Volunteers recently finished remodeling the Robert P. Smiley Scout Hall in Kingston, providing improved space for Scouts BSA Troop 555, which was established in 1948.
A rededication ceremony was held in February at the new Scout Hall, originally built in 1962, and was attended by over 100 people. It is named after Smiley, honoring the man primarily responsible for the original Scout cabin. Scout Hall hadn’t had renovations done since 1996.
“We had always wanted to restore the building,” said Doug Hallock, Kingston North Kitsap Rotary Club member and charter representative for Troop 555 and Cub Pack 555. “It had a sagging roof, and it was just falling apart.”
Renovations included getting rid of rotten log siding and replacing it with hand-cut cedar, painting exterior log siding, new gutters, metal roof, ADA access doors, new support structure to hold the building up, vaulted ceilings, added insulation, recoated floor, new wiring and a fireplace insert.
To help kickstart the fundraising aspect of the project, Bob Smiley (Robert’s son) originally asked Hallock if he’d like to take on the project and provided a donation of $14,500 out of the Smiley Foundation. More donations came in from community members and local businesses, including one anonymous donation of $26,000. So far, $75,000 has been raised.
“He kind of planted the seed to get this thing moving,” Hallock said of Smiley. “We have plenty of money to get this thing restored.”
A few small things still need to be finished, such as the railing and covered entry, but the interior is basically done. Phase 2 of the renovation would be to add a bathroom, sink and new heating system. Scout Hall is owned by Rotary and Troop 555 but the property is owned by Kitsap County.
Hallock has been involved with Scouts since he was 8 years old and served as a district executive director at Chief Seattle Council Boy Scouts of America for 12 years. He is a managing broker for Windermere Real Estate in Kingston and Rotary liaison to the two local Scout groups.
“I have a lot of background and experience in getting volunteers motivated to do this stuff,” Hallock said. “I had some great volunteers who stepped forward. It took quite a long time to get things the way we wanted it.”
“We think the Scouting program is the premier youth program in the United States. We really want this to stay around here locally. Most of these Scout units don’t have their own place to hang their hat, and we do here in Kingston,” he said, adding there’s one in Tracyton and Silverdale.
Membership for Scouts has been on a steady decline since the early 1990s, Hallock said. Back then there were about 4,200 Scouts in Kitsap, compared to about 900 today. Troop 555 only has 10 boy members while Cub Pack 555 has about 35 members, consisting of boys and girls.
“Since the early ‘90s, there’s a lot more activities that kids are involved in,” Hallock gave as a reason for the drop in numbers. “Parents have shied away from the tenants of Scouting.”
“We’re seeing a resurgence now, I think. It will start coming back again now that we’re over COVID. I don’t know if we’ll be at the same level we were in the early ‘90s…but I think we’ll be building things up again.”
He went on to say they have a cadre of volunteers. “That’s what you need to keep things going in Scouting because kids grow up, parents move on and you have to keep recruiting new people to fill in the slots. We’re having pretty good fall recruitment.”
Troop 555 will be the primary group using the improved 25-foot by 30-foot Scout Hall as Cub Pack 555 uses the nearby Village Green facility since they have more members. Troop 555 meets at Scout Hall once a week, and occasionally there will be other events there.
Along with Scout Hall being rededicated, the Kingston Historical Society placed the facility on the Washington State Heritage Registry and is now designated as a historic site. Next year marks the 75th anniversary of Troop 555 and Hallock said there will be some kind of celebration to mark the occasion.
Scout Hall is located at 26128 Bannister St. NE. Troop meetings are every Tuesday night from 7-8:30. For more information about Troop 555 and Cub Pack 555, call Hallock at 360-271-1315 or email him at email@example.com.
The original Boy Scout troop in Kingston, Troop 528, was charted in 1936 but moved to Olalla in 1946. When Kingston Post 7329 VFW arrived in 1948, Major Albert H. Swift sponsored a new troop, christening it Troop 555, otherwise known as “The Triple Nickel.”
The program struggled until 1951, when former Eagle Scout Robert P. Smiley revived it by holding the first meeting in the basement of a nearby service station. Until the hall was completed in 1961, meetings were held at the homes of various scoutmasters.
Smiley met with Kitsap County Commissioner Ed Swan at the site on the northwest corner of Kola Kole Park, to authorize the building of the hall at that site. The agreement was sealed with only a handshake.
Construction began in 1959 with 11 volunteers plus the Scouts. Wood and logs were donated by the Port Gamble Mill while Art and Darrell Steele along with Bill and Sonny Woodward poured the concrete slab on which it sits. Art Steele solicited businesses for materials while Smiley collected $900 to go toward construction by collecting newspapers.
In 1986, the fire department threatened to tear down the hall because it appeared to be abandoned due to lack of Scouts. Smiley again rallied the community and within 30 days, with help from Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster Allen Chessman, they were able to clean up the building and shutter the broken windows. Monthly pancake breakfasts were held in the VFW Hall to raise funds and recruit more Scouts.
In 1993, Smiley passed away but County Commissioner Chris Endresen reassured Troop 555 had use of Scout Hall as long as there was an active troop. From 1961 to 2018 Troop 555 produced 42 Eagle Scouts who had projects all over North Kitsap.
The first time the facility ever received any kind of restoration was in 1996. The hall was given a new roof, new interior, and a paint job. A plaque was dedicated to the builders of the original hall. The hall was dedicated to Smiley on the 50th anniversary of the revival of the troop in 2001.