The Lifelong Learning Center
A 21st Century Showcase for Creative Placemaking
The Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center occupies a 95 acres “campus” at the heart of Fort Worden State Park, a National Historic Landmark located in Port Townsend on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
Featuring 72 historic buildings, four museums, six performance venues, four eateries, 40 overnight accommodations with 396 beds, and 58,000 sq. ft. of meeting spaces, the campus welcomes more than 1.5 million people annually.
Home to 16 nonprofits and creative businesses, Fort Worden offers a vibrant catalog of public programming including arts and culture, education, environmental stewardship, outdoor recreation, and wellness. Fort Worden also hosts conferences, groups, and meetings focused on personal growth, professional development, and continued education.
People of all ages, abilities, cultures, ethnicities, education and income levels, travel to Fort Worden from all 50 states and 15+ countries to strengthen their connection to self, to community, and to nature.
An Historic Gathering Place
Constructed in the early 1900’s as an Army post, Fort Worden served the United States for half a century as headquarters for the Harbor Defense Command of Puget Sound. Situated on the northeastern shore of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Fort Worden was one of three forts in the “Triangle of Fire” with its artillery protecting both the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet. After 55 years, the post was decommissioned in 1953.
One of the best-preserved military installations in the Pacific Northwest, Fort Worden’s built environment offers visitors an exceptional view of the philosophy and technology of the military defense system upon which the nation depended at the turn of the 20th century. Given its remarkable value in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States, Fort Worden is a designated National Historic Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Washington Heritage Register.
Over the last four decades Fort Worden has evolved into an iconic 434-acre Washington State Park & Conference Center.
An Innovative Enterprise
In 2008, Washington State Parks adopted the concept of a Lifelong Learning Center at Fort Worden after an extensive community planning process envisioned how the property could continue to operate as a cherished public resource and how its underutilized facilities could offer valuable benefits to a broad segment of the population.
In 2010, the City of Port Townsend designated Fort Worden as one of three economic anchors in its economic development strategy. The Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA) was established by City charter in 2011, to develop a partnership with the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission to fulfill State Parks’ designation of Fort Worden as a Lifelong Learning Center. In creating the PDA to undertake the implementation of the Lifelong Learning Center model, the City placed an emphasis on the PDA’s mission to develop coordinated public/private initiatives to stimulate, foster and attract new programming to create a national destination for arts, culture and education and build long-term financial and environmental sustainability.
In 2013, State Parks and the PDA entered into a collaborative management agreement and 50-year Master Lease for the Lifelong Learning Center, a 95-acre “campus” located at the heart of Fort Worden. State Parks remains steward of the 434 acres of the parklands and natural resources. The PDA manages all operations within the campus including tenant leases and facility use, hospitality and guest services, capital improvements and program development—and is mandated to be financially self-sustaining.
Established in 2016, the Fort Worden Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, conducts year-round local, regional and national fundraising efforts to support the PDA. The Foundation’s mission is to preserve Fort Worden’s historic legacy, safeguard its fiscal and environmental sustainability, ensure equal access for all peoples, and advocate for experiential learning.