A Step Forward in the Preservation of Point Hudson

In a room packed to capacity with shipwrights, boaters, historians and concerned citizens, Port of Port Townsend commissioners voted unanimously Feb. 26 to partner with the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation to restore and preserve Point Hudson.

The partnership agreement directs port staff to begin working with staff from the non-profit Washington Trust over the next two years. They will begin inventory of the existing conditions of the Point Hudson property and determine what the next steps will be for a potential long-term lease of all or part of Point Hudson to the Washington Trust.

“This is really the first step in a process which, if successful, will take a number of years,” said Eric Toews, deputy director of the port.

The partnership agreement lasts from now until the end of 2021. In those two years, the port and the Washington Trust will conduct a fair market value survey of Point Hudson, prepare the first phase of an environmental site assessment, prepare a comprehensive facility condition assessment of Point Hudson’s existing buildings and infrastructure (such as the Point Hudson jetty), conduct a survey of historic and cultural resources and a financial history of the port’s previous capital investments and future financial needs at Point Hudson.

This will all lead up to a conversation about the Washington Trust potentially leasing Point Hudson, with the aim of preserving, restoring and invigorating the historic area.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation is a statewide non-profit that helps local historical preservation efforts through advocacy, education and collaboration.

After the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area Act was signed into federal law on March 12, 2019, the Washington Trust was the organization designated to coordinate the state’s new maritime heritage area.

The bill, which was fostered by Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, seeks to highlight all maritime landmarks within one-quarter mile of the shoreline around Puget Sound—creating a 3,000 mile “heritage trail” along the coast.

For the first 10 years, $1 million per year will be appropriated foractivities that celebrate and encourage the shipping and ship-building history of the zone. Not only that, but establishing a heritage area will qualify communities to apply for certain federal grants and to draw contributions from state, local and private sources to preserve historic maritime areas, including Port Townsend’s working waterfront.

“That (designation) really set the stage with thinking more holistically and specifically about our maritime resources across the state,” said Chris Moore, director of the Washington Trust, who spoke at the port meeting Feb. 26. “It would be an understatement to say that Port Townsend really represents in a lot of the ways all the themes and the goals that are wrapped up in the heritage area.”

The Washington Trust is going to begin crafting a management plan this summer to determine how the funding will be appropriated across all the areas within the maritime heritage area. A partnership with the port could put Point Hudson at the center of this plan.

“Point Hudson, with the concentration of maritime-based activity, both from a heritage standpoint, from a trades standpoint, from a recreational boating standpoint and from the historical resources present there today, really offers a pretty good opportunity for us to look at beginning a conversation, doing due diligence and thinking about what a partnership might look like,” Moore said.

History of Point Hudson

What is now known as Point Hudson has been an apex of maritime activity since humans have lived on the Quimper Peninsula.

Originally a sand spit that formed a tidal lagoon, the land was once used by Native Americans who camped and gathered shellfish and other seafood.

Then, after some of the first European settlers landed ashore and Capt. Charles Wilkes named it Hudson’s Point in honor of Commander William L. Hudson, the point became the site of Port Townsend’s earliest manufacturing activity: shipbuilding.

The point is part of Port Townsend’s historic district, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

The Port of Port Townsend acquired Point Hudson in the 1950s, and it became a breeding ground for small-scale, self-starting maritime entrepreneurs. Sailmakers, riggers, blacksmiths and carpenters settled in Point Hudson and created the Wooden Boat Festival in 1977.

Community involvement

The community of Port Townsend has been invested in preserving the historical nature of Point Hudson for many years.

When many of today’s marine trade legends, such as sailmaker Carol Hasse and rigger Brion Toss, arrived in Port Townsend the entire point was under a 50-year lease with the Rowley Company. Maritime businesses thrived because rent in the buildings was cheap.

Since Rowley lease expired, the port has not re-entered into another long lease, instead just leasing buildings to marine trade businesses.

There have been several proposals for Point Hudson that got the community up in arms, including a proposal in the late ’80s to build a conference center where the Northwest Maritime Center now stands.

In 1994, a Point Hudson Master Plan was developed by the City of Port Townsend in response to the community’s wariness that their beloved maritime historical area would be sold and turned into money-making condos or hotels.

In 2018, port commissioners toyed with the idea of another long-term lease after a proposition by the Northwest Maritime Center to help the port turn Point Hudson into a maritime education and heritage campus. But the commissioners could not make a decision about leasing Point Hudson, and finally, the Maritime Center withdrew its proposal.

One of the challenges the port faces is Point Hudson’s aging jetty. The port is currently in a potential $6 million project to remove and replace the piles on the south arm of the 100-year-old jetty.

This project will continue while the port works with the Washington Trust on the first steps of discussing a potential lease.

While a long-term lease for the historic area might raise the alarm of marine trade business leaders, the port hopes to keep the community involved with the ongoing discussion over the next two years.

“Throughout the entire process, we’re going to err on the side of transparency,” Toews said. “We want to build trust and support for the final decisions the commission might make.”

Source: The Leader