Port Gamble's the venue for 'I do' (and more)

The Hood Canal Vista Pavilion in Port Gamble is the first new building in the town in nearly a century. The open building was designed for corporate events and weddings.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
The Hood Canal Vista Pavilion in Port Gamble is the first new building in the town in nearly a century. The open building was designed for corporate events and weddings.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

PORT GAMBLE — The first major construction to spring up in Port Gamble in nearly 90 years opened its doors this month.

And although the tiny town’s burgeoning wedding industry provided the means to build the brand new Hood Canal Vista Pavilion, the structure is not just for nuptials.

“One of the reasons we built this building was to be community friendly and offer it up for other activities,” Port Gamble wedding and events coordinator Julie McAfee said. “The wonderful thing about the venue is there’s so many options.”

The pavilion, which had its grand opening ceremony July 8, already has been booked for various meetings and conferences, and received requests for class reunions, Christmas parties and bar mitzvahs. But that doesn’t mean the wedding traffic is slowing down. Vows have already been exchanged on the premises, and dozens more weddings and receptions are booked for the remainder of this year and stretching into 2010.

“What it does for Port Gamble is it gives us more exposure,” Port Gamble Manager Shana Smith said. “It gives us the ability to do something all year round.”

Port Gamble got into the wedding business in 2003 and since then most ceremonies have taken place at the 130-year-old St. Paul’s Church overlooking Port Gamble Bay, Smith said. In 2008, the town hosted 97 weddings, which prompted officials in the Pope and Talbot-owned town to construct the new pavilion to take advantage of the large numbers of couples wishing to wed in the historic village.

Wedding parties can rent the pavilion space, along with tables, chairs and an outdoor tent, for $3,000 a day on weekends or $1,500 Monday through Thursday, said McAfee. Prices for weekday corporate meetings and gatherings cost $500 for a full day and $300 for a half day.

“From a revenue standpoint, it’s helping us cover the expense of operating Port Gamble,” Smith said of the new building.

The 2,900-square-foot facility, situated on the former site of the Hotel Puget, looks out over Hood Canal and can accommodate up to 175 people in addition to the 200-seat tent. The single-story structure also includes six French doors, colored concrete floors, a floor-to-ceiling hearth and 36 windows presenting a view of the water and surrounding greenery.

The building’s appearance keeps with Port Gamble’s 19th-century New England theme, but its functionality is completely modern.

“It being the first new significant building, we went through quite a bit with the architect and historical society, because they wanted it to look new but fit with the town,” Smith said.

Since 1920, when Port Gamble’s service station was constructed, the only new building in town has been an espresso stand, built in 2002.

The pavilion’s construction did not require the clearing of new land, because the site had already been developed for the Hotel Puget. Currently, according to Smith, there are no further plans for new construction in Port Gamble, despite the town’s residential rental properties being full lately.

“I’m hoping it doesn’t take us another 90 years to build again,” Smith said.

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