Saturday, June 20, 2015

Historic Port Gamble Washington

A day in Port Gamble, Washington is like taking a trip in a time machine to the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Port Gamble was established in 1853 as a company town, built by the Puget Mill Company, owned by Charles Foster, Josiah Keller, Andrew Pope and William Talbot. The company later became Pope and Talbot, Inc.

Port Gamble Water Towers - Port Gamble, WA
It is unknown exactly when these water towers were built, but these towers and the ones that preceded them are probably one of the reasons that the town has been preserved for over a century, instead of being burned to the ground like so many communities from that era.

Where is Port Gamble, WA?

Port Gamble is located on the Kitsap peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle.  The shortest routes are by taking either the Bainbridge Island Ferry from Seattle or the Kingston Ferry from Edmonds.

We opted to take the ferry from Edmonds to Kingston.  The crossing takes about 35 minutes.

Washington State Ferry

From the Kingston ferry dock it is about a 15 minute drive to Port Gamble.   Using the water towers as a landmark we turned onto Rainier Avenue, the main street leading into town. The street is shaded by deciduous trees and lined by saltbox style houses surrounded by white picket fences making it resemble a New England village.  The town founders were from East Machias, Maine and so were many of the employees they recruited to work in their sawmill. They designed and built Port Gamble to look like their birthplace.  The town was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

Rainier Avenue - Port Gamble, WA

After parking the car, we did a tour of the town using the handy Walking Tour Map of Port Gamble that I printed off from the town website.

Sign with history information - Port Gamble, WA
In addition to the free printable map with information about the buildings, there are also numerous signs posted on the fences with the main details about the building.  Because of the location where we found a parking spot, we began our tour with the Walker-Ames house, the grandest and largest house in the town.  This house was built in 1888-1889, as the replacement for the original home that burned down in a fire. The street entrance photo is actually the back door of the house.  Since most visitors arrived by boat when the house was built, the front door faces the bay and the site of the sawmill.  The sawmill was the oldest continuously operating mill in North America when it closed in 1995.  It was subsequently demolished.

Walker-Ames House - Port Gamble, WA
The Walker-Ames house was intended to be the home of the mill's resident manager, Edwin Ames, but since he was single and didn't need such a large home, it was offered to the mill master mechanic, William Walker who had a wife and several children.  Later Edwin Ames married William Walker's daughter and the combined families lived in the house together.

The inside of the house was not available for tours when we visited, but I found a video about a paranormal investigation of the house that shows some of the interiors including some of the beautiful old woodwork and stained glass.

Port Gamble has a local paranormal organization which hosts ghost Walks, paranormal investigations and an annual Ghost Conference near the end of October each year.

Pope and Talbot Office and Port Gamble General Store

The General Store was the "Company Store" and company office where employees picked up their pay and could spend it to buy goods like work clothes, tools,  household items and food.  It was built in 1916 as a replacement for a succession of older ones.  It currently houses a store, a cafe and the Port Gamble Historical Museum on the lower level.

Port Gamble is not only historic, but beautiful.   Baskets full of lush flowers were hung on posts along the streets.

Port Gamble Community Hall and Post Office
The community hall was built in 1906.  The first floor had spaces for community needs including office space for a doctor, a dentist, a barber shop, telegraph office, and post office. The second floor had an auditorium, theater, and dance hall.  The building still houses the post office and community center.

Franklin Masonic Lodge - Port Gamble, WA
The Masonic Lodge was built in 1871 and is still in active use by the organization.  The building was originally located at the site of the current General Store, but was moved a short distance in 1907 to where it is now..

Daniel B. Jackson House - Port Gamble, WA
Captain Daniel B. Jackson's built this house in 1871 on land belonging to Pope and Talbot.  The company allowed people to build homes on company property and charged $1 per year for rent. Captain Jackson managed the company's fleet of steamboats used to transport logs and wood.

The New York House - Port Gamble, WA

The New York House was built in 1863 and originally served as a company guest house.  Over the years it served as a hospital and the home for the town's resident doctor.

Cranmer House - Port Gamble, WA
The Cramner house was built in 1890 and was the home of Clarence Cramner and his wife Lulu.  Clarence Cramner was a Past Master of the Port Gamble Masonic Lodge in 1896.  The building now is used as a tea house.

Puget Hotel Stable - Port Gamble. WA
Now the home of several small shops, this building was once the stable of the Puget Hotel.  The hotel was built in 1903 and was open for business until it was damaged in a wind storm in 1962.  It was determined to be too severely damaged to be repaired so it was demolished in 1963.

Wedding Venues in Port Gamble

With such a scenic site and so many historic buildings, Port Gamble is a popular site for weddings.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church - Photo courtesy of  hobvias sudoneighm, on Flickr - Creative Commons License 2.0
Historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church with its classic architecture is a beautiful location for a wedding.

The Hood Canal Vista Pavilion - Port Gamble, WA

The Vista Pavilion was built in 2009 on the site of the old Puget Hotel, but it was designed in a craftsman style that blends well with the historic buildings in the town. The site is gorgeous with a view of Hood Canal.  The pavilion can be used for weddings, receptions or both.

An adjoining spot with room for a tent is available for larger groups.

Honeysuckle vines

A close-up view of the arbor at the entrance to the site reveals that it is covered with fragrant honeysuckle.

Service Station and Garage - Port Gamble, WA
Due to the increasing popularity of the automobile, in 1920 the company built a gas station and auto repair shop.  Ultimately the automobile gave employees the mobility to commute to work, and was one of the main causes of the demise of the "company town".

 Planning a Visit to Port Gamble?

For more information about Port Gamble, visit the Port Gamble Official website.  If you are considering spending the night in the area, there are a couple of  vacation rentals a few miles away in Hansville or the Phoenix B & B about 15 minutes away in Kingston.

Recommended Reading

Interested in more about the history of company towns or the timber industry in the Pacific Northwest?  These are some books you may enjoy.