Designated a National Historic District in 1976, the Victorian era seaport of Port Townsend, Washington (population 9,300) has been hailed by National Geographic as “one of the most sophisticated places west of Seattle.” A walk around town reveals two dozen or so buildings holding National Historic Landmark status in their own right, including the imposing Jefferson County Courthouse, the stately blue and white Hastings Building and the Ann Starrett Mansion. Dozens of lovingly restored buildings now hold art galleries, cafés and interesting shops. Port Townsend’s waterfront/downtown area encompasses the City Hall, Jefferson County Courthouse, commercial buildings and residences that reflect its appeal as a late-19thcentury port town. The uptown district is known for its stunning Victorian homes. Additional points of interest include Fort Worden State Park, a small Aero Museum and the Northwest Maritime Center.
Located near the Strait of Juan de Fuca (through which all ships headed to Seattle, Washington and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada must sail) and the site of a safe harbor, Port Townsend became an important shipping port in the late 1800s. The town grew rapidly on speculation as investors banked on Port Townsend becoming the largest port north of San Francisco – premised on the planned construction of a railroad to the south, a plan that crashed with the USA financial crash in the 1890s. Called the City of Dreams, the downtown waterfront was once an active seaport complete with chandleries, shipyards, commercial docks taverns and brothels. In the 1970s the town was rekindled as a wave of people, beginning with numerous “hippies”, rediscovered Port Townsend. Attracted to the blend of history, rugged natural beauty and inexpensive property, people came to start businesses, pursue art and restore the town.
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