Walk with me … in Anacortes

Entrance to the Historic Downtown area

If you are at all familiar with my Instagram account Adventures In Graying, you will know we have a particular affection for Anacortes, WA. Located on Fidalgo Island, it is surrounded by the Salish Sea on three sides, and the LaConner Channel on the fourth, is blessed with great beauty, and a lifestyle devoid of big box stores. Like other seaport locations in Washington State (especially Port Townsend), it had grand dreams of becoming the western terminus of the Northern Pacific Railroad, or of a new railroad crossing the North Cascades, the Seattle and Northern Railroad. 

It was first settled by railroad surveyor Amos Bowman in 1877; he named the city which was incorporated in 1891 after his wife, Anne Curtis. Land speculation ran rampant through 1890, with fabulous homes being built, along with a robust downtown. There was a huge crash in 1891 when the development company went broke. Many left town, but fishermen and loggers (among others) moved in, and thrived for decades.

One of the historic brick buildings in downtown. Every garbage can in the downtown and marina area has a label from salmon that was canned there

Today many of the original buildings survive downtown, the stately homes have been restored, the fish canneries are almost all gone or melting back into the earth, and the last lumber mill burned to the ground years ago. This historic area is where we decided to go and get our walking exercise in recently, and we loved it so much, we have to share.

The aptly named Majestic Inn. Seriously, a must-stop for a quick lunch, Happy Hour or fine dining dinner!

You know you have reached the historic part of downtown when you see their proud arch. Still very vibrant in this challenging time, this is a great place to spend a day checking out the mom and pop shops, fabulous restaurants, and the famous Anacortes Arts Festival (hopefully returning in 2021). Several blocks of the main street are cordoned off, filled with all types of arts and crafts, along with food vendors, and live music with a wine and beer garden. But I digress. One must-stop is the Majestic Inn, built in 1890, and beautifully restored. They have both fine dining, and a cozy, intimate bar with a great selection of wines, beers and appetizers.

Just a couple of blocks west takes you to the historic neighborhood. I am absolutely captivated by the mix of Victorian, Craftsman, and other turn-of-the-century architecture. 

Sticking closer to the water, you will see the last remains of what had once been known as the Salmon Canning Capital of the World. There are still two (although appearances would say 1 ½) working fish processing plants left here. History says that this may have been the first place where Washington fishermen headed off to Alaska in the 1890’s to catch crab.

There are also a couple of micro parks along the water – really, walking this neighborhood is the only way to find them. They offer beautiful views of the Guemes Channel.

And this is but one small area in Anacortes! I haven’t even mentioned Washington Park, or Cap Sante Park and the marina area, or the Community Forest Lands! Maybe next time.

A photo may be worth a thousand words, but an in-person visit is worth a thousand photos.

Historic Home Obsession

“I can’t wait to read your next blog post about this,” said a reader when I posted some photos of the historic Pittock Mansion in Portland. While I admit I was flattered, I wondered “What can I possibly write about this that hasn’t been written, or that could be found on the internet?” I let that thought simmer for a few days, then AHA! 

The Pittock Mansion, I realized, was just the tip of the iceberg. Almost every place we have traveled it seems we managed to locate a historic home, and toured it. We are always fascinated by these snapshots in time, trying to figure out how people lived their everyday lives there. Makes no difference to us if its a one-room log cabin, or a huge mansion, these historic homes call to us, and we must tour them. I tried to think back and remember as many as possible, and came up with eight (not counting the mind-boggling home somewhere in Tuscany).

This is Part One of Two parts. In no particular order, here is a snapshot of the homes, a wee smidgen of history, and my takeaway.

The Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon

Built in 1914 By Henry Pittock (emigrated from England)

Pittock Mansion on a foggy day

Henry Pittock came across on the Oregon Trail in 1872 when he was 19 years old. He became a typesetter for the Oregonian newspaper, which was given to him for back wages in November of 1860. Against all odds, he made it the most successful newspaper in Oregon, and made a fortune from it. He started building the Pittock Mansion in 1912, and he and his wife moved in in 1914. They were both deceased just four years later. It has 46 rooms, and the grounds command a sweeping view all the way from Portland to Mount Hood.

Bill’s takeaway: The shower in Henry’s bathroom is amazing. In addition to a shampoo shower (we call them rain showerheads now), it also has a bidet fountain, two showers at waist height to massage the kidneys, and multiple horizontal tubes with dozens of perforations to create needle spray from all sides.

Craigdarroch Castle, Victoria, B.C., Canada

entrance to the castle

Built by Robert Dunsmuir (emigrated from Scotland)

Robert Dunsmuir set sail for Fort Vancouver on December 19, 1850, in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company to develop coal mining on Vancouver Island. He worked for them until October 1869, when he discovered a huge coal seam while fishing, and literally made millions of dollars from that before starting a railroad in which the railroad company got a land grant of 20% of the entire island! He started building Craigdarroch Castle about 1887; he died in April, 1899, 17 months before it was completed. His wife lived there until she passed in 1908. Lots of stories about the family abound. It has 39 rooms, and a very storied history after the Dunsmuirs lived there. A remarkable job of restoration was done, along with before and after photos at the home.

The Cigar Room – the original man cave.

Bill’s takeaway: Ostentatious is a somewhat weak description of this house. The biggest wow-factor was that one of the top floors was set-aside as a ballroom. Imagine a space large enough to allow an orchestra and dozens of guests to dance and mingle! I’d go back again in a heartbeat.

Rosson House, Heritage Square, Phoenix, AZ

Not a castle, but still impressive!

Built by Dr. Roland Rosson

Dr. Rosson came to Phoenix in 1879, and set up his practice there. He started this house in 1894, and it was completed in 1895. He had an office built into the home, where he conducted his medical practice. It was noted to be one of the best homes in Phoenix after it was built. It is filled with period furnishings that really bring it to life. The hapless doctor loved politics, but did not excel there. He and his family moved to L.A. in 1897; he passed in 1898 after purchasing several life insurance policies; his wife died of tuberculosis in 1911.

I’m always fascinated by the Butlers Pantry

Bill’s takeaway: This house and the surrounding Heritage Square is an amazing look back in time in the middle of this huge, modern metropolis. The juxtaposition can be a bit jarring as you leave the late 1800’s and emerge into the 21st century.

Rothschild House, Port Townsend, WA

Just a portion of the amazing view from this great home

Built by David Charles Henry Rothschild (emigrated from Bavaria)

At one time, Port Townsend, on the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, was destined to become the terminus of the transcontinental railroad. Speculators arrived by the droves, wonderful buildings emerged on the waterfront, and the area boomed. Then San Francisco took the prize, and the area went into decline. In the meantime, D.C.H. Rothschild ( a distant, poor cousin to THE Rothschilds of banking fame) opened a general store, and built the Rothschild House for his family. Built on a hill overlooking the town, it commands an amazing 180 degree view from Mt Baker to Mt Rainier, and a huge slice of Puget Sound (aka the Salish Sea). The majority of the house is pretty much as it was when he built it in 1884, or has been refurbished with nearly identical period wallpaper and paint.

Bills takeaway: This house was only occupied by the Rothschilds. His daughter lived there for 78 years; about the only change was to add indoor plumbing. This is as true a picture of how life was really lived at the turn of the century. One of my favorites!

Note that I have links to each of these homes so you can get a lot more info if desired. Coming up next: Kit Carson Home, Taos, New Mexico; the Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico; Flavel House, Astoria, Oregon; the Lyndon Johnson Ranch, Stonewall, Texas