House Sitting in Port Townsend

One of Our Favorite Places!

When most people talk of Washington State, Seattle is what gets mentioned. That isn’t the case with us; we haven’t been there yet. However, the small city of Port Townsend, that’s a different matter. That’s a place everyone should visit; it is gorgeous!

If you find Seattle on a map and then look a bit northwest, you will see it, at the tip of a peninsula almost to Victoria Island, British Columbia. With less than 10,000 inhabitants, it has a charm that anyone could appreciate and we certainly did.

Welcome to Port Townsend Sign

About Port Townsend

The town designates itself as a Victorian Seaport and Arts Community, and it is certainly both of those things. It also has very distinct sections, each unique, to the north and south.

A State Park takes up a massive amount of land at the northern tip. The middle area is mostly residential in the hills, along ridges, and in the few flat places in town. In the south, their downtown which itself comes in two very different flavors.

In this city, Uptown was up, and Downtown was down, how sensible is that! Uptown is on the top of a bluff, the location of most local businesses, offices, churches, the library, and all that. That’s where you could see the locals, especially at the farmer’s market – a big draw for the citizens and visitors too. 

Fountain sculpture in front of huge flight of stairs in Port Townsend

You get Downtown by going down those hundred steps to a flat area along the shore of the bay. It’s mostly given over to tourists now and well so. However, some time ago, this was obviously the center of commerce for a large area.

It was great fun finding all these buildings! They don’t make them like this one anymore.

Three-story old building in Port Townsend

We found ground level shops of all sorts: restaurants, coffee shops, bars, candy stores and offices on the upper floors. A few banks, brokers, and all that.

A couple blocks over you can catch the ferry to Whidbey Island and Seattle. The other ferry goes northward. Take that and you can be on Victoria Island, British Columbia in about 30 minutes!

Shops along a street in Port TownsendSo Much To See

The following three photos show a few of the many stately mansions we found, mostly high on the bluff overlooking the port area. The photography isn’t great, but it gives the flavor of it all.

large Victorian blue and white house in Port Townsend

Places like these were everywhere! It was great fun driving around this town, and since it was spring, the weather cooperated nicely.

Large three-story Victorian house in Port Townsend

You could take your choice of dozens of these great old homes to photograph, each one grander than the last. Many are still family homes. A few have shifted to professional offices. 

Very large old Victorian house in Port Townsend

Finding our Way

Port Townsend is also a great bike town, only a few areas with enough traffic to avoid. Chose a direction and head out up and down the hills, through forests and neighborhoods. Always something interesting to see around the corner and friendly folks ready to chat.

With that said, Jim always felt a click off the compass here geographically. The sun repeatedly came up on the wrong side of the house. The maps were all off by 90 degrees. Forget following directions to the store, he couldn’t get the first step right. No worry, though, just start out and keep going until you recognize something. Besides, you couldn’t go too far off in the wrong direction: water on three sides.

No worry, though, just start out and keep going until you recognize something. Besides, you couldn’t go too far off in the wrong direction: water on three sides.

close up of many bright purple lilacs in Port Townsend

The Best Part!

The other reason to love this town? Lilacs all over, I repeat, blooming lilacs everywhere! They are my favorite flower, and they filled the area with color and aroma.

Our time here coincided perfectly with their blooms, small ones, huge ones, everywhere you looked. We went driving around a few times just so I could see, smell, and photograph them.

close up of many lavender lilacs in Port Townsend

What a treat for me, the lovely aroma, and the variety of colors. The lilacs alone would bring me back to Port Townsend. But wait, there’s more. We also saw deer everywhere! They would stroll down the street, eat whatever they found in every yard, and no one bothered them.

A blooming apple tree in Port Townsend

Our Home in Port Townsend

Okay, now it’s time to share about our two-week house sit. The tree above was a flowering apple right in our yard; it was stunning.

The photo below is looking out the front door of our new house which had a lovely yard, an inviting gate, and a great garden. It was a quiet area and beautifully lush! We loved it instantly.

viewing a nice fence through a nice window in Port Townsend

The animal in our care was a female Portuguese Water Dog and such a sweet girl.

a dog lying at the top of a couch

Our New Pal

The breed resembles some of the doodles that are so popular now. She was an attractive lass who always prompted compliments from passers-by. Also as playful, friendly and loving as can be and very well mannered. 

We liked going to the park with her and always found walking there a pleasure. She loved finding deer to bark at and seemed to do just that every single time we went out.

a close up of a dogs head looking away

Somehow she was able to hold a tennis ball in her mouth and bark at the same time. She always walked with that ball, and sometimes while walking she would drop it – maybe to sniff something. Then she would have quite a surprise when her ball rolled down the hill.

She would look at us like we stole it or were playing a trick on her. Nope! It’s called gravity, and we better catch it before it goes into the ocean!

a dog looking up the stairs

She didn’t like eating all that much, and her owner said that she never ate alone. When I took her bowl out with me on the porch for morning coffee, she shifted, and that’s how we ate from then on, with no difficulties. Here she is ready for breakfast on the side porch.

a dog sitting on a porch

A rare moment of repose, sleeping in my lap. She was a fun dog, and we both enjoyed her company immensely.

close up of a dog's head on a lap

Jim’s Favorite Place 

By far our favorite area of the whole town was Fort Worden State Park, just one block over from the house. The trails, the structures, the hills, they just went on and on in every direction. Lovely mountain top and forest, and if you just really need to see a deer – go up there. You will.

Fort Worden State Park Sign in Port Townsend

The views from atop the hills were spectacular. Always another structure to explore just down the trail and around the bend. 

The picture below is the view to the south. The town is over the hill, the fort in the foreground. This is the view from about half way up the trail to the mountain top.

elevated view of buildings and grass

Here’s the orderly campus, drill fields, and general’s row, well, captain and above anyway. There were great houses on the east, make that the south side. 

Most of the buildings have been given over to community groups, colleges, a few businesses: a demilitarized zone, like other forts or bases in metropolitan areas we’ve seen. 

Large, two-story white building

So Much to Share

There’s something restful to the eye about military facilities. At least the older ones which were built in the early 1900’s. If you like symmetry this is the place for you. Every house on the block was perfectly aligned and spaced. Nothing too standout-ish or strange. It’s the army way – order above all. 

White military row houses in the distance

The Fort no longer has any military purpose. Like many similar forts, the land is valuable and is usually donated to the city with an agreement not to turn around and make some developer rich overnight by carving out plots for mansions. So they find useful ways to retain the historic character, maintain the physical structures, and help the community. Fort Worden is a lovely example of that, much like the Presidio in San Francisco. 

Three-story brick building

More on Fort Worden

Jim loved walking the dog along General’s Row. That’s what he called it anyway. A line of a dozen three-story houses along a rise on the south side of the Fort. Backs turned to the city, front porches overlooking the parade field.

Each one named after an army officer. One is a museum: closed for the season, couldn’t go in. Others seemed to have people going in and out, mostly park staff. Keeping the buildings and trails maintained keeps a lot of people busy the year around.

large concrete artillery fortification

The fortifications, for artillery mostly, are everywhere on the mountain, though mostly hidden by trees and bushes. A lot of people went to enormous trouble building these fortifications up in the hills. So much concrete and steel, so many calculations for placing the canons this way and that.  

outside stairs on an old concrete building

The mind boggles at the size and complexity of the project just on this hill. Still, it’s only one of three in the area protecting the ocean access to Seattle. How many of these were built around the country? 

Can we be thankful there weren’t needed or at least used for the intended purpose? Sure. Target practice, with live shells, was apparently a big annual event. That tells you something.

A very large blimp hangar

There’s Still More 

The largest building on the site, now a venue for large events, was a blimp hotel. Okay, a hanger. Blimps were big in the days when this Fort was going strong. What a brilliant way to keep an eye on whatever ships were coming and going in the Sound. 

Sign about the balloon hangar

The photo below is what all those canon sites looked like in action. Hold your ears! Those canons must have made quite a sound during the practice sessions. It looks like everyone had to wear a hat, no exceptions.

old photo of military cannon in use at the fort

This large structure, easily one hundred feet wide, was the set up for just one canon. There were dozens of these, each with supporting buildings in and above ground.

Remnants of the concrete cannon fortification

Another cannon housing, designed to see but not be seen. Most were several hundred feet up on the mountain, or, above sea level. Same thing here: the foot of this hill is at sea level.

concrete structure for a military cannon

Hook something here if you really, really want it to stay put. That large hook will still be here when the Fort turns 500. Easily.

A very large iron hook embedded in a building

These don’t look like much from the trails. Up close, though, each one was a kick to climb or look around inside.

Two large metal doors at old military fort

Visitors can walk all over, around and through these things. It was fascinating seeing all the structures and space needed for each cannon. What did they do in these places?

an open door into dark empty military building

Knock, and it shall be opened, right? This door opened but didn’t go anywhere. Okay, it’s a cabinet. But why there?

Man opening a small door, more like a closed on outside of building

Time to End

Some areas of the fort were given over to camping sites. At this cooler time of year, off-season really, we saw mostly RV’s there. People would climb out to walk their dogs or head for the mess hall: now, a tasteful restaurant and popular coffee stop. What a treasure this Fort is!

close up of many light purple lilac flowers

We could go on about this city, but we’ve already written well over 1700 words, so it’s time to stop! We left Port Townsend with the strong desire to return and explore the area even more!

For lilac lovers everywhere, one more photo of lilacs in bloom – here, almost purple.

What’s Next – Our trip down south 

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2 comments

    • Amy on June 7, 2017 at 7:30 am
    • Reply

    Both a masculine and feminine heaven 😊

    I love that your blog offers keen understanding of the pets, too: authentic celebrities!

    1. I hadn’t thought about it like that but you are right. It is an absolutely top-notch little oasis.

      thanks, Amy!

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