Notes about Port Townsend City Hall
The use of red brick, carved sandstone, decorative sheet metal and a multi-faceted roof gave Port Townsend's City Hall a sense of permanence. The building made the statement that Port Townsend was no longer a lawless cluster of rotting wharves, but a thriving municipality. At the City Hall was built, Port Townsend was one of the foremost seaports on the West Coast, booming as the surrounding forests and fisheries fueled the westward expansion of the continent.
The building is visual evidence of the optimism and energy of a nation that tamed a wilderness. These people’s accomplishments seem far-fetched when we take into account the tools at their disposal and the distances they traveled to reach such a remote outpost.
City Hall during a festival prior to 1947.
With a mix of zeal and desperation individuals from diverse backgrounds somehow worked together to build a city on a sand spit. The City Hall building sat like a crown at the top of a wharf-studded street of impressive and imposing brick, stone and wood frame buildings along the shore of Port Townsend Bay. The citizens of Port Townsend continued to build large buildings, elaborate homes, wharves, streetcars, and a never-to-be railroad right up until the nationwide economic depression of 1893.
In the following years, investors left the once bustling, boisterous, booming seaport in such economic decline that it was unprofitable to replace the old Victorian buildings and homes. The population steadily dwindled and the city sat frozen in time. As a result, the City Hall building is largely original, with one very sad exception—the roof was removed in the late 1940s after decades of deferred maintenance.
City Hall is a pivotal structure in the Port Townsend National Historic Landmark District. Its Council Chamber has served as the setting for democratic discourse for 115 years. As the fire and police departments, police court, and City offices moved on to more modern facilities over the years, the Jefferson County Historical Society has operated a museum in the spaces left behind.
In November of 2006, an extensive restoration of the building was completed by the City of Port Townsend in partnership with the Jefferson County Historical Society.