Bill Tennent, executive director of the Port Townsend Historical Society, stands before the N.D. Hill Building at 635 Water St. The building started life as a pharmaceutical warehouse but was best known as the site of the town tavern. It will be on Saturday’s historical walking tour. (Jeannie McMacken/ Peninsula Daily News)

Bill Tennent, executive director of the Port Townsend Historical Society, stands before the N.D. Hill Building at 635 Water St. The building started life as a pharmaceutical warehouse but was best known as the site of the town tavern. It will be on Saturday’s historical walking tour. (Jeannie McMacken/ Peninsula Daily News)

Walking tours explore Port Townsend’s past

PORT TOWNSEND — As Water Street continues to experience the big dig and a new chapter of the city’s history is being written, free walking tours are being offered to residents and visitors on most Saturdays this month to provide a look back at the foundations of Port Townsend.

The Jefferson County Historical Society is collaborating with the Port Townsend Main Street Program to tell the stories of downtown’s past. The tours, which began March 3, are offered this Saturday as well as on March 17 and 31.

Each tour will begin at 2 p.m., starting from the Jefferson Museum of Art and History at 540 Water St.

“Sin at Sea Level” explores the seedier side of downtown, said Bill Tennent, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

“This is where all the taverns and brothels were. This is where shanghai took place. It was a rowdy seaport with 38 brothels operating at one time,” Tennent said.

“Early maps of the town indicate that brothels were called female boarding houses,” he added. “There was one next to City Hall.”

The tours are “a really good way to learn about the community, its quirky characters and the history of the buildings,” Tennent said.

“The focus is on architecture and our maritime past. Tours last about an hour. They start in City Hall so everyone has a chance to see one of our historic buildings that’s been restored.”

During the $2.7 million Water Street Enhancement Project, downtown business hasn’t stopped.

“What were trying to do is keep people connected to town while the project is happening,” said Mari Mullen, executive director of Port Townsend Main Street Program.

“Business can be slow during the week, but busy on the weekends, especially during nice weather,” she said.

”There’s a lot of parking downtown, and I encourage people to come down and support our merchants. We want them to be sustainable through the project.”

Port Townsend Main Street is sponsoring monthly promotions to draw people downtown.

For more information on the promotions, see http://ptmainstreet.org/.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].

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