Nearly two-hundred feet in diameter and fourteen feet deep, the Dan Harpole Cistern was originally built to put out fires in case the bunkers rimming the upper Fort Worden hill ever came under attack. When the fort closed in the mid-1950s, the two million-gallon cistern, hidden beneath a carpet of grass, was drained.
There is nothing to compare to the forty-five second reverberation in the Cistern. It is not just the long reverb time that makes the Cistern unique, however, but also the pillars that support the roof. The shape of the sound begins to be reflected, as the sound moves through the pillar system to the wall. As the sound travels along the wall, there are little bounces off the pillars—all these little reflections that pick up and reinforce and cancel out the harmonics. You can improvise with those sounds, adding the next phrase while the first is still lingering and fading.
The Cistern is available to be used by musicians and recording artists as part of Centrum’s Creative Residency Program, although the normal residency program fee may not apply if housing, studio and other space is not required.
Using The Cistern
A Cistern Use Permit form is available from Centrum, who coordinates Cistern usage with Fort Worden State Park. The Use Permit must be accompanied by one check to Fort Worden State Park for $50 per day of use, and a second check to Centrum for $50.
The Use Permit must be submitted at least two weeks before the requested date of use, and will be accepted or denied by Fort Worden State Park. It must include start and finish times for each day of use.
One person must be stationed “on top” by the Cistern for the duration of the use of the facility for emergency purposes, and must carry a cell phone. We can provide such a person for an hourly fee. No more than six (6) people are allowed in the Cistern at any one time, due to limited airflow in the chamber.
For more information on Cistern use, please contact Jordan Hartt at jhartt (at) centrum (dot) org or call 360-385-3102 x131.