Like many young communities in the Puget Sound, Port Townsend aspired to greatness.
Calling itself the “Key City” and the “New York of the West,” Port Townsend quickly became a bustling seaport and customs gateway to the Pacific Northwest, with an impressive waterfront commercial district of stone and brick buildings and many elegant Victorian homes on the bluff above.
Although economic activity shifted from Port Townsend to Seattle, much of the 19th Century and early 20th Century remains intact. In 1976, the waterfront district and the residential area on the bluff were designated a National Historic District, and Port Townsend is today recognized as one of only three Victorian Seaports on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you want to explore the history of Port Townsend, your first stop should be the Jefferson Museum of Art and History next to City Hall downtown. In addition to impressive exhibits and helpful staff and volunteers, the Museum leads walking tours through the downtown and uptown districts, helping visitors to glean the exciting history of the area.
Some of the more impressive and notable sites to explore include:
The Rothschild House
The Jefferson County Courthouse
The Port Townsend Post Office and Customs House
Uptown Victorian Homes
Downtown – the whole thing!