Owners of historic Port Townsend building hope to spur 'Mosquito Fleet' revival
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Harry Dudley and Lucinda D. Eubank, owners of the Hastings Building, are working on several projects to renovate, restore and make the location profitable again. -- Photo by Erik Hidle/Peninsula Daily News

By Erik Hidle
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND -- The owners of the ornate Hastings Building in downtown Port Townsend have more in mind than just the renovation of their historic structure -- they want to change the way people come to Port Townsend.

Harry Dudley and his sister, Lucinda D. Eubank, said they are going to use modern technology to re¬­insti¬­tute the old "Mosquito Fleet" style of travel popular in the town's founding days.

The project is an innovative way to consolidate passenger ferry infrastructure across the Puget Sound area, Dudley said.

"The concept is that through our software, someone who wants to travel or get somewhere on the Puget Sound by the waterways can do that," he said.

"It's a travel site where people say where they want to go, they let us know how flexible they are then we try to match that desire with providers.

"We're not going to run a scheduled ferry, but we are going to try to link providers up with demand."

May 1 launch

The system is called Navilinx and will be launched online at www.navilinx.com on May 1 -- the same day the Hood Canal Bridge is closed for repairs for six weeks.

Dudley said he hopes Navilinx will bring more tourists to Port Townsend, but he also wants to serve people looking to travel to other destinations -- including Seattle.

He has spoken to providers such as Puget Sound Express, Victoria Express and Water Limousine who have expressed interest in the project.

Ferry runs may be as small as five or six passengers or up to 100, Dudley said. It all depends on the demand.

"We won't be changing people's normal routes or runs," Dudley said.

"What we will do is try to fill up their dead time.

"If we can help them do business it helps us, too."

Building renovations

Dudley is attempting to renovate the Hastings Building and nearby Surf Restaurant -- now called Hastings Landing.

The plan is to replace the single-story structure on Hastings Landing with a five-story hotel and a full-service passenger ferry terminal.

He would also open the top two stories of the current Hasting Building at Taylor and Water streets as a hotel.

Both the 1889 Hastings Building and the structure housing Hastings Landing -- which has been closed since 2005 -- are structurally unsound, and the pilings under the Surf Restaurant must be fixed.

Last year, the City Council blessed the project by allowing Dudley's company, Hastings Estate Co. Inc., to apply for a $5 million "float loan" from the federal Community Block Grant Program to renovate the building.

At the time, City Manager David Timmons said the project would be costly because it is facing many regulations.

Among the hurdles: It's in a historic district. It's close to shorelines. And the Hastings' Landing portion would be perched over the waterfront.

"Imagine a perfect storm of regulations coming together and you've got this project," Timmons said.

Committed to building

Dudley agreed with Timmons' assessment, but said he is committed to saving the building.

"The key to restoration [of the Hastings Building] is the Hastings Landing site," Dudley said after pointing out the current problems with the Hastings Building.

"It's a flamboyant and gorgeous design for its time," he said, "and you would never build something like it now."

The first hurdle is being cleared right now.

City Planning Director Rick Sepler confirmed on Monday that there were no comments for or against an environmental permit for the building's renovation.

"It will now go to a hearing examiner," Sepler said.

"That hasn't been scheduled yet, but we expect it to happen in the next month."

The three-story Hastings Building was constructed by Lucinda and Loren Brown Hastings, who arrived in Port Townsend in 1852, and it has remained in the family ever since.

The Hastings Estate Co. Inc. is a family-owned corporation that owns both the Hastings Building and the adjacent Surf Restaurant at 106 Taylor St.

The top two floors of the Hastings Building have been empty since the 1970s.

The floors display reminders of the past, with old wallpaper and construction methods from the World War II era when the building was used by the military to house officers serving at Fort Worden.

Numbers on the doors also remain in place from the 1960s when the building was used as a community arts school.

Downtown 'cornerstone'

Bill Tennent, director of the Jefferson County Historical Society, said he supports Dudley's efforts.

"The Hastings Building is the cornerstone of downtown Port Townsend," Tennent said.

"It has remained in the same family since it was built, and they are great stewards of this community.

"I praise them for the efforts and believe they always have had the best interests of this community in mind."

Dudley hasn't gone so far as to praise himself, but did admit he likes the ideas he and his family have developed.

"We think it's a pretty darn good project," he said.

"With this we can reopen the waterfront and open the town."

________

Reporter Erik Hidle can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at erik.hidle@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 03. 2009 4:45AM
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