Port Townsend is the main port of entry to Puget Sound and the first town site on the Olympic Peninsula. As such, the city has hosted consulates from Chile, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Great Britain, and the kingdom of Hawaii. The hopes that the port city would be the end point for the Union Pacific’s transcontinental railroad fueled a huge late-1800s building boom, resulting in the grand Victorian mansions still in evidence today. A period of financial depression followed, and many of the mansions were abandoned and converted into rooming houses and apartments, left to wait forlornly for the rescue that would eventually save a small percentage of these historical beauties.
Over the years, military bases and a pulp and paper mill restored Port Townsend’s economic stability. The “far-out” location attracted a hippie crowd in the 1970s, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s culture. Today tourism, fed by a gorgeous setting with breathtaking views over Admiralty Inlet and the nearby Olympic Mountains, accounts for much of Port Townsend’s prosperity. Many of the remaining Victorian mansions have been transformed into lavish B&Bs, and several galleries, shops, and gourmet restaurants have sprung up to serve visitors from near and far. Today the citizens of Port Townsend are a blend of blue-collar millworkers, generally harmless tree-huggers, and wealthy newcomers and retirees.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition