In the scenic Vancouver National Historic Reserve, visitors will find accurate reconstructions of six of the 27 buildings the Hudson’s Bay Company built here in 1845 to protect its fur-trapping interests. Surrounded by a tall wooden stockade and guarded by a three-story tower once armed with eight three-pound cannons, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the history of the area.
Other reconstructed buildings include a blacksmith’s shop, bakery, Native American trade shop, storage house, and the elegant residence of Dr. John McLoughlin, the Chief Factor. Although McLoughlin had been charged with keeping the American traders out of the market, he realized that their participation was far more practical. He later became an American citizen, moved to Oregon City, and is now hailed as the “Father of Oregon.”
Historic Fort Vancouver (360/816-6230, 360/816-6200 for recorded info, www.nps.gov/fova, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily Mar.–Oct., 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily the rest of the year, closed Jan. 1, Thanksgiving, and Dec. 24, 25, and 31) offers a tour with a visit to the fully restored home of John McLoughlin, along with a visit to the working blacksmith shop where you will learn how the Hudson’s Bay Co. produced beaver traps and other goods. Today the shop is used to train apprentices to create iron pieces for National Park Service historic facilities across the nation. Also of interest during the tour are the living history activities that take place all summer. The fort’s period gardens are interesting to view, and gardeners will be happy to tell you of the crops that were—and are—grown here.
A block north of the fort is the visitors center (1511 East Evergreen Blvd., same hours as the fort), where you can watch a 15-minute orientation video and view displays on the fort along with artifacts found during the excavations.
From downtown, drive east for a half mile on East Evergreen Boulevard. A $3 entrance fee ($5 for families, kids under 15 free) is charged May–October, free the rest of the year. The fort puts on an array of seasonal activities as well.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition