Please note: The information contained here is true to the best of my knowledge, but I was born and raised in Port Townsend, so take it all with a grain of salt. If you want some serious, well-researched history with lots of names, dates, and photo opportunities, get in touch with one of the many ex-Californians that moved there within the last five years for the expressed purpose of becoming historical tour guides.

Quaint Victorian seaport, tourist trap, last refuge of aging hippies and disgruntled Californians, gateway to the Olympic Peninsula, cursed and dying land; home to countless artists, musicians, festivals, and random bizarre traditions; the perfect place to grow up or retire, but you wouldn't want to live there.

Founded in 1851, Port Townsend sits on the northeast tip of Washington State's Olympic Peninsula, conveniently and picturesquely located between the majestic waters of Puget Sound and the no-less-majestic Olympic Mountains. Not too warm in the Summer, not too cold in the Winter. The beaches are calm and sure, the trees are forever green, and if you stay a week you'll see just about every color of sunset imaginable. For natural eye candy, it can't be beat.

Back in the 80s (the bit where I started paying attention), the town was composed roughly 50/50 of paper mill employees and poor but happy flower children who had somehow managed to avoid growing up and selling out. It wasn't uncommon to live in a large Victorian mansion, yet purchase most of your groceries with food stamps. Everyone ate at the town tavern, where $3.50 bought a family dinner, cats wandered freely about the tables, and drifters washed your dishes in exchange for a hot meal and a bed for the night. My parents bartered firewood for baroque instruments and music lessons for dental work. A precocious child could chat up strangers in a cafe all morning, and be taken as seriously as it pleased.

Nowadays, Port Townsend's economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism, and most of the remaining old-timers have a bitter story about passing up a house with a water view for mere pennies just decades ago, only to watch it sell for close to a million in the last few years. Bartering and listening to children are out, historically accurate color schemes and property values are in. As is often the case when a small beautiful place is discovered, each new person who falls in love with the town ruins it a little more for all who came before. Still, the awe-inspiring natural surroundings and unusually high number of artists, writers, and poets remain, and some of Olde Port Townsend survives. Perhaps it will still be there when I'm old and tired, and ready to come home.

In short, Port Townsend (especially Fort Worden) can claim some of the most poetry-inducing scenery to be found, and when you visit, there will almost certainly be at least one quirky celebration and one rich cultural event underway. Simply understand that, along with the warm welcomes you will receive from downtown merchants and fellow merry makers, you are likely to garner the occasional scowl from a bitter fourth-generation Port Townsendite who is no longer instantly recognized by all the people at his favorite restaurant. This will persist until you've been in the town for a few generations yourself, but it's nothing personal. If you want to minimize the wrath incurred, be sure to use the park and ride at the outskirts of town (rather than taking up valuable parking space in downtown proper), avoid stopping in the middle of the street to take pictures and point at the quaint architecture, and generally try to get into the spirit of things, rather than just gawking at all the crazy locals.

Fun "Facts" About Port Townsend:

Node-worthy Things In Port Townsend:


Sources:
http://www.ci.port-townsend.wa.us/
http://www.ptguide.com/
http://www.olympicpeninsula.com/
http://www.olympus.net/ftworden/
http://www.therealpt.com/
http://www.woodenboat.org/
http://www.centrum.org/
http://www.rosetheatre.com/
Life Experience.

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