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Port Townsend was officially settled in 1851, but was named much earlier, by Captain George Vancouver, who named his discovery after his friend, the Marquis of Townsend.
When finally settled, there were great hopes for the town as many thought for dozens of years that it would someday be the largest harbor on the West Coast and would provide its citizens with great wealth and prosperity.
Prior to its settlement, Port Townsend was inhabited by Native Americans, but by the time the town was settled in 1851, the populations had decreased considerably. Within 4 decades, there was only one reservation left in Port Townsend.
Many Victorian homes were built in the late 1800s in Port Townsend, as the town became a well-known seaport and its residents were banking on a successful future. But after the depression, the town didn’t have the capital to continue building and the rail line in particular – a key to the town’s hopes as being a strong harbor – was built more to the east, which effectively ended Port Washington’s hopes for being a strong seaport town.
Because the town never grew at the rate expected, many people abandoned their buildings and businesses and -- save for the construction of a paper mill in the 1920s -- there has been little new construction, but rather a desire to preserve and foster appreciation of the old.
Today, Port Townsend is a popular day trip for Washington residents and a relaxing vacation destination for others.