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Historic walking tours take spooky out of Port Gamble

PORT GAMBLE — Sparked by the Ghost Walks last fall, history buffs will be saying a lot more than boo in Port Gamble Feb. 16. After the popularity of the spooky tours, Shana Smith, Port Gamble manager and museum curator, received requests for more than a night of jumps. Visitors wanted the stories, the history, facts and musings, connected with the historical mill town.

Happy to oblige, several walks are planned for the next few months, inviting residents and visitors alike to dive a little deeper into at what first glance seems to be a pretty town. Below the surface, however, are the tales of how the town came to be and its founders and early settlers. Smith and other Port Gamble aficionados are brushing up on their local knowledge to prepare for the first tour.

"It really came about during the Ghost Walks," Smith said. "People were asking for more information about the buildings, more information on the town. The information on the Ghost Walk was not hitting on the buildings."

The tours will present more general information about the structures of the town, when they were built and by whom, as well as the Port Gamble General Store and the mill. The town delved into economic hardship after the mill closed in 1995 and programs like the walks have helped revitalize it. The walks will be different than the annual tour given by the Kitsap Arts & Crafts organization, which gains access to private historical houses in town, as well as the uninhabited ones. Smith said people will not be taken into houses, and will likely stand outside buildings while learning more about the structures.

"She led the Ghost Walks, and we haven't had one of these yet," said Port Gamble Event Coordinator Julie McAfee, adding she didn't know what stories or facts would be shared on the first tour. Smith also said she hadn't outlined what she would talk about yet, but said history buffs would enjoy themselves.

"We'll talk about the history of the town while walking the whole town," she said. "It will be during the day instead of at night, so people will be able to see the buildings."

The walks will include facts Smith has gathered as well as information found in history textbooks. Things such as the founders, Pope and Talbot, will be talked about and the ties to each structure in town. A tour will be held once a month, and Smith said she is hoping to avoid the other large events Port Gamble hosts each summer.

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