Earlier this Autumn, in September, we made a trip to one of our most favorite destinations around the Sound - Port Townsend. The town is located on the very northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula and is surrounded by the waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Admiralty Inlet, by a harbor called Port Townsend Bay. The bay was named by Captain Vancouver, the famous English explorer whose name you can see all over the map both of the US and Canada - we've got Vancouver Island and Vancouver City in Canada, a town in Washington, plus mountains in Alaska and even New Zealand. George Vancouver originally named the bay Port Townshend after his friend Marquis of Townshend.
The town has the most fascinating history and is known as City of Dreams. In the late XIX century, it was a booming place, an international port with a few foreign embassies, looking forward to a magnificent future of becoming a New York City of the West. Some strong investors were attracted to this idea and readily poured their money into building the port and the city, erecting gorgeous buildings and fashionable homes for their families, some of which were brought to the tiny far away place from established European towns with rich cultural life and easy access to shopping and entertainment. Here, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by forest, mountains and ocean waters, they were about to spring a new life - to write a history.
Some of their dreams came true - Port Townsend was a happening place in the late XIX century. The plans of building a railroad which would connect Port Townsend to other cities of the West were in the air. But soon it became obvious that the railroad would stop east of Port Townsend, in Seattle and Tacoma. The investors eventually turned their attention somewhere else, and the city that lost many of its dreams was struggling until 1920 when a paper mill was built and provided work to the residents (to this day, the biggest industry in town with the population of a little over 9,000 people).
The history did not stop there, and in the 1970s Port Townsend started a new bloom which goes strong to this day. It became a community of artists and also a popular tourist destination. There are daily activities in the arts and culture field, and quite a few yearly events, including music festivals, an international film festival, a writer's conference, Victorian, Steampunk and Wooden Boat festivals and more. Thanks to such a rapid boom in the late XIX century, and oddly enough to the economic crisis which followed it, many of the exceptional examples of Victorian architecture were preserved and stayed untouched. Nowadays, Port Townsend is considered to be a national treasure for its remarkable architecture, it is also one of only three Victorian port cities in the USA.
One of the most striking buildings in town, The Hastings, 1889-1890.
I wanted to do something that we haven't done before in our many day trips to Port Townsend (it is only a couple of hours away from Tacoma), and so we took a free historic tour of the downtown area. We heard many fascinating stories and historical anecdotes which make history so much more personal and close to us - you realize that the history is built by people just like us, with their own dreams and hopes, with bumps on their way, with strong vision and deep disappointments. Nothing, not a thing, separates us from those historic figures. If you discovered a bay, wouldn't you named it after your best buddy? If you were a wife brought from your familiar social circle and family against your will, to a God forgotten place on the tip of a peninsula on a different continent, wouldn't it be difficult for you to stay happy and content, even if your husband completely adored you? These little things that our life decisions are based on, eventually become history - something other people would be eager to research and write books about.
So if you're traveling to Port Townsend, I highly recommend that you to take one of those FREE walking tours the local historical society offers every weekend. Our tour guide did a wonderful job, and besides was the most charming lady, looking gorgeous in her Victorian outfit. Too bad I don't have a better picture of her, she was stunning.
In the Palace Hotel (photos above and below), where we stayed once or twice, the atmosphere and furnishings are authentically Victorian, and every room has a lady's name - apparently, at some point in history it was a bordello. In general, the good Victorian wives of Port Townsend spent their time Uptown where their homes were. They had their own shops there as well - the downtown was left to men and not considered a proper place to be for ladies. Not so much today. There is plenty fun stuff to do downtown for both ladies and gentlemen, and the whole family.
Now a Bed and Breakfast, the building used to be a German council's residence.
Not only us people make the quaint town their residence though. A family of deer was resting right in someone's front yard as we were passing by in our car.
Jefferson County Courthouse is a beautiful example of Romanesque style architecture.
To be continued.