Category Archives: Warren Avenue

57 years ago today, one of Bremerton’s ‘greatest tragedies’


A man peers over the edge of the exposed bridge, looking into the water below. It’s a terrible scene, the aftermath of a 1957 Pontiac hardtop busting through the railing of the Warren Avenue Bridge and plunging into the Port Washington Narrows.

At the time, it was called one of the area’s “greatest tragedies” by the Bremerton Sun. On Dec. 14, 1958 — 57 years ago today — three young men fell to their deaths in that car, mere weeks after the Warren Avenue Bridge opened.

The bodies of Gary Lee Hill, 22, and Joseph E. Jenkins, Jr., 21, were recovered with the car right after it happened. But it would take almost a month more to locate the third, that of Gerald R. “Robbie” Clark, 20, who’d been driving the car.

Simply put, the crash shocked the community around the holidays in a newly made two-bridge town.


“The bridge had just opened, and everyone was regaling in it,” recalls Marlene Johnson Casmaer, a former Manette resident who was only about 10 at the time. “The Manette Bridge was kind of scary, and had a darkness to it. The new bridge was so modern looking, bright and airy.”

Only the new, $5 million bridge’s railings were clearly not made to withstand a car. Only a few years ago, the state installed concrete barriers to prevent that from happening. The bridge may be changed again soon to promote greater pedestrian access.

But mere weeks after the bridge first opened on Nov. 25, 1958, the three plunged to their deaths. There were allegations that drag racing preceded the crash. In any event, the incident also sparked an eerie quest to find Clark’s body to help bring about some closure, Johnson Casmaer said. Today, it reminds her of the movie “Stand by Me.”


“There’d be people looking all over the beach each day,” she said.  “That’s what Bremerton became like. Who would be the first to find him?

“It was beyond devastating,” she said.

From the Bremerton Sun on Jan. 19, 1959, after Clark’s body was recovered:

“The body of the handsome lad, found Saturday afternoon on the beach of Port Washington narrows below Bay Bowl, was buried near his father who died only a year ago … Terry and Mike Chandler, 14- and 10-year-old sons of Mr. and Mrs. Dale Chandler, 1303 Magnuson Way, stumbled onto the body as they were playing … ‘I thought it was Robbie Clark’s body,’ Terry said, ‘so I ran up to the Bay Bowling alley and told them.'”

Sadly, the bridge has claimed many more lives over the years since those three. Mick McKinley, a retired Bremerton assistant fire chief, recalled one time when crews were training in a boat below the bridge. A man jumped from the span not far from their boat.

“We pulled him in under 20 seconds,” he said.

If you have more information or photographs from newspaper coverage of this tragedy, please send them my way and I will update this post.


Why yes, another downtown Bremerton apartment project

Artist's rendering of 1010 Burwell Street.
Artist’s rendering of 1010 Burwell Street.

But wait, there’s more. Even after nearly 200 apartment units open in downtown Bremerton in the next year, there are more projects planned around the corner.

The next one is located on the corner of Warren Avenue and Burwell Street. Remember that fire in late September (see photo) that damaged the boarded-up town homes there? It may not be long before bulldozers take them all out entirely and replace them with a 25-apartment complex.

The fire in September.

The 1010 apartments, planned by the same developers as the ones wrapping up 71-unit 606 project down the street, have recently won approval from the city’s design review board. PJ Santos with Lorax Partners said there’s no timetable yet for construction.

The project spans four parcels between 1002 and 1018 Burwell Street, each currently owned by Diamond Parking. Lorax plans to buy the properties when construction looms.

In terms of design, the project cannot be more than 40 feet high. The Navy is asking for that limit along the city’s border with Naval Base Kitsap and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as a matter of security.

So why is downtown Bremerton getting so much attention from developers? Those I’ve talked to give three main reasons: the Seattle economy is bursting at the seams, the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is home to 13,000+ jobs (and federal contracts) and apartment vacancies in Kitsap County are nearly nonexistent.

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A rendering of the floor plan at the 1010.

Here’s a status update about the projects going around downtown. These three are a go:

The 606: Pre-leasing has begun on the $9 million project, which is scheduled to open Dec. 1, according to a Facebook post. (Thanks to Kitsap Sun Business Reporter Tad Sooter for the update.)

Spyglass Hill: Work is progressing on the $15 million, 80-unit project on Highland Avenue. While it was supposed to open in January originally, later in 2016 is a forgone conclusion due to some earlier delays.

The Monterey: The 48-unit project by longtime Kitsap County resident and developer Dale Sperling (who hasn’t disclosed the price tag) at the former Nite Shift Tavern and Evergreen Upholstery is making its way through the design review board; Sperling expects construction in early spring.

Two other developments are still clouded in uncertainty:

The Towers: The massive condo development on Washington Avenue at Sixth Street, pushed through by developer Mark Goldberg but now owned by Absher Construction, has been quiet for some time. I’ve heard a plan to rejig the development to include apartments, a restaurant and even a hotel, but nothing has come to fruition. The developers did pay more than $200,000 to bury power lines on the street as part of the Washington Avenue project.

Evergreen Pointe: The 104-unit complex would straddle Evergreen-Rotary Park on Sheldon Boulevard. This was also once a project owned by Mark Goldberg, but no more. I’ve talked to Kingston developer Trish Williams, who owns it now, and she is optimistic about it moving forward. But nothing is set in stone as yet.

The 606.
The 606.


Spyglass Hill.
Spyglass Hill.
The Monterey.
The Monterey.
The Towers.
Evergreen Pointe.

What the future holds for Warren Avenue

Artist's rendering of what expanded pedestrian access would look like on the Warren Avenue Bridge.
Artist’s rendering of what expanded pedestrian access would look like on the Warren Avenue Bridge.

“The year of torn up street corners.” That’s how Bremerton’s public works department summed up 2016 in Bremerton at a recent city meeting. And no place will have more torn up street corners than Warren Avenue.

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The reason is that the state is gearing up in 2017 to pave Warren Avenue, Wheaton Way, and all of the Highway 303 corridor out to Fairground Road. By doing so, many of the street corners along the way will need to reconstructed to meet current standards for accessibility. That means new curbs, concrete, countdown clocks for pedestrians and other traffic improvements will be installed in 2016. The state will pickup the tab for 34 of 55 curb ramps; the city will pay half of the cost of the rest, which will be about $100,000.

But city officials, including Mayor Patty Lent, have talked about expanding the narrow pedestrian access on the Warren Avenue Bridge. The state, in a $1.2 million project a few years ago, had improved safety crossing the bridge on foot (and on wheels) by making the railings higher. But if you’ve walked it lately, you know it’s a tight fit whenever you encounter anyone on the crossing. Lent and other think it should be fixed, and what better time to do it then while much other construction work is ongoing, they say.

Chal Martin, Bremerton’s public works director, unveiled an artist’s rendering (see above) and a plan for remaking the bridge, at last Tuesday’s city public works meeting. It calls for narrowing the driving lanes (no, no lanes won’t be taken out, unlike the project on Washington Avenue) to make more room for pedestrians. The route is part of the city’s bridge to bridge urban trail, and the city expects it to grow in popularity. But because some of the supporting structure of the bridge has to be reinforced, it comes at quite a cost: about $5 million.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lent, who last week attended the annual meeting of the American Public Transportation Association in San Francisco, is developing plans for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) up the Warren Avenue Cooridor, and wants ensure any longterm planning has BRT incorporated on the Warren Avenue Bridge. That usually means dedicated lanes on the road for buses, to go with fast and frequent service.

But a bridge that was built almost exclusively for cars may not have much room for much other stuff. I’ve heard from residents concerned about the idea that ‘skinnying’ up the road could lead to more accidents; I’ve also heard from others that say making the lanes smaller will actually slow or “calm” traffic on a roadway that motorists drive like a freeway and one that has too many crashes.

What will the bridge, and the roadways beyond it, look like in a few years? The future holds many variables. What would you like it to look like?

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Washington State Department of Transportation drawings showing the intersections along Warren Avenue and Wheaton Way.