Fort Lewis received its name from Meriwether Lewis, who was part of the original Lewis and Clark expedition across the United States. Covering over 80,000 acres of land, it is one of the largest and most active U.S. military installations in the world. The Army base began life as Camp Lewis in 1917 when the citizens purchased the land and donated it to the US government for military use.
Updated: February 12, 2015
Fort Lewis is a US military facility that is roughly nine miles south of Takoma, Washington. It is the most important military base in the northwestern United States and the most frequently requested post in the Army.
Fort Lewis was established in 1917 as Camp Lewis, when the citizens of Pierce County used bonds to buy 68,721 acres of land that they then turned over to the military, with the stipulation that it be a permanent Army post. Camp Lewis was named after Meriwether Lewis, who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. During WWI, Camp Lewis served as a training ground for 60,000 men.
After the war, Camp Lewis became property of the federal government and was renamed Fort Lewis. In the late 1930’s, the federal government purchased a nearby airfield that was eventually named McChord Field. It became the site of a WPA project that constructed a 6,000 feet long runway. McChord Field eventually became property of the US Air Force and was renamed McChord Air Force Base.
In the early 1940’s, the Army negotiated with local landowners to lease 160,000 acres that would become the Yakima Anti-Aircraft Artillery Range. It was expanded during the Korean War and again in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Now called the Yakima Training Center, it is considered part of what is now the JBLM and encompasses over 320,000 acres. By contrast, Fort Lewis proper has 86,000 acres.
Fort Lewis continued to train troops. In 1972, the Fort Lewis Museum was established. In 2010, Fort Lewis and the McChord Air force Base were merged into the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) following the recommendations of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission. As such, it is a training and deployment center.
JBLM has over 25,000 soldiers and civilian workers and supports over 29,000 family members and 120,000 military retirees living both on and off the post. Over 19,000 people live on the base. A Housing Services Office helps people choose their housing. People living on the base are allowed a maximum of four pets. Exotic pets and so-called “bully” dog breeds are not allowed, and the pets have to be registered within 10 days. Other services on the base include the Madigan Army Medical Center, a tax center, and legal assistance.
Fort Lewis has schools for children from preschool up through high school, including four elementary schools. It also offers adult education programs, including courses in computers and finance. Recreation facilities include a golf course, swimming pool and gym.