On the shore of Puget Sound lies a small unincorprated town from the 19th century, that seems to be slumbering on into the 21st century. Discovering it while driving – for a minor Washington State highway actually runs through the town – is a surprise of the pleasantest kind.
A small main street, a few rows of neatly kept wooden houses with gardens enclosed by picket fences and a church that wouldn’t look out of place in Maine are the main features of this magical village. An intriguing general store and a Post Office and a few shops are added attractions in this delightful community.
The buildings range in age from the 1860’s through to the early years of the twentieth century – from Gothic revival to Four-square houses, with a dash of Queen Anne and Italianate thrown in for good measure. A bit of historical background will help to explain why Port Gamble is still able to welcome visitors, while wearing its old-fashioned garb.
From 1853 until 1995, Port Gamble was a company town of the Pope and Talbot lumber company, and the town’s buildings looked down onto the bustling lumber mill and wharves below the bluff, on the edge of Gamble Bay. Since 1995, when the Mill was closed, the town’s buildings are now available to lease, but are still preserved as a National Historic District.
Captain William Talbot established Port Gamble as a company town in July of 1853. It was the economic boom of San Francisco with the California gold rush of 1849 that was the impetus for the establishment of a sawmill far away in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1849, two ambitious young men from Maine, Andrew Jackson Pope and Frederic Talbot, William’s younger brother, had arrived in San Francisco on December 1, after a grueling 51-day journey around the tip of South America. Shortly after, they started a barge business in San Francisco Bay, and seeing a need for lumber in the booming economy of California, they also started a lumberyard. The two men started bringing in lumber from Maine, but this soon proved impractical, and they looked for a closer source of lumber.