Muralist widens exposure for Port Townsend Victorian Festival

PORT TOWNSEND — Union Wharf is jammed with boxy warehouses.

The Bell Tower stands alone on a barren bluff.

Church spires surround the two-story, wood-frame school house.

It’s not exactly what Port Townsend looks like today, but organizers of the annual Victorian Festival are hoping it will draw tourists.

“The concept is not to present a brick-by-brick picture of Port Townsend, but to capture the feeling, the look,” Steve Bailey says.

Bailey is a graphic artist who is volunteering his talents to create a six-panel, 18-foot-long mural of the Port Townsend skyline, circa 1885, to promote the Victorian Festival.

The portable painting will make its debut Wednesday as a backdrop for the festival’s booth at the Victorian Country Christmas at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

“This event saw 45,000 people last year,” says Gay Stover, Victorian Festival co-chair.

“We are going to promote the Victorian Festival and all of Port Townsend.”

Volunteers in costume

Funded by Port Townsend Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, the booth will be staffed by volunteers — all dressed in Victorian costume — from the festival, the Jefferson County Historical Society, Northwest Maritime Center, Centrum and Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce.

To set the scene, Bailey, who is a professional muralist, is working from an historic photograph of the city as it looked in 1885.

Downtown, the Mount Baker Block Building predominates, not yet upstaged by the Hastings Building.

Union Wharf is an active commercial site, not a viewpoint for tourists, and the Kuhn Building still has its top floor.

Central School, which burned down, fills the slot where the community center now stands.

But Bailey did use some artistic license.

“I put in the ship and the country courthouse because it wasn’t there yet,” Bailey says.

The ship is on the right side of the mural, one of two panels that Bailey has completed.

Working in acrylics, he started by painting in all the sky and water. Then he projected a slide of the photograph onto the panels and sketched in the layout of the buildings.

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