PORT TOWNSEND, Washington — Blocks of Victorian-era mansions, a mom-and-pop-style Main street and a town filled with colorful characters are what you’ll find in this town on the northern edge of the Olympic Peninsula’s dramatic coastline.
Those would be a few highlights of our recent photo tour of tiny Port Townsend, Washington, a remote two-hour getaway from Seattle. The town is best known for having more than 300 Victorian-style homes in a city with a population of less than 10,000.
Back in the mid-1800s, town planners expected Port Townsend to be the busiest port in the state because of its position on Puget Sound. So they built it up, big-time. Then the railroad ended that dream, pushing its tracks instead to Seattle.
But the buildings remained, folks here lovingly restored them and kept them up, and now Port Townsend is sold as a place to come see arts and crafts and enjoy a slew of summer festivals.
In July alone there are three separate music festivals featuring blues, jazz and classical, then a county fair in August, and, in September, the premier event of the year, the Wooden Boats, with some 300 vessels to spark visitors’ interest.
Fans of the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman,” will recognize Port Townsend, which served as the base for many scenes in the film, including Fort Worden, the former military facility by the water and the Tides Inn, which still plugs its cameo by offering visitors a night in the “Officer and a Gentleman Suite.”
Rainfall is Port Townsend is about half as much as in Seattle, notes Gary Schweizer, manager of the Palace Hotel, a 129-year-old plus hotel originally built by a retired sea captain for $28,0000. At one point in its history, it was a brothel and many of its rooms are named for former occupants of what was then called “The Palace of Sweets.”
The old turn-of-the-century buildings are really large, with multiple stories, and if you visit, get ready to climb The Rose Theater, a former Vaudeville house, put a living room-like movie parlor upstairs, in which everyone sits on couches to enjoy independent and classic films. But to get there, as the Rose points out, you’ll first need to climb up 55 steps— and you get hints as you get closer–“only 14 more to go.”
See the slideshow above for highlights of our photo walk in Port Townsend.