Bremerton wouldn't exist without this Seattleite | KUOW News and Information

Bremerton wouldn't exist without this Seattleite

Jun 17, 2017

William Bremer, born in Germany, moved to Seattle first.

But it was Bremerton, the city across Puget Sound, to which Bremer "gave his name and his fortune and all of this thought and energy," according to Leonard Garfield, director of Seattle's Museum of History and Industry.

Around 1890, Bremer learned that the U.S. government was scouting land on the west side of Puget Sound as a site for a Naval shipyard. Bremer was just one of a number of speculators who tried to cash in on the opportunity, "but he ended up by far being the most successful," Garfield said. 

William Bremer (1863-1910) immigrated to America from Germany as a young man, and settled in Seattle. When he heard the U.S. Government would be buying up land for a shipyard on the western side of Puget Sound, Bremer jumped at the opportunity.

Bremer had a banking background and a brother-in-law who'd made money as a jeweler, so "he just went over there with a pretty hefty checkbook, figures out where the Naval station might be, and buys up everybody's property."

Bremer didn't just have a chunk of land, though.

He had a vision for a town. Bremer saw shipyard workers would need food, and shelter, and places to congregate. So he platted the land, named it Bremerton, and began dreaming of what it would be. "He thought that there would be a metropolis on the other side of the sound. And it would all revolve around this enormous federal investment," Garfield said. 

The town did grow, but not necessarily how Bremer imagined. One thing Bremer didn't seem to anticipate, says Garfield, is that the Navy would bring not just renters and customers, but also drinkers and brawlers. "He was probably overly optimistic that it would be a normal apple pie American city," Garfield said.

Bremer himself never moved to Bremerton. He lived with his family in Seattle until his death in 1910 at the age of 47.