As of a 2013 State Population Estimate, Bremerton, Washington, with a population of 39,056 and an area of 32.29 square miles, is the largest city on the Kitsap Peninsula.
Home to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and the Bremerton Annex of?Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton is now becoming known as a center for the arts. The city is located directly west of Seattle, across the Puget Sound and is connected to downtown Seattle by a 60-minute, 17-mile ferry route.
Real estate in Bremerton, Washington
The median sales price for homes in Bremerton WA in late 2015 was $208,200. Compared to the same period one year ago, median home sales prices increased by 5.5%. Meanwhile, the number of home sales increased 5.4%. This median average is 23.7% less than the Washington average, but 14.8% greater than the national average.
Privately owned, non-fixer homes in Bremerton are priced starting in the low $60,000s, with a good number of offerings in the $400,000 to $900,000 range and a few at a million or more. Bank-owned homes and fixer properties are priced as low as $25,000.
Condos can also go as high as $800,000, but most are listed from $300,000 down to approximately $80,000.
58.9% of the homes in Bremerton are renter occupied, and the median rental rates are 4.5% less than the national average.
Getting to work
By far the largest single source of employment in Bremerton is in the field of public administration, followed by manufacturing. More than 20% of the residents are employed in office or management positions.
The majority of residents report 35 minutes or less travel time to work. More than half drive their own car, while perhaps 5% carpool. A very small percentage travel the ferry to work in Seattle. Nearly 25% either walk to work or work at home.
The estimated median household income in 2013 was $43,362 and the per capita income was $24,657, which is significantly less than the state average. The percentage of residents with post-secondary degrees is significantly less than national averages.
A bit of history…
When the waters around present-day Bremerton were surveyed in 1841 by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes and again in 1877 by Ambrose Wyckoff, both recognized the region’s military potential. They noted the sheltered but deep water close to shore; unlimited fresh water from rivers and streams; abundant supplies of timber; and huge fields of bituminous coal within just few miles of Seattle. Wyckoff was so impressed that when he returned to the East Coast in 1880 he began a campaign to establish a naval base at the southern end of Port Orchard Bay.
Within just a year or two of his visit, rumors began to circulate that there would be a naval base and that the government planned major land purchases in the area. Eventually that rumor became reality and Congress allocated $10,000 for the purchase of 190 acres of land and an additional $200,000 to begin construction of a dry dock.
Two forward-thinking Seattle entrepreneurs, William Bremer, and Henry Paul Hensel reasoned that a navy base would need a town to support it, and that there was real money to be made. Thus, in February of 1891 they purchased a 170 acre homestead claim right at the heart of the proposed Navy base for the unheard of price of $200 per acre.
When Wycoff arrived on a land-buying mission one month later, they sold him 81 acres for the price congress had determined to pay: $50 per acre.
While Wyckoff was busy buying up more land, Bremer obtained Hensel’s interests, and in December, 1891, filed a 25-acre plat for a new town named Bremerton.
The navy base and the town thus came into existence together, and their fortunes have been linked, in good times and bad, ever since.
By the time base construction began a year later, Bremer had donated or sold land at a discount for schools and churches, built Bremerton’s first wharf, and helped a number of new businesses get off the ground. Unfortunately, the financial Panic of 1893 slowed both progress on the naval base and the development of the town. The dock was completed in 1896, but Federal funding had dried up and the town was struggling.
Wyckoff was hearing reports of plans to close the base, so he returned to the area in 1899 and enlisted the help of the Seattle business community in convincing Congress of the yard’s importance to the regional economy. Due to his efforts, funding was increased in 1900 and 1901; employment at the base went from 150 to 600; and the town began once again to prosper.
Businesses of all kinds sprung up and a weekly newspaper started publication. Bremerton had a post office, rooming houses, a barber shop, a laundry, a hotel, 6 or more general stores, and at least 15 saloons.
In October of 1901 Bremerton was incorporated as a city, and in July 1902, Bremerton’s first piped water began running through wooden mains. In August a fire department was formed and in December phone lines came.
Things were going well, but trouble was brewing.
Bremerton was a wide-open town, and prostitution, gambling, drunkenness, opium, and muggings were part of the culture. The Navy was outraged and threatened to boycott its own shipyard to save its sailors from Bremerton’s “gross immorality.”
On January 1, 1903, Mayor Croxton declared that the reports were false: “There are no card sharks, bunco men, or bawdy houses in the town.”? Two days later he announced that he would close all public gambling in Bremerton.
Thus began a long battle as citizens, the city council, and the Navy lined up on both sides. Finally, in June 1903, the Council revoked every liquor license in town. The ban remained in place for two years, with no significant effect on activities in the city, but the Navy was pacified.
Since that time Bremerton’s fortunes have been tied to both the Naval base and the state of world events. Each war has brought boom times and the end of each war has brought a slump.
The bright spot amid all the ups and downs was the opening of Olympic Junior College in 1946. In 1967 the state took over operation of the college, which is now called Olympic College and is in operation with a full-time enrollment of 6,158 students. It has since been joined by Everest College – Bremerton, with an enrollment of 487.
For a more detailed history of Bremerton’s ups and downs, visit History Link.org. (link to http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=9583)
In the 1950s Bremerton entered a period of decline and despair that really didn’t begin to reverse until 2001, when the city adopted a Downtown Revitalization Plan. The following year, the city council appointed the Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority to oversee the city’s community renewal efforts.
In 2004 both the Norm Dicks Government Center and City Hall, and a The Kitsap Conference center opened and more construction was underway.
In July 2005, Bremerton’s city council passed an ordinance establishing the?Bremerton Arts Commission and a tax on improvements which supports public art projects. Today the downtown Arts District features museums, fine galleries, and performing art stages, along with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and clubs featuring live music.
Bremerton’s art scene is playing a major role in the redevelopment of the city and its prosperity. And, like the navy before it, it is bringing new businesses and development. Bremerton is also fast becoming the destination of choice for multi-day business meetings and conferences.
The Kitsap Conference center, located on the waterfront just steps away from the Harborside Fountain Park, comfortably hosts more than 700 guests and offers superior onsite culinary, event planning, and technology services
A tunnel from the ferry terminal to Burwell Street (Highway 304) takes vehicles under the downtown area, allowing easier travel for vehicles and making downtown more pedestrian-friendly. Above the tunnel, a new fountain park offers permanent art displays, many of which are tributes to the shipyard and the many men and woman who have worked at Bremerton Naval Shipyard.
Shopping in Bremerton
In addition to grocery outlets and small stores and boutiques downtown, Bremerton offers close proximity to major shopping venues in nearby Port Orchard and Silverdale. Silverdale, less than 9 miles from Bremerton, is Kitsap County’s shopping mecca, offering all the name-brand outlets in addition to boutiques and specialty stores.
The Blackberry Festival – According to local legend, the downtown waterfront of Bremerton was once home to a massive overgrowth of wild Blackberry bushes. These were removed to build the Boardwalk, the Marina, and the Bus/Ferry Terminal, and Fountain Park.
This, supposedly, is the reason why local residents, shopkeepers, and growers bring their Blackberry creations to the boardwalk to celebrate the Blackberry Festival each Labor Day weekend. Here visitors can sample everything from Blackberry ice cream to Blackberry candies and wines. Local musicians provide free entertainment throughout the three day festival.
Other events during the Blackberry Festival are the Berry Fun Run, the Blackberry Criterium Bike Race, and the Blackberry Festival Fly-in.
The?Bremerton Summer Brewfest, held in July, features 30 Washington breweries serving more than 100 craft beers. Live music and local food add to the festivities.
Things to do, places to see in Bremerton
Ride a 1900s Ferry – The historic Carlisle II Foot Ferry takes passengers on a ten minute ride between Bremerton and Port Orchard, offering a taste of how it was 100 years ago.
Bremerton Naval Museum – Free admission takes visitors on a trip back in time through the naval heritage of the Pacific Northwest.
USS Turner Joy is another free museum. Here you can get a taste of life on an aircraft carrier and see the workings of a real Navy destroyer.
The Kitsap History Museum offers a trip through time and a look at life for the residents, from the native peoples to the loggers, farmers, shipbuilders, and military personnel who have called the Kitsap area home. Stylized vignettes offer a glimpse into the economic development of the area.
Museums aren’t just for adults. Children especially enjoy the Valentinetti Puppet Museum & Evergreen Theater, as well as the Bug Museum, which is just as it sounds – filled with crawly creatures.
Gold Mountain Golf Course offers two 18-hole championship courses.
Education in Bremerton
In addition to 14 public schools, Bremerton is home to 10 private schools for elementary, middle-school, and high school students. It is also home to Olympic College and there are 7 more colleges / universities within 20 miles. The Kitsap Regional Library boasts an inventory of more than 436,000 books, plus e-books and audio and video materials.
Bremerton offers a full complement of doctors, dentists, chiropractors, therapists, and veterinarians, along with the Harrison Medical Center and the Francis Haddon Morgan Center.
Does Bremerton and its growing prosperity sound like the place you’d like to be? If so, get in touch and I’ll help you locate your new Bremerton home. Meanwhile, click here to visit the Bremerton home search page and get a preview of homes being offered for sale today. (link to Bremerton search page)