On July 21, 1999, the Kitsap County Commissioners declare Port Gamble a Rural Historic Town, laying the groundwork for development of the old company town. Port Gamble was owned by Puget Mill Co. and its successor companies, to house the workers at its sawmill, but was not an incorporated city. The new designation allows a mix of uses -- industrial, commercial, and residential -- while preserving the historic character of the community.
A Historic Company Town
Port Gamble traces its origins to 1853 when Andrew J. Pope, William C. Talbot, Charles Foster, Josiah Keller, and Puget Mill Co. built a sawmill at Teekalet on Hood Canal. Renamed Port Gamble in 1868, the community was home to generations of sawmill workers employed by Puget Mill, McCormick Lumber, and Pope and Talbot. In 1966, the National Park Service included Port Gamble on its Register of National Historic Places because it was one of the few remaining examples of the company town in the West. In 1985, Pope and Talbot created Pope Resources to handle its property holdings and leased back from Pope Resources the town and the mill site.
In 1995, the mill closed, and the town became the responsibility of Pope Resources. With no mill workers to house, Pope Resources planned to redevelop the town to take advantage of its scenic and strategic location on Hood Canal. Because the town was never incorporated as a city, it was technically "rural" and subject to limitations that would have precluded Pope Resources plans. The action by the Kitsap County Commissioners overcame an objection to the plans by the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board.