Port Townsend may be only about 40 miles (as the crow flies) from Seattle, but it feels much further. And for anyone in a car, it is — thanks to its location on the tip of a peninsula, extending into Puget Sound. Getting here requires some effort — either a long drive around the southern end of the Sound, or a trip up I-5, then down Whidbey Island, and a ferry ride.
In my case, I had come around the Olympic Peninsula. After a visit to the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park near Port Angeles, I made my way out to “PT” for an afternoon of admiring Victorian architecture, and a wonderfully rustic waterfront.
Thanks to its boom days in the late 19th Century, Port Townsend’s Water Street offers several great examples of Victorian architecture. You’ll find the Hastings Building at the corner of Water & Taylor Streets. It dates back to 1889, and at the time, was said to be the “handsomest building in Port Townsend”. Nowadays, it appears to be in need of restoration. The upper floors are vacant.
You can spend the night in some of Port Townsend’s historic structures, including the N.D. Hill Building. It was also constructed in 1889, and now, its upper floors are occupied by the Waterstreet Hotel. Shared bath bedrooms start at around $50 in the off-season.
You’ll also spot some old ghost signs, like this one for Owl Cigars, on the side of the Bishop Block building, on the corner of Washington and Quincy Streets (one block behind Water Street). The building is now home to the Bishop Victorian Hotel.
I had a great time photographing the waterfront, which is just a block away from Water Street, behind the buildings. That old brick building, much to my surprise, is another hotel — the Clam Cannery (it’s not cheap).
And just beyond it, is this old ferry pier, which obviously hasn’t been used in a while.
Walk down to the end of Water Street, and you can check out the Northwest Maritime Center, a place for students to come and learn about sailing and the sea. It’s also the center of events during the Wooden Boat Festival, the first and largest in North America, usually held during early September.
There’s also some art to appreciate, outside the Northwest Maritime Center, including the “Salish Sea Circle”, sculpted by Gerard Tsutakawa.
There’s also something artistic about this old van, which may be parked nearby.
From the waterfront, wander back into town, and head up Taylor Street…
… which leads past the historic Rose Theatre. It was built in 1907 as a Vaudeville house, and was lovingly restored about two decades ago.
At the north end of Taylor Street, pause and relax around the Haller Fountain…
… then climb the Terrace Steps behind the fountain. The staircase drops you off at the corner of Jefferson and Taylor Streets…
… which is where you’ll find the Rothschild House Museum, a Washington State Park.
The house was built in 1868, by German immigrant Henry Rothschild — one of Port Townsend’s first businessmen. The Rothschilds were the only family to ever live here, and the home (and its furnishings) changed very little during its first century. In 1962, the last surviving member of the family donated the house to the state, and it’s been preserved ever since.