Port Gamble: A Historic sea-side town in the Pacific Northwest

The Walker-Ames House - Port Gamble’s grandest home, built in the Queen Anne style, overlooks Gamble Bay in Puget Sound. Built 1888—1889, this was the resident manager’s house. Its front door faces the bay because important visitors arrived by sea.

The porch of the Walker-Ames House, with stained glass windows in the Entrance Hall and staircase. After railroad connections were made to the area, it was possible to purchase stained glass and intricate woodwork from Eastern mills. Wm. Walker’s daughter Maude married Edwin Ames who served as resident manager from 1883-1914.

The porch of the Walker-Ames House shows the heavily turned porch posts and jig-sawn brackets strewn with climbing roses, which can bloom year-round in the mild Pacific Northwest climate.

Two simple Italianate homes on Pope Street, overlook Gamble Bay. They were built in 1873 for married workers.

The pathway along Pope Avenue to St. Paul’s Church passes several historic homes that are still residences.

St. Paul’s Church in Port Gamble as it is being restored in 2010, and as it looked shortly after it was built in 1879. Situated on a slight hill, it commands a view of the ocean from its front steps. The carpenter gothic building is modelled on its forebears in New England, and is delightful to find in the Pacific Northwest. Pope and Talbot restored the church in 1973 and returned the steeple to its original height.

The Port Gamble Community Hall and Post Office, painted a sunny yellow, has always served as a Community Center and Post Office. It was built in 1907 and designed by Seattle architects Bebb & Mendel. A barber, doctor, dentist, and postmaster served residents here. On the 2nd floor, in an auditorium, dances, Christmas parties for children, plays, movies, and even basketball games were held. The auditorium also served as a meeting hall for the mill employees and it retains its antique movie projector.

This plainer Georgian revival home, the Morrill Pope House, was built around 1900—1901, and was barged over from nearby Port Ludlow after 1929, replacing the earlier John Seavey house that had stood here since 1870.

An 1871 home of the town’s third postmaster on Pope Street is now used as an antique shop.

This home, known as New York House, was built in 1863, and is entered from a side porch supported by chamfered porch pillars and simple jig-sawn brackets. Originally Pope and Talbot’s company guesthouse, the house also served as the hospital, office, and home for the town’s resident physician. The actual origin of the house’s name is lost, but historic documents reveal that in 1860 and in 1878 the resident physician was from New York, which may explain the house name.

At the end of Rainier Avenue is a small park, with picnic tables, overlooking the Hood Canal and north to Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. Watching ships from this vantage point would have been a popular activity throughout the history of Port Gamble. Today, watching boats is still a peaceful activity in this beautiful spot.

Port Gamble is a delightful survivor of an earlier period in history. The early recognition of the town as a National Historic District in 1966 has undoubtedly helped to preserve the town, even as its founding company regrettably went into bankruptcy in 2008. Port Gamble now stands as a testament to an important period in the history of the Pacific Northwest, and serves as a reminder of our former dependence on the lumber industry as both the west coast of the United States and Canada supplied the world with lumber.

But today, Port Gamble is worth visiting simply as a calm, old-fashioned backwater, perfect for a peaceful break and a quiet time.  A great place for a picnic, some quiet shopping, a place to appreciate some fine Victorian architecture, or simply a place to sit and watch the boats go by.

For a more extensive and excellent online history of Port Gamble, see www.historylink.organd click on ‘Interactive Cybertours’ (on the left side of the page under ‘shortcuts’).

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