Monday Walks Port Gamble

A Walk through Historic Port Gamble

Monday, April 03, 2017S.V. CAMBRIA

One of the ways we stave off cabin fever during the winter months is by getting off the boat whenever we can to do something fun outside. A couple of weeks ago the sun poked through the clouds, so we jumped in the truck and drove up to Port Gamble, a turn-of-the-century New England village, for a walk around town.

Port Gamble is a small community and another “census designated places”. For most people, it’s a place on the way to somewhere else. But there’s something special about Port Gamble: It’s a historic company town fashioned after the small village of East Machias, Maine. And it stands out like a sore thumb.

But why? Why replicate a village from Maine in the middle of the Washington woods? The answer is simple: Homesickness.

Port Gamble was a company town. It still is.

In the summer of 1853, William Talbot arrived to search for a site for a new lumber mill for himself and his partners. And by September, the new mill was up and running but finding enough workers to run it proved difficult. So, they began recruiting experienced men from their hometown in Maine, but the new employees grew homesick for the life they’d left behind in their new environment.

The partners believed a familiar streetscape would cure this and help attract more workers, so the homes were built in Colonial architecture. They went as far as building the church from the same plans as the one located in Maine

The mill closed down in 1995, but the company decided to maintain the town for tourism and, according the National Park Service, it’s “the finest example of a nineteenth century Pacific Coast Logging community.” Signs posted outside the homes and buildings provide information about the former residents, make the experience akin to visiting a museum.

Many of the remaining homes continue to line Rainier Avenue, the main street, and are businesses now, while others are available as vacation rentals. 

The town also caters to the wedding crowd. 

The mill manager lived in the biggest home – the Walker-Ames House, which is said to be haunted. There are stories of people seeing figures looking out the attic windows, strange noises and voices heard and hair-raising feelings of nausea. It, along with Port Gamble, attract ghost hunters from all over and host ghost walks, ghost investigations and paranormal conferences. 

The hauntings don’t stop there, though. With recorded activity dating back to the 1950s, there are stories about nearly every building in Port Gamble.  

At the end of the road lies the General Store where you can buy old-fashion candy and toys along with sculptures of the Eiffel Tower. Upstairs is an incredible display of shells and marine life. Why it’s there, we have no idea but enjoy looking nonetheless. There’s also a museum of the town’s history behind and beneath the store but, for some reason, we’ve never visited it. 

Across the street is the former Fire Station, which now rents kayaks and bicycles. 

And the theatre and post office.

These horse stables off the village green used to be part of a hotel and are now home to a quilt shop.

The old gas station is a bakery and café. Funnily enough, one of the reasons company towns ended was the advent of the automobile.

And that’s our walk through historic Port Gamble. If you’d like to read more about walks through interesting and unique spots around the world, check out the blog Restless Jo and Jo's Monday Walk

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  1. I'm not sure if a replica of my hometown would be charming or creepy....but in this case it seems totally charming. What a beautiful, well-kept town! We went on a ghost walk in Charleston and have been a little obsessed ever since. Don't you think if you were released from your mortal being you'd find something better to do than hang out at a musty old building scaring kids?

    1. Charming or creepy? That's a good point. I was born on the east coast, so the Colonial style buildings fill me with a sense of nostalgia (even our church looked like the one in Port Gamble). But, at the same time, I always feel like we walked into the world of "Pleasantville" or "Leave It to Beaver" when we're there. And that is a little creepy.

  2. Looks familiar, and very cute. While I understand the need to build familiar looking buildings, I do prefer to visit (or live in) the "real" thing in New England. :-) That haunted house sure is painted in interesting colors! Who wouldn't get affected by that? Did the General Store have miniature Maine lighthouses as well as Eiffel Towers? Another interesting twist!