PORT TOWNSEND — Pete Langley, a local resident and global seafarer, is tonight’s First Friday Speaker Series presenter, giving a virtual tour of the place he’s spent 40 years developing: the Port Townsend Foundry.
The behind-the-scenes visit will start at 7 p.m. via the Jefferson County Historical Society website, JCHSmuseum.org, with Langley answering questions from the audience toward the end of the hour. The First Friday events are devoted through 2021 to “The Art of Making,” a showcase of people who manufacture products — from cider to marine hardware — locally. Admission is by donation, with $10 suggested.
“It’s been the weirdest year I’ve ever seen,” said Langley, who runs the foundry with his wife, Cathy.
He’s seen plenty. The youngest of seven children, he went to Morro Bay High School on California’s central coast — and, with his extended family, logged some 70,000 miles at sea before his 20th birthday. The vessels ranged from wooden sailboats to yachts to commercial fishing boats, voyaging up, down and beyond the West Coast.
Langley saw Port Townsend for the first time when he was 13 in 1973. Ten years later, he re-established the Port Townsend Foundry, now on Otto Street — a full century after the opening of the original. In its first location on the waterfront, about 250 people manufactured streetcars, steam engines and fixtures for the town’s Victorian mansions.
The past year, which has been challenging for many, has brought more work for fewer people at the foundry. Demand for product climbed as enthusiasts went home, worked on their boats and needed hardware.
“We exceeded previous years’ sales, and did it with half the staff,” as workers either stayed home because they needed to be with their children or moved away. Today Langley has seven crew members instead of the pre-pandemic 15.
Together the men and women make cleats, turnbuckles, bells, steering wheels and other products, 80 to 90 percent of which are shipped outside Washington state.
Now, as when it first opened, the foundry is a place to learn a trade through on-the-job training, Langley noted. At porttownsendfoundry.com, there’s an invitation, to those who want to learn and pass on these traditional skills, to call him directly.
Langley has had many mentors. Among the first was the late Sam Boyd, his high school metal shop teacher. Boyd could tell Langley was especially attentive, so he urged the teenager to explore; “just don’t get hurt,” he said.
Langley became Boyd’s teaching assistant while still in school.
Since putting down roots in the Pacific Northwest, Langley has joined the EDC Team Jefferson, Port Townsend Maritime Trades Association and Jefferson County Historical Society boards. The historical society board is seeking new members, he said, adding he’d like to see a teenager volunteer in such a capacity.
Information and executive director Shelly Leavens’ email can be found at JCHSmuseum.org under “About” and “Board and Staff Contacts.”
Langley and the foundry are also stalwarts at the Wooden Boat Festival. At last year’s mostly virtual event, he set up an actual drive-up station where he answered questions.
“Maritime culture is based on those kinds of traditions,” he said.
This year? Langley will certainly be there for the in-person festival planned for Sept. 10-12.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]