Tour showcases Port Gamble’s roots

 - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

PORT GAMBLE — Walking through the Walker Ames House, different footsteps could be heard as visitors climbed stairs, wandered through rooms and appreciated the stories of the house built between 1888 and 1889. It was just one stop along the path of history, illustrating, with guidance from Kitsap Arts & Crafts, how Port Gamble was once the center of the Puget Sound.

With the help of a hand drawn map and information from Kitsap Arts & Crafts members and docents, about 260 people meandered through the town Saturday afternoon, enjoying the walk and gaining entry to buildings and houses usually closed to the public.

“This is my first time in the house,” said Port Orchard resident Lance Otis of the Thompson House, built in 1859. “I didn’t realize this was the oldest, continually-inhabited house in the state of Washington. There’s a lot of history of Washington state in Port Gamble.”

The fund-raising event was held to support the arts group’s scholarships, which also benefit from the large summer arts and crafts festival the members put on in Port Gamble. Many members and volunteers studied the history of the buildings and served as docents on the tour, providing information and fun tidbits about each structure on display.

One of the most popular sights was the Masonic Lodge, which is rarely opened to the public.

“A lot of people want to know what the Masons are,” said Lodge Master Tom Dangelo. “Basically, it’s an organization that makes good men better men. Years ago, every town had a Masonic Lodge if there were Masons in the town. Normally, it was a multipurpose place.”

The current Port Gamble lodge was moved in 1872 after a fire almost destroyed it, he said. The facade of the building used to be the rear, and the ground floor is an open gathering space, with the Masonic Lodge located above.

“I like it,” said Hansville resident Doug Segur. “We’re having a really good time. I didn’t realize that the two bed and breakfasts and the guest house were built in Port Ludlow and moved by barge over here.”

The event also featured the knowledge of Nita Driscoll, who lived in the Walker Ames House from 1963 to 1977 while her husband was a forester in Port Gamble. She cheerfully showed visitors around the building that used to be her home, rolling history off her tongue as easily as if she had lived in the house ever since it was finished in 1889.

“It was great, wonderful,” she said about living in a house with so much history. “My children were still fairly small when we moved here, so they did all their growing up here.”

Someone asked if she felt there were any ghosts in the house, as stories about spirits are common in Port Gamble. Driscoll said no, though her daughter felt there was a ghost in the house.

“A lot of people seem to think that Seattle is the center of this area,” Otis said. “It wasn’t even built when Port Gamble was thriving here.”

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