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Another Time, Another Place

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Walking through Port Townsend can be a little disorienting. The landscape around the town is unmistakably Puget Sound – large expanses of water sparkling in the sun, Olympic Mountains to the west, Cascade Mountains to the east – but the town itself doesn’t look or feel like a small town of western Washington.

After walking a few blocks down Water Street, I realized that it didn’t really feel like I was in another place but another time. Port Townsend looks like I imagine early Seattle and San Francisco looked around the turn of the century. Instead of more humble buildings of brick or timber that the main street of most small Pacific Northwest towns have, Port Townsend has large, rather grand Victorian buildings lining its main historic street.

After I got home, I did some online research about Port Townsend to find out why it’s so different from other small towns. I discovered that Port Townsend is sometimes called “The City of Dreams” because there was early speculation that it would become the biggest harbor on the west coast. This was a dream that fell apart when the depression hit, preventing the railroad from connecting Port Townsend to the ports of Tacoma and Seattle. It’s strange to imagine how different the largely uninhabited peninsula would be if Port Townsend had flourished into the city many people thought it would become. The whole Puget Sound region might be very different, with our population spread out to the coast instead of crammed into the Seattle metropolitan area.

Being the antisocial, people-avoiding person that I am, I can’t help think it would be better with most of the people over there rather than here. So, why don’t I just move there myself? As I told Don, Port Townsend would be a great place to retire…if you didn’t want your kids to visit you very often! The journey is very time-consuming, whichever way you go.

Because of the long journey required to get there, I didn’t have much time to take photos and just wildly snapped as we were walking through.

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Because Port Townsend is on the Olympic Peninsula, you can drive to it, but it’s a long drive down through Olympia and back up the peninsula and part of the magic of Port Townsend is arriving by ferry where you get a great view of some of the larger historic buildings that sit up on the bluff and the water side of some of the buildings on Water Street.

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Although Port Townsend is a small town, with a population of only 9,000-some, a few hours didn’t feel like enough time to see it. There are a lot of intriguing shops and another historic district that we only had time to drive through. While I greatly enjoyed our day trip, I felt a little rushed. I’d like to stay a couple of nights and have a whole day to explore. Maybe on our next anniversary.

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21 thoughts on “Another Time, Another Place

  1. Wonderful photos, such a great historic-looking town! I’ve explored the peninsula twice during road trips with my sister, but we only passed through Port Townsend, so I didn’t get the chance to take in much of it, but I loved it. It would be a lovely place to spend an anniversary. Might even be fun to stay a night at the haunted place you posted about the other day. 🙂

    1. It’s a shame you didn’t get any time in Port Townsend. There’s so much there to explore, although the rest of the peninsula isn’t too shabby either! I love it out there, although we haven’t gone much since we had kids. (Mine have always complained about long car rides.) It would be fun to stay in the haunted hotel. Maybe we will, if it hasn’t sold by our anniversary next year. It’s possible. It’s apparently been up for sale for a couple of years already.

      1. I guess we were in a hurry to get to Sequim! 😉 I love it there on the peninsula too. As Rachael and I were out on a little nature walk yesterday we were saying how we wished we could go to the Hoh Rainforest again.
        If you can’t stay at the haunted hotel, I bet there’s other haunted places in Port Townsend…

        1. There probably are! I’ll have to research haunted hotels in Washington. My old hometown has a ghost walk every October but I’ve never been. It’s just so far away.

  2. My completely random thought for the day inspired by this post…. I wonder at what point in time will “turn of the century” refer not to 1900, but 2000? It’s hard to believe, but we’re almost 1/6 of the way through the 21st century already!

    1. That will be the point where we start saying, the turn of the last century I guess but most of us who were born in the last century probably won’t ever do that. It would make us sound so old 🙂

    2. I thought about clarifying which century but I figured the only people who would think I meant 2000 would be milleninials and I doubt I have any readers from that age group. And, if I do, I won’t for long since I am becoming a grumpy old lady who despises pop culture more every day and feels like our culture is doomed due to its own idiocy.

  3. What lovely architecture. I can’t help thinking that if the railway had come to the town it might look more like Seattle or any other large modern city with many of those fine old buidings lost forever. I have been interested in visiting the Olympic Penisula since reading the Betty MacDonald books many, many years ago. She made the area sound wonderful.

    1. I think you’re probably right about most of those old buildings being destroyed if Port Townsend had grown into a city. For its sake, I’m glad it didn’t. I think it’s perfect the way it is. To me, towns of just under 10,000 people are just the right size – they have pretty much everything a person needs but they usually don’t have a ton of traffic.

      I will have to look up the Betty McDonald books. I like reading books set in Washington. The peninsula is beautiful. I’d love to visit the Hoh Rainforest again soon and the rugged beaches along the north end of the peninsula.

      1. The Egg and I is her most famous one of course but I also liked “Anybody Can Do Anything” and my favourite “Onions in the Stew” about living on Vashon Island. There was also “The Plague and I” about her having tuberculosis.

        1. I went to Amazon to read descriptions of these books and now I have to read them! I love reading about life in that era. It amazes me how different things were not so many years ago. Thank you for the book suggestions!

            1. My sister and I bought our books from second hand shops and second hand book sales and we’ve had them a long time. You might try the library but the others were not as well known as The Egg and I so probably harder to find.

            2. I will try the library and keep my eyes open at second hand bookstores. Did you read The Plague and I? For some reason, that one really intrigued me.

            3. I started to as my sister has it but didn’t finish it. Stories about illness turn me off a bit but I will have another go one day. My sister liked it.

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