Jefferson Museum of Art and History
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The use of red brick, carved sandstone, decorative sheet metal, and a multi-faceted roof gave Port Townsend, Washington's City Hall a sense of permanence. The building made a statement that Port Townsend was no longer a lawless cluster of rotting wharves, but a thriving municipality. At the time City Hall was built, Port Townsend was one of the foremost seaports on the West Coast, booming as the surrounding forests and fisheries fueled the westward expansion of the continent. The building is visual evidence of the optimism and energy of a nation that tamed a wilderness. The City Hall building sat like a crown at the top of a wharf-studded street of impressive and imposing brick, stone, and wood frame buildings along the shore of Port Townsend Bay. The citizens of Port Townsend continued to build large buildings, elaborate homes, wharves, streetcars, and a never-to-be railroad until the nationwide economic depression of 1893.
In the following years, investors left the once-bustling seaport in such economic decline that it would have been unprofitable to replace the old Victorian buildings and homes. The population steadily dwindled, and the city sat frozen in time. As a result, the City Hall building is largely original, with one exception—the roof was removed in the late 1940s after decades of deferred maintenance and a major storm that threatened the integrity of the whole structure.
City Hall is a pivotal structure in the Port Townsend National Historic Landmark District. Still in use today, its Council Chamber has been the setting for democratic discourse for 126 years. As the fire and police departments, police court, and offices moved on to more modern facilities over the years, the Jefferson County Historical Society continues to operate a museum in the spaces left behind. In 2006, Jefferson County Historical Society and the City of Port Townsend completed an extensive building restoration.