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Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea

   
 

 

Photo essay: Rolling the Islands of the Salish Sea: Port Townsend

   

Poulsbo to PORT TOWNSEND (70km, 43mi).  We pass a string of mill towns that were boom towns a century ago.
Points of interest: Port Gamble Historic Dist., Port Townsend Historic Dist., Fort Warden, Chinese Garden (Hist.)

  Bicycling backroad of Bainbridge Island
Bicycling backroads of Bainbridge Island
The backroads of the Kitsap Peninsula / Kitsap County don't have much traffic so they make for good cycling.  Kitsap County was initially named Slaughter County, in honor of Lt. W.A. Slaughter.  He was killed by Indians, near Puyallup, in 1855. Local residents voted in the next election to rename it Kitsap, a local chief and medicine man who fought against the settlers in the Indian wars, but whose warning also saved the settlers in the Puyallup Valley from a massacre. The translation of Kitsap means "brave."
  Pt Gamble General Store and Sea & Shell Museum
Pt Gamble General Store and Sea & Shell Museum
Managers house, Pt GambleThere is not much to Port Gamble these days except a store, museum Post Office and view point.  But these are enough to warrant a stop.   Pt Gamble was founded in 1853 by Misters Pope, Talbot and Walker. It was the company town for the Pope & Talbot Mill, which closed in 1995. The General Store and Sea & Shell Museum are now the anchor for the "town." The shell museum has over 1,000,000 specimens of nearly 20,000 species. An amazing site to see and experience in an unexpected location.  The general store maintains a homespun quality in a commercial world characterized by cavernous stores and bright lights.
  Pt Gamble main street
Pt Gamble main street
Pt Gamble post officePort Gamble's tree-lined-street, residential area is right out of small-town Maine -- dignified houses with a standard white picket fence in front.  The mystery ends when you learn that the town's founders came from Maine.  At the end of the block is the Port Gamble Masonic Lodge.  It now has houses the Post Office.
  Larry Scott Memorial Trail If you averse to hills and/or highways the most pleasant route into Port Townsend is the Larry Scott Memorial Trail. The trail is named in honor of Larry Scott, one of the original High Priests of the "Church of the Rear Derailleur."  He helped start the Peninsula Trails Coalition, whose number one goal was to develop a trail from Pt Townsend to Port Angeles, along the old RR right-of-way.  This is the Pt Townsend end of the corridor.
  Larry Scott Memorial Trail Larry Scott Memorial Trail, Port TownsendThe trail is smooth, flat, esthetic, fresh, car free, and for a good distance it is on prime real estate right along the water.  It was one of the group's favorite sections of bicycle riding on the whole tour.
  Larry Scott Memorial Trail The trail invited lingering.  In fact, bicycling was too fast a mode of travel for appreciating the tranquility.  We stopped about every quarter mile to appreciate the scenery, take advantage of a nice photo ops and enjoy a little rest.
  Tsunami warning sign Here is a Tsunami warning sign.  The graphic little man, running for his life up a cliff, looks like he's going to get swallowed up by the wave -- it is not a very encouraging message.  He should be on a bike so he can make a quicker escape!
  McCurdy Building, Pt Townsend
McCurdy Building, Pt Townsend
The Native Americans called Pt Townsend "Kah-tai", meaning "to carry" or "pass through" (i.e. portage avoiding Point Wilson). Founded 1851, it looked for a while like it would be an important town.  It was a full fledged boom town for part of the second half of the 19th century:  The U.S. Customs district headquarter moved from Olympia to Port Townsend in 1853. It became the official U.S. Customs point of entry Chinese. In 1860, there was formal Hawaiian consulate (then independent). 1888 to 1890 were its biggest boom years but in Nov 1890 the boom went bust.  In 3 years, 4 of 6 banks disappeared and population dropped from 7000 to 2000.  For the next century not much happened; nothing was built, but just as significant, little was torn down.  By the time people became interested in Pt Townsend again there was renewed interest and value in historic buildings and preservation was the strategy of the day.  Pt Townsend became a bit of a living museum.
  Hastings Building, Port Townsend
Hastings Building
Hastings Building, Port TownsendThe ornate Hastings Building (1889) was designed by Elmer Fisher.  The architect seems to have more of a story than the building.  As best we can get the story, Fisher was a cabinet maker and married in Minneapolis around 1880.  In 1883 he moved to Denver, reinvented himself as an architect and took on a mistress.  It might have been a period of stability.  In 1887, he was designing noteworthy buildings in Vancouver.  In 1887, his architect shingle was hanging in Victoria.  The next year put he name on at least three major buildings in Pt Townsend and also has credits in Seattle, which was in the midst of a building boom after its great fire.  Fisher married again in 1893 in Seattle.  In 1894, San Francisco was his base, and then a year later he moved to Los Angeles where he settled down until his death in 1905.
  old ferry dock on the central waterfront of Port Townsend
Old ferry dock on the central waterfront of Port Townsend
This old ferry dock on the central waterfront of Port Townsend, is the dock used in the movie "Snow Falling On Cedar" when the Japanese families had to leave their belongings and lives behind and were being expelled from the island.  There is a novel of the same name, nominally set on Bainbridge Island, where we had bicycled the day before.  The new ferry dock is a half mile away, more on the south edge of downtown.
   
 

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