Construction on Fort Worden began in 1897 and continued in one form or another until the fort was closed in 1953. Construction work on the initial fortifications above Point Wilson were delayed until July 1897. The property was privately owned and the government had to clear title to the land through condemnation proceedings. The Army Corps of Engineers took charge of building the construction dock, warehouses, and a tramway to haul concrete for the gun emplacements from the dock to the mixing plant. To meet construction needs, the Army laid a pipeline from Port Townsend and pumped water into large storage tanks inside the fort. The arrival of wet winter weather slowed progress on the batteries. It took 200 men almost three years to complete the excavation and concrete work for the gun emplacements.
In March 1900, the fort was ready for installation of the initial armaments. Sixteen artillery pieces, shipped from the armory at Columbus, Ohio, arrived from Tacoma by barge. A special tramway was constructed to haul the heavy artillery pieces from the dock area to top of the bluff. In March 1901 the guns were moved to their assigned positions and mounted in the batteries, ready for test firing.
Fort Worden was activated in 1902. The 126th Coast Artillery Company, consisting of 87 soldiers, commanded by Captain Manus McCloskey, was the first detachment assigned to Fort Worden. They arrived from Seattle on board the steamer SS Majestic on May 3, 1902, and were quartered in tents pending the completion of the barracks. Twenty-three permanent buildings were under construction at a cost of $59,450. A communication system, connecting the three forts by cable, was installed in 1903.