Friday, March 20, 2015

Nineteenth Century Today: The Dreams of Port Townsend

One of the things I love about my new home is all the history surrounding it.  Anglo-history was a little scarce where I came from, with most of the structures dating to no earlier than WWII.  That’s why it was such a treat recently to visit Port Townsend.

Located at the northwest corner of Puget Sound, Port Townsend was original named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver for his friend the Marquis of Townshend.  Its sheltered, deep harbor welcomed the sailing ships of the day and inspired the first settlers in 1851 to dream of its being the largest harbor on the West Coast.  In fact, the early settlers called it the City of Dreams for the prosperity they hoped would follow.

The town saw rapid growth throughout the 1800s in anticipation of being the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Dozens of homes were built along the hillside overlooking Puget Sound, along with many civic buildings.  Fort Worden was built along one end to protect the entrance of Puget Sound from hostile forces. 

But Port Townsend’s dreams were dashed when Tacoma, more than 80 miles and on the other side of the Sound, was chosen as the end of the rail line. People began leaving down in droves.  Only the opening of a paper mill kept Port Townsend alive.  Now, the town thrives on boat building and a growing tourist trade.

My cousin once removed (known as Aunt Mary to my brother and me) lives in the area and took us on what she called her nickel tour.  Everywhere I looked were fine examples of Victorian architecture.  Like this.

And this.

And this, the district courthouse.

And it doesn’t hurt that the deer come right down into the city and roam, even in broad daylight!

It wasn’t hard for the City of Dreams to set me dreaming about owning one of these homes.  In fact, I picked the perfect house for me.  This beauty stands on a bluff alongside Puget Sound, with a commanding view of Port Townsend Bay and Marrowstone Island.  Can’t you just see me sitting in my office, gazing out at the blue, blue waters, the passing ships?

Hm.  Maybe I ought to stay in my little cottage.  At least then my dreams are more likely to get down on paper as books!

What about you?  Any of these houses set you to dreaming?


Helena said...

I want the first house pictured! Love that colour, and all the windows. Port Townsend sounds idyllic.

Regina Scott said...

Nice choice, Helena! And you're in luck--it's for sale! Here's the blurb:
The 8 bedroom 8+ bath, Ann Starrett Mansion was built for the love of a woman by her contractor husband, George Starrett. It has been a B&B and Boutique Hotel but is currently being sold as a home. A mysterious three tiered spiral staircase rises up from the gracious formal entry to a 70 foot tower. At the dome of the tower is a glorified solar calendar. Frescoes of angelic maidens painted in Ann's image will enchant you. Move in & experience Victorian ambiance at home and in Port Townsend.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Beautiful, Regina! I need to come visit you. :-)

Regina Scott said...

Thanks, Lynn! Come by any time. You can have the big tester bed in the chamber overlooking the Island. Right after I earn enough to buy the house, of course! :-)

QNPoohBear said...

Those houses are really nice. The first one appeals to me. Here those old painted ladies have largely been turned into apartments and most are shabby and in need of repair. I'm going to check out Port Townsend and see if they need an archivist!

Regina Scott said...

Let us know what you find out, QNPoohBear. Though Marissa will be so jealous if I coax you from her coast to mine. :-)