September 5, 2011
This late summer day in September we hop on board the ferry Spokane headed for Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula. We catch the ferry at the dock in Edmonds, a picturesque city on the shores of Puget Sound. The ferry ride from Edmonds to Kingston is only about 30 minutes and we’re approaching the dock at Kingston before we know it.
Known as the “little city by the sea”, Kingston is the northern gateway to the Olympic Peninsula. Founded in 1853 by Benjamin Bannister the community was originally known as Appletree Cove. By 1880, Kingston was known as a lumber town, until the mill closed in the early 1900’s. The local lumberyard is still in business today. Kingston’s founders dreamed of turning the town into a vacation resort for Seattlites, but these dreams never materialized. Despite this, today Appletree Cove is great place to relax and enjoy nature.
From Kingston, we drive North to Port Gamble. We park the car on main street near a pair of 50,000 gallon water tanks that distinguish Port Gamble as a real Washington original. The sawmill that Pope and Talbot founded on Gamble Bay in 1853 remained in operation until 1995 and is recognized as one of the longest continually running mills in the US. The mill that started Port Gamble may be gone, but the recently restored town that grew up around the mill gives visitors a chance to see how early Washington lumber towns looked and functioned. The main street is lined with historical buildings that remind us of Port Gamble’s past.
It’s not known when the Port Gamble fire station was built, but it was moved here sometime between 1929 and 1956. The mill workers volunteered as fire fighters. Today, the fire station is home to a kayak dealer. The Port Gamble General Store has actually been rebuilt 5 times since 1853 on this site. Today the store sells mostly gifts and local crafts of interest to the many tourists from all over the world who visit. Upstairs is a sea and shore museum that shows visitors samples of all the diverse wildlife and artifacts collected from the waters of the bay.
To the side and behind the general store is the Port Gamble Historical Museum. Outside the entrance to the museum is a courtyard displaying some important relics from Port Gamble’s lumber and maritime past. Nearby is an impressive specimen of an Elm tree was planted in 1875 and grown by a local man who won a state championship for it.
From the courtyard, we can see the Walker Ames House which is the most elaborate house in town. This Queen Anne style home was the residence of the mill manager and it’s front door faces the bay because that’s where important visitors arrived from – off of ships.
The New York House is probably named after the home town of physician who practiced here in 1860 and in 1878. It served as a hospital, office, and company guest house through the years. On main street is one of the oldest surviving Masonic halls in Washington and it’s still used today by the local Masons. At the end of the main street is a wonderful viewing platform where you can see Hood Canal where ships heavy with lumber from the mill headed for distant ports.
The Port Gamble community center was designed by Seattle architects and built in 1906. A barber, doctor, dentist, and post office served Port Gamble residents here through the years. Today it still is home to the local post office.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was built in 1879. It was built and maintained by the mill company to encourage it’s workers to attend. The steeple and original Congregational affiliation echoes the New England origins of it’s founders, Pope and Talbot.
A little further west of Port Gamble lies the pleasant Salsbury Point Park and boat launch. This beach front park is a popular fishing spot as well. We stop here to take a rest before traveling across the Hood Canal Floating Bridge which we can see in the distance. Later we cross the bridge. The Hood Canal Floating bridge connects the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas together with one of the longest floating spans in the world, at 2398 meters long. It took a decade for the bridge to be built. It was originally opened in 1961, but a severe storm in 1979 caused the bridge to sink. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1982.
We arrive at Port Ludlow, our final destination. During the 1870’s Port Ludlow was known for it’s fine shipbuilding and that reputation caused the town to prosper. Later in 1879, Pope and Talbot of Port Gamble fame, purchased the sawmill and took over the shipbuilding business. Today, Port Ludlow is a resort town with a beautiful marina, golf course, world class hotel and restaurant, and a water lover’s paradise ideal for boating, fishing, windsurfing, and kayaking. On the site of a former sawmill refuse burner now stands a native American totem pole and a small park. The totem was erected in 1995 to commemorate Port Ludlow’s evolution from it’s past as a lumber and shipbuilding town to today’s residential and tourist community. Port Ludlow’s beach front is a great place to soak up some last Summer sun rays and watch the ships sail past.