30 landing craft, 50 escort carriers, 31 attack transports, 12 C-4 troopships, and 8 C-4 cargo vessels.

The shipyards offered new employment opportunities to those in the local area, many of whom had never worked before, and recruited people from other parts of the United States. Kaiser’s endeavor transformed Vancouver almost overnight. The city’s population tripled and diversified, new neighborhoods and support services were built to meet their needs, and new technologies revolutionized local businesses.

Youth Volunteers’ Open House at Fort Vancouver

On Saturday, July 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fort Vancouver National Historic Site’s Youth Volunteer Program will host an open house at the reconstructed Fort Vancouver. At the open house, students and adult aides from the program will demonstrate historic skills they have learned, and share what the school program has to offer for youth participants. Teens and kids ages 15 under are free to come inside the Fort with no admission fee, although there is a $5 fee for adults.

The Youth Volunteer Program is designed for young people ages 10 to 18, and is divided into two interacting tracks: the Dame School and the Young Engagé School. Both tracks are modeled after historic schools and other ways in which youth learned and developed skills at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver in the 1840s. Students in the program learn about the history of Fort Vancouver, and about everyday life in the 1800s. Students also develop hands-on skills in costumed and basic interpretation and gain practical experience in cultural demonstrations and other public programs. To learn more about the Youth Volunteer Program, visit https://go.usa.gov/xR3FP.

Above image: Living History School participants demonstrate 19th Century dance techniques at a special event. National Park Service photo by Troy Wayrynen.

Fort Vancouver, Pearson Air Museum & Visitor Center Open during Fourth of July Celebration

The National Park Service welcomes you to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to celebrate Independence Day! Due to the Independence Day celebration, visitors’ cars will not be permitted to enter or park in the park on Tuesday, July 4. However, all park facilities, including the Visitor Center, the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, and Pearson Air Museum, will be open to pedestrian access after visitors enter through one of the three security checked gates.

The park facilities will be open later than usual, with both Fort Vancouver and Pearson Air Museum operating from noon until 8 p.m. and the park’s Visitor Center and Bookstore open from noon to 5 p.m. The Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site will also be operating a sales tent area on E. 5th St. from noon to 8 p.m., adjacent to the main entry path to the fort. The usual fees will apply to enter the fort ($5 for adults, children 15 and under are free), while there is no fee to enter the Visitor Center or Pearson Air Museum.

National Park Service staff and volunteers will be dressed in period costumes throughout the reconstructed fort to help bring the site to life and present the lifeways of the 19th century fur trade. The Visitor Center and Pearson Air Museum will have exhibits and films available for viewing as well. Visitors can take a flight in a vintage 1930 bi-plane which will be operating from the taxiway adjacent to Pearson Air Museum. The operator, Nostalgic Warbird & Biplane Rides, piloted by Mike Carpentiero, will be operating throughout the day. For more information on the costs of bi-plane rides, visit nostalgicwarbirdrides.com or call 512-203-2341.

For more information about Independence Day at Fort Vancouver, produced by the Fort Vancouver National Trust, visit 4th.fortvan.org.

Day-Long Outdoor Survival Skills Class: “Lifeways of the Fur Trade” at Fort Vancouver

Survive and Thrive: Lifeways of the Fur Trade, a new free summer program at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, will combine hands-on history lessons with outdoor skill-building to immerse visitors in the 1840s experience from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 24. The program will be led by two National Park Service rangers with extensive knowledge of current military survival skills as well as the skills common to the 19th century fur trade, where mastering outdoor survival skills were literally a matter of life and death. These skills are useful for anybody who spends time outdoors in hiking, camping, hunting, or fishing.

Lifeways of the Fur Trade combines historical lessons with skill-building, practical learning sessions to immerse visitors in historical fur trade ways of life. The program begins with historical lessons, including guided tours of the site and its archaeological collections. Visitors also participate in practical learning sessions such as tool identification and usage, fur identification, ecological effects of the fur trade, outdoor shelters, and food preparation in the field. Lunch and dinner is provided to participants. Meals are prepared using historical techniques from the fur trade.

This program is free of charge. The majority of the program curriculum is taught outdoors. This program is intended for participants ages 16 and older, and participants should be dressed for the weather, be in good enough physical condition to be on their feet most of the day, and be able to walk over uneven terrain. The program size is limited to 20 participants. Advance registration is required. Register to participate in this program by calling 360-816-6244.

Open House at Pearson Air Museum: See a Replica 1912 Biplane

Come to the Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to view the construction progress on a 1912 Curtiss Pusher airplane replica. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the methods and materials used to recreate this historic aircraft, and talk with National Park Service volunteers and staff about the project.

Over the past year, a skilled crew of National Park Service volunteers have been building a full size replica of Silas Christofferson’s 1912 Curtiss Pusher, utilizing copies of original Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company plans, period articles on airplane construction, and photographs of Christofferson’s 1912 airplane. Christofferson’s Pusher was used on demonstration flights from the Vancouver Barracks Polo Grounds in 1912, and was famously flown off the roof of Portland’s Multnomah Hotel in June 1912 to land at Vancouver Barracks. Materials identical to those used in the construction of the original aircraft—such as Sitka spruce, bamboo, steel tubes, and cotton fabric—are being utilized, along with some period construction techniques. Though the airplane will include an original engine—a Curtiss OX-5 V-8 block—there are no plans to fly the airplane, and it will be a static display.

Pearson Air Museum is located at 405 E. 5th St. in Vancouver. The gate will be open near the northeastern corner of the building. Signs will direct visitors to the parking lot. There’s no admission charge to view the plane.

Open House at Pearson: See a Replica 1912 Biplane

Come to the Pearson Air Museum at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to view the construction progress on a 1912 Curtiss Pusher airplane replica. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the methods and materials used to recreate this historic aircraft, and talk with National Park Service volunteers and staff about the project.

Over the past year, a skilled crew of National Park Service volunteers have been building a full size replica of Silas Christofferson’s 1912 Curtiss Pusher, utilizing copies of original Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company plans, period articles on airplane construction, and photographs of Christofferson’s 1912 airplane. Christofferson’s Pusher was used on demonstration flights from the Vancouver Barracks Polo Grounds in 1912, and was famously flown off the roof of Portland’s Multnomah Hotel in June 1912 to land at Vancouver Barracks. Materials identical to those used in the construction of the original aircraft—such as Sitka spruce, bamboo, steel tubes, and cotton fabric—are being utilized, along with some period construction techniques. Though the airplane will include an original engine—a Curtiss OX-5 V-8 block—there are no plans to fly the airplane, and it will be a static display.

Pearson Air Museum is located at 405 E. 5th St. in Vancouver. The gate will be open near the northeastern corner of the building. Signs will direct visitors to the parking lot. There’s no admission charge to view the plane.

Free Lecture: Ulysses Grant in the Couve

On Saturday, April 29, local historian Kristine Deacon will present “Sentimental Journey: Ulysses S. Grant’s Return to Fort Vancouver.” This free presentation will be held in the theater space at Fort Vancouver’s Visitor Center, located at 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd.

Salem-based Deacon is a graduate of the University of Oregon, a former journalist, and now a historian of the Pacific Northwest. She has published articles on Grant’s world tours in the late 1870s, after his term as President of the United States. Her work focuses specifically on his visits to the Pacific Northwest and his return to the Vancouver Barracks. (…but did he eat at The Grant House restaurant while he was here? No, ha ha, that’s a trick question! But Grant’s presence at Fort Vancouver is why that historic former commanding officer’s house on Officers’ Row is named after him.)

The presentation will start at 1 p.m. and last approximately an hour. There is no cost to attend, and the public is welcome. For more information, click here.

Above image: Don’t mess with Gen. Grant. Seriously.

Chief Redheart Memorial Ceremony

Every year in the spring, the Nez Perce people gather on the lower parade grounds at Fort Vancouver National Historical Site to participate in a memorial ceremony honoring their ancestors. This ceremony is free and open to the public (although donations are welcome) and anyone who wishes to participate is welcome. There will be speeches, tribal announcements and news, singing and remembrances, a riderless horse or “empty saddle” ceremony, the passing of the peace pipe, and recognition of armed forces veterans.

During the Nez Perce War of 1877, as the U.S. Army was attempting to remove tribal members from their lands, 33 members of Chief Redheart’s band were captured under the direction of General O.O. Howard. Even though the band neither fought in Indian Wars nor committed any crimes, they were held prisoner at Fort Vancouver through the winter of 1877-78, where a Nez Perce infant died. The Chief Redheart event honors the tribe’s suffering while reaffirming the peaceable relations between the Nez Perce and those who have settled in their native lands.

This is a lengthy event—usually about five hours, give or take—and it will happen, rain or shine, from about 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. Visitors should bring their own blankets and chairs. Light refreshments will be served by Meals on Wheels during the ceremony. Parking is available on Fifth St. For a map and directions, click here. After the ceremony, the public is encouraged to attend a free traditional Native American feast, prepared and served by the Northwest Indian Veterans Association in the Artillery Barracks at 600 E. Hatheway Rd. For more information about the event, call 360-487-8630.

Chief Redheart Ceremony

Every year in the spring, the Nez Perce people gather on the lower parade grounds at Fort Vancouver National Historical Site to participate in a memorial ceremony honoring their ancestors. The Chief Redheart Memorial Ceremony is free and open to the public (although donations are welcome) and anyone who wishes to participate is welcome. There will be speeches, tribal announcements and news, singing and remembrances, a riderless horse or “empty saddle” ceremony, the passing of the peace pipe, and recognition of armed forces veterans. This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary.

During the Nez Perce War of 1877, as the U.S. Army was attempting to remove tribal members from their lands, 33 members of Chief Redheart’s band were captured under the direction of General O.O. Howard. Even though the band neither fought in Indian Wars nor committed any crimes, they were held prisoner at Fort Vancouver through the winter of 1877-78, where a Nez Perce infant died. The Chief Redheart event honors the tribe’s suffering while reaffirming the peaceable relations between the Nez Perce and those who have settled in their native lands.

This is a lengthy event—usually about five hours, give or take—and it will happen, rain or shine, from about 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. Visitors should bring their own blankets and chairs. Light refreshments will be served by Meals on Wheels during the ceremony. Parking is available on Fifth St. For a map and directions, click here. After the ceremony, the public is encouraged to attend a free traditional Native American feast, prepared and served by the Northwest Indian Veterans Association in the Artillery Barracks at 600 E. Hatheway Rd. For more information about the event, call 360-487-8630.

Park Prescription Walk

Forget treadmills and gyms; get healthier by strolling around Fort Vancouver’s beautiful grounds and nourish your mind with the ‘Couve’s rich history. At National Park Rx Day, discover how you can improve your health (and learn about our local history!) by walking the trails of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. This family-friendly event is part of the National Park Prescription Day (Park Rx Day), an innovative partnership between healthcare providers and the National Park Service that encourages outdoor exercise as a way to improve health. Join a national park ranger and a local physician from Kaiser Permanente for a free walking tour from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. While strolling along the Spruce Mill Trail, rangers will discuss the site’s World War I history in honor of this year’s centennial commemorations of the United States’ entry into the war. Walkers should meet at the Pearson Air Museum.

National Park Rx Day is part of a growing movement of prescribing outdoor activity to patients to improve health. The health benefits of nature go beyond just physical health. There are well-documented benefits of nature that improve mental health, spiritual health, and social health. Visitors can also use the park’s Parks Rx map and walking guide to explore the park’s trails on their own. The guide can be downloaded from the park’s website here.

Above image courtesy of the National Park Service at Fort Vancouver.

Junior Ranger Day & Yuri’s Night World Space Party

Join the rangers and staff at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday, April 15, as they celebrate both National Junior Ranger Day and Yuri’s Night World Space Party. Both events will be based at the Historic Hangar at Pearson Air Museum (1115 E. Fifth St. in Vancouver) and both are free to the public.

National Junior Ranger Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. celebrates the next generation of National Park stewards. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site invites hundreds of children each year to become Junior Rangers at this family-friendly event where kids can earn their Junior Ranger badges by completing fun, interactive activities with national park rangers. Junior Rangers pledge to explore national parks, learn about our nation’s land and heritage, and protect the valuable resources of the National Park Service—hence the Junior Ranger motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect.” The event will be offered both in English and Spanish. Activities and Junior Ranger Activity booklets will be offered in both languages, and bilingual storytelling sessions will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Junior Ranger program is designed for children ages six to 12, but younger children can complete it with help. Older kids and adults are welcome to participate as well.

From 5 to 9 p.m., Yuri’s Night World Space Party will celebrate the 56th anniversary of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. Gagarin was the first human to travel into outer space, and Yuri’s Night events across the globe have been commemorating this event for decades. Gagarin received his pilot’s training at the Soviet Union’s “First Chkalov Air Force Pilot’s School” in the 1950s. The school was named after famed Russian aviator Valery Chkalov, who piloted the first trans-polar flight between Moscow and Pearson Field in 1937. Space exploration and aviation-themed family-friendly activities will be offered in the Pearson hangar and, weather permitting, children can design and launch their own water-powered rockets until dusk. Tom Billings, the president of the Oregon L5 Society (a chapter of the National Space Society) will present a lecture titled “NASA and New Space: Going Outward Together,” at the Tex Rankin Theater at 6 p.m. If the weather is clear, the event will conclude with a star-gazing tour from 8 to 9 p.m., led by a park ranger and certified star guide.

Junior Ranger Day & Yuri’s Night Space Party

Join the rangers and staff at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site on Saturday, April 15, as they celebrate both National Junior Ranger Day and Yuri’s Night World Space Party. Both events will be based at the Historic Hangar at Pearson Air Museum (1115 E. Fifth St. in Vancouver) and both are free to the public.

National Junior Ranger Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. celebrates the next generation of National Park stewards. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site invites hundreds of children each year to become Junior Rangers at this family-friendly event where kids can earn their Junior Ranger badges by completing fun, interactive activities with national park rangers. Junior Rangers pledge to explore national parks, learn about our nation’s land and heritage, and protect the valuable resources of the National Park Service—hence the Junior Ranger motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect.” The event will be offered both in English and Spanish. Activities and Junior Ranger Activity booklets will be offered in both languages, and bilingual storytelling sessions will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Junior Ranger program is designed for children ages six to 12, but younger children can complete it with help. Older kids and adults are welcome to participate as well.

From 5 to 9 p.m., Yuri’s Night World Space Party will celebrate the 56th anniversary of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s historic flight into space. Gagarin was the first human to travel into outer space, and Yuri’s Night events across the globe have been commemorating this event for decades. Gagarin received his pilot’s training at the Soviet Union’s “First Chkalov Air Force Pilot’s School” in the 1950s. The school was named after famed Russian aviator Valery Chkalov, who piloted the first trans-polar flight between Moscow and Pearson Field in 1937. Space exploration and aviation-themed family-friendly activities will be offered in the Pearson hangar and, weather permitting, children can design and launch their own water-powered rockets until dusk. Tom Billings, the president of the Oregon L5 Society (a chapter of the National Space Society) will present a lecture titled “NASA and New Space: Going Outward Together,” at the Tex Rankin Theater at 6 p.m. If the weather is clear, the event will conclude with a star-gazing tour from 8 to 9 p.m., led by a park ranger and certified star guide.

Above image: a Junior Ranger shows off her badges. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service at Fort Vancouver.

Women’s History Month at Fort Vancouver: Founding Mothers with Hilarie Couture

Women important in the history of this area will be honored in a special exhibit by local artist Hilarie Couture, called “Founding Mothers: Portraits of Progress.” The exhibit will be on display at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center for the entire month. Couture is an accomplished portrait artist, and the exhibit will feature several portraits of local women, including the debut of new works honoring women of Fort Vancouver. Couture will give a short presentation to officially open the exhibit on Saturday, March 4, at 1 pm in the Visitor Center.

At two upcoming lectures, the public is invited to explore the history of two women of Fort Vancouver: Marguerite McLoughlin, who was the wife of the fort’s Chief Factor, and her daughter, Eloisa. Assistant Curator Meagan Huff will discuss the fascinating lives of these women, who had front-row seats for the rise and fall of a fur trading empire. This program will take place on Wednesday, March 15, at 7 pm, at the Visitor Center. (A second engagement will take place on Friday, March 31, at 1 pm, at the McLoughlin House in Oregon City, where you can also see a mid-19th century dress.) On March 29 from 1 to 3 p.m., you can also attend a fascinating presentation by noted Northwest author and naturalist Jack Nisbet about local flora and fauna.

Free Parking

Our national parks are in agreement: free is the best price! And if the mild weather holds, this might be an excellent weekend to take advantage of free admission at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Presdients' Day Weekend—Saturday, Feb. 15 through Monday, Feb. 17—is one of but a few times during the year when these two nearby gems waive the admission fee. Additional fee-free days in 2014 are as follows:

April 19-20: National Park Week
Aug. 25: National Park Service Birthday
Sept. 27: Natioanl Public Lands Day
Nov. 11: Veterans Day

For more information about the National Parks Service fee-free days, visit www.nps.gov. While you're there, you might want to take a look at the many magnificent national parks within driving distance of Clark County—and start planning your next trip! In the meantime, you and your family can appreciate the local splendor.