On January 7, 1908, the first council meeting of the newly incorporated Poulsbo, located in Kitsap County, is convened. Poulsbo residents voted to incorporate (all but two in favor) on December 3, 1907. Founded in 1883, Poulsbo is a bustling little town, benefiting from its central location in north Kitsap County. The election votes in Andrew Moe (1866-1951) as the first mayor, L. S. Langeland (b. 1858) as the treasurer, and a council made up of Martin Bjermeland, George Teien, Paul Paulson, Adolph Hostmark, and Peter Iverson (1861-1946). A caucus the night before the election had nominated only these candidates for the offices. All of the first elected officials were either born in Norway or immigrated from there, which is fitting given that the town is 90 percent Norwegian. On December 19, the incorporation papers are filed. After the first council meeting of January 7 is held, a special council meeting convenes during the week of January 13, 1908.
Logging, Fishing, Farming
Most in the town speak Norwegian first and English when necessary. Nearly all of the regions of Norway were represented among the immigrants, except the more urban southern area around Oslo. This Norwegian identity persisted for several decades until World War II opened the door to increased growth and suburbanization.
In the early years the residents built a diversified economy based on the bountiful land in which they had settled. They made a living out of combinations of logging, fishing, farming, and a cluster of small businesses in town. Few roads crisscrossed the Kitsap Peninsula in the first half of the twentieth century, so water transportation served to carry people and produce around the area and across Puget Sound to Seattle. A number of steamer companies competed fiercely between 1893 and 1924.
Twice farmers formed co-operatives to bypass the private companies they felt charged too much. In the end, Kitsap County Transportation Company outlasted all the others and provided steamer service until they lost their customers to automobiles and newly built roads in the 1940s and 1950s.
The changes in the economic landscape of Kitsap County during World War II transformed the community. The Sunset Park Housing Project brought hundreds of newcomers into the town. A large number of existing residents began to work outside of town at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Keyport and at the Puget Sound Naval Station at Bremerton. Continued growth in the county's Department of Defense sites during the Cold War, including the opening of the Naval Submarine Base at Bangor in 1981, brought as many as 20,000 people into the county, many of whom lived in or near Poulsbo.
As much or more influential than the growth tied to the defense industry was the growth of nearby urban areas. In 1940 the Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened, followed by the Agate Pass Bridge in 1950. These routes off the peninsula (via ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle) opened the area to development. When populations in Seattle and Tacoma boomed in the latter part of the twentieth century, so did Poulsbo's, jumping 572 percent between 1950 and 2000. As of 2000, the population was more than 6,800.
What was once a pocket of Norwegians on the peninsula is now a diverse community closely connected to other towns on the peninsula and to the region's cities.