Category Archives: Exploring the story

A journey through Ivy Green’s history


For about $3,000*, you could be buried at Ivy Green, Bremerton’s municipal cemetery. The hallowed grounds, whose grave sites powerfully convey the history of early and mid-century Bremerton, still has about 2,000 plots left before its vacancy vanishes.

On Saturday, about 130 people joined me for the latest Kitsap Sun Story Walk. We were so fortunate to have a group of speakers with a great knowledge of the approximately 14-acre site. Here’s some of the things we learned along the way.

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Original Charleston Cemetery map. Courtesy of Russell Warren.

Ivy Green Cemetery didn’t start out as just one burial ground. It was two: Charleston, a separate city at the time, established the first burial ground in 1897. Bremerton followed five years later, according to Fredi Perry’s book “Bremerton and PSNY.” When the two cities merged in 1928, the cemeteries also became one.

Ivy Green includes one of only 10 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorials in America, Bremerton resident and memorial preservationist Mick Hersey pointed out. Bremerton’s was born when a traveling exhibit actually stopped in the city and decided to stay for good. It’s a replica one-half the size of the original in Arlington National Cemetery. There’s differing views on when it got here, which we are trying to sort out.

One last note on the Tomb: no one is buried there.

The cemetery includes a Medal of Honor recipient: John Nibbe. At age 17, Nibbe stood his ground aboard the USS Peterel as Confederate forces in the Yazoo River of Mississippi fired on the ship. Just about everyone died. But not him. Awarded the honor by President Lincoln, Nibbe then set sail (via Cape Horn) for the west coast, first coming to Point White on Bainbridge Island. In 1896 he opened a general store in downtown Bremerton and also served as postmaster there. He died in 1902 of Bright’s Disease.

Saratoga Memorial.
Saratoga Memorial.

A grave surrounded by Rhododendrons is perhaps the cemetery’s best known. It honors 64 people who died aboard the USS Saratoga when it came under heavy fire from Japanese forces during World War II in 1945. The ship limped back to Bremerton with dead sailors and marines aboard. Those who could not be identified were buried in this collective grave. Hersey explained that it was not until 1992 that the remains were identified.

The cemetery is full of prominent Bremertonians of yesteryear. They include Benjamin and Angie Harrison, creators of the hospital that still bears their name; Charles Dietz, a businessman whose Dietz building still stands in downtown Bremerton; and Warren Smith, a prominent landowner who is the namesake of both Warren Avenue and Smith Cove in Evergreen-Rotary Park.

Wesley Harris’ gravesite.

One of my favorite things about our Story Walks is that we all learn together. It also gave me an idea: a digital map of the grave sites, something I hope we can produce in the future.

If you were along, I encourage you to leave a fact or story you learned below. In the meantime, I’ll get to planning our next walk for May.

*The cost of burial there is 25 percent more if you live outside city limits.

Forgive my handwriting.
Forgive my handwriting.

VIDEO: Opening night footage from The Roxy Theater

“Certainly marvelous,” “very fine,” and “awful nice,” are how some of the first moviegoers at Bremerton’s Roxy Theater described it to a film crew on opening night. Some of you may recall this five minute video (above) from my July tour of the Roxy. Now, at long last, it’s available for posterity on YouTube.


It was a precarious journey. At some point, the original film — whose creators are unknown — was transferred to VHS and then to DVD. A huge thanks is due to the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum, who kept it for many years. Crystal Yingling, who is spearheading an effort to save the Roxy and restore it to its former glory, got a copy. And at last, we’re able to present it to you now.

BLOGGER’S UPDATE, 5.19.16: The Roxy was purchased by Sound West Group in late 2015 and they have begun a full restoration.

The Roxy’s future is still far from certain but I do have a few developments to tell you. First, Yingling is teaming up with the nonprofit Downtown Bremerton Association in an effort to proceed with further fundraising. The 660-seat theater is owned by an Oregon investment firm.

It will likely take north of $1 million to fully restore the theater, which has been on sale for $399,000.

There’s also some ideas floating around about that particular tree-lined stretch of Fourth Street. Rice Fergus Miller Architects have been hosted a design charrette this week aimed at redeveloping the street into a retail-residential corridor, with as many as 70 residences atop businesses.

In the meantime, please enjoy the film, from the May 31, 1941 opening of the theater. Playing first was “The Devil and Miss Jones,” featuring Jean Arthur. And, as you may have already seen, you can wax nostalgic right next door to the shuttered Fourth Street Theater at the new Wobbly Hops Brewery, which opened earlier this month.

If you have any idea who might have produced this video, we’d like to give them credit. Please drop me a line at

Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.
Roxy today, Roxy yesterday. Photo by Meegan M. Reid.

IN PHOTOS: Redwood rendezvous in Bremerton

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Photo of the big Sequoias on Veneta Avenue by Steven Fisher.
Sometimes, the answers just lead to more questions. 

On Saturday, I led a group of more than 50 people on a tour of two prominent urban Sequoia trees, those pointy Bremerton landmarks on Veneta Avenue. I was thrilled with the turnout, which included two tree experts in Jim Trainer and Olaf Ribeiro.

The bottom line: the trees are digging up the roadway underneath them and most people — including Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent — support taking out the road and making it a pedestrian path.

There are no immediate plans on the table.

Photo by Steve Fisher.
Photo by Steven Fisher.

Our tour Saturday took us from Kiwanis Park down to Veneta Avenue, where we talked about, measured and touched the trees themselves. Ribeiro is still doing some analysis on their width and age.

Our arborists gave different ages of the trees, so that’s still a mystery. Their height is still a bit in dispute, too. And how come they have that pinecone shape?

There were other questions that came up. So I’ve got more work to do. In the meantime, enjoy these photos.

Oh, and those who came out: be sure to drop a note to let me know how you felt it went.

Photo by Rhonda Oberholtzer.
Photo by Rhonda Oberholtzer.
_SRF0601WA Sequoia Persp.Control.
Photo by Steven Fisher.

Let’s talk about trees

Veneta trees

On Saturday, we’ll hit the streets of West Bremerton to visit Veneta Avenue’s storied Sequoias. I hope you can come along on this free tour, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at the picnic shelter at Kiwanis Park (1701 Fifth Street).

We’ll tour the two pinecone-shaped trees, ones whose future we recently wrote about in the Kitsap Sun. Bring your walking shoes; our city hike will be no more than a half mile or so.

I’ll have Jim Trainer, famed Kitsap County arborist, along to talk about the Sequoias, and we’ll discuss the history of the area as well. Plus, our theories about about how the trees, not native to Puget Sound, got there.

Maybe on the way back, we can try out Kiwanis Park’s new 30-foot slide, too.

See you Saturday!

The details:

What: Veneta Avenue Sequoia Tour

When: 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24

Who: Yours truly, along with Arborist Jim Trainer and some other special guests

Cost: FREE

Exploring the story: Fourth Street edition

Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.
Photo of tour by Tad Sooter.

There was just something about Fourth Street’s economic divide that cried out for more than a story. And so, on Tuesday night — following Sunday’s publication of “In Bremerton, a tale of two Fourth streets,” I hosted a talk and tour of the downtown Bremerton thoroughfare.

We had a nice turnout, with 15 people coming along to learn about the successes of the western half of the street, and failures of the eastern half. Some participants knew a lot — I’d even quoted them in the story — while others came along to expand their knowledge.

In any event, I really enjoyed going beyond the story to help others experience Fourth Street for themselves. Response thus far has been good from the tour, and I am planning to do one similar event each month for the rest of the year.

Won’t you come along next time?

Photo by Tad Sooter.