Naval Guns from USS Boston at Hamlin Park

USS Boston 1887-1946

In the 1970's, I used to walk on my way home from school past these relics from the protected cruiser USS Boston, 1887-1946, and I wondered then how they ever ended up in Hamlin Park. These 8-inch 30-caliber guns were mounted fore and aft on the USS Boston, which was commissioned on May 2, 1887, and measured 283 feet in length. The USS Boston was a steam brig and had the very remarkable distinction of being one of the first four U.S. Navy vessels built with a steel hull, rather than an iron hull. These first four so-called “ABCD ships” included the USS Atlanta, USS Boston, USS Chicago, and USS Dolphin. These four vessels were constructed in accordance with the Naval Appropriations Acts of August 5, 1882, and March 3, 1883. Their steel hull construction provided great tensile strength and ductility and marked the beginning of the transition to an upgraded, modernized, “New Steel Navy.” An article about the 8-inch 30-caliber guns appeared in the February 28, 1945, issue of The Stethoscope, published by the U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle, Washington. As it turns out, this pair of 8-inch 30-caliber guns were once displayed, facing south, on the east and west side of the administrative building of the U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle. The two-story, wood-frame, administrative building of the U.S. Naval Hospital was located about a half-mile south of where the 8-inch 30-caliber guns are now located in Hamlin Park. The 8-inch 30-caliber guns were originally placed at the U.S. Naval Hospital because of their very remarkable commemorative significance to United States naval history. They were moved to Hamlin Park, many years ago, most likely as a memorial in remembrance of the neighboring site of the WWII era U.S. Naval Hospital.

USS Boston 1887-1946

The U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle, was commissioned on August 22, 1942, and it was one of the hospitals where many of the wounded, in World War II, were brought. The U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle, was actually located just a few blocks outside of the Seattle city limits, in what is now the City of Shoreline. The main part of the hospital facility eventually had over 60 buildings and was spread out over about 90 acres, of an approximately 160-acre property. Captain Franklin F. Murdoch became the initial commanding officer of the hospital. Captain Murdoch secured, from the Bremerton Navy Yard, the pair of 8-inch 30-caliber guns, which were then placed on opposite sides of the hospital administration building, soon after the commissioning of the hospital. Captain Joel T. Boone was the next commanding officer of the hospital, from May 18, 1943, to March 11, 1945, followed by Captain Franklyn C. Hill, who then became the commanding officer there until 1947. When the hospital closed, in 1947, the facility was transfered from the Department of the Navy to King County, at a navy flag lowering ceremony, on November 3, 1947. A map, titled U.S. Naval Hospital, Seattle, Wash., Showing Conditions on June 30, 1944, reveals that the U.S. Naval Hospital administrative building, where the 8-inch 30-caliber guns were placed, was located only about a couple hundred feet northeast of the road intersection of NE 150th Street and 17th Ave. NE. The 1944 map shows that the main hospital entrance and sentry gatehouse were located on the north side of that road intersection. The map also shows that the hospital's commanding officer's house, as well as two other officers' houses, a building for bachelor officer quarters, and a tennis court were all located in what is now South Woods Park. The officer's tennis court pavement still remains, hidden in the woods, mostly concealed by an organic layer and forest undergrowth.

Chapel From U.S. Naval Hospital, Seattle, WA

Captain Joel T. Boone, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle, performed the ceremonial ground-breaking for the hospital chapel, on May 28, 1944. The chapel was started at the suggestion of Captain Joel T. Boone and he selected the very location of the building site, which was intentionally situated on a secluded knoll amongst tall firs. When construction of the navy's Chapel on the Hill was completed, Captain Joel T. Boone also delivered the dedicatory address, on November 12, 1944. Joel T. Boone was a World War I recipient of the Medal of Honor, for extraordinary heroism, while serving in the Marines. He also, as a lieutenant commander, had been the medical officer on board the 273-foot presidential yacht, USS Mayflower, from 1922 to 1929, and had been the White House physician, from 1929 to 1933. The 453-foot frigate USS Boone (FFG 28) was named in his honor. The Chapel on the Hill is historically significant, since it was the first chapel at any naval hospital in the United States. Although most of the buildings from the U.S. Naval Hospital, at Seattle, are long gone the little brick Chapel on the Hill remains, secluded timelessly on the wooded knoll, snug in amongst the tall firs as Captain Joel T. Boone had originally envisioned.


 Andrew Craig Magnuson
Forks, Washington
January 25, 2017

Copyright © by Andrew Craig Magnuson