If you want a day trip from Sequim that offers a look at Victorian Washington, some retail grazing, a maritime fix, or just a meal somewhere else, Port Townsend is a great option.
European settlement in Port Townsend, or “PT,” began in early 1851. PT’s downtown heart is Water Street alongside Port Townsend Bay, which is in view from much of downtown. PT was a well-situated seaport in the latter half of the 1800s, with an economy based on marine trade to the growing Puget Sound region. It rivaled San Francisco in its prospects as a growth center and early speculation was that it would be the largest harbor on the West Coast. A railroad network was expected to fuel further economic growth. By the late 1800s the city had many beautiful homes and buildings in the era’s ornate Victorian style.
The James and Hastings Building, above, is sited where the first log cabin was built in PT in 1851. The cabin was later replaced first by a dry goods store and in 1889 by the James and Hastings Building. This building was completed around the time that the bright future planned for PT dimmed. A depression in the late 1800s bankrupted over a quarter of U.S. railroads and the Northern Pacific Railroad failed to connect PT to Tacoma. Port Townsend lost much of its population and the local economy relied on fishing, port activities (including shanghaiing!), canning, and the miliary located at nearby Fort Worden. A paper mill built in the 1920s infused the economy with new purpose.
Tomorrow I’ll take a look at two other examples of Port Townsend’s Victorian architecture.