Port Gamble Looks to Weddings to Build Economic Base

By Rachel Pritchett | rpritchett@kitsapsun.com


Surely there was a wedding or two in the stately lobby of the old Puget Hotel that once occupied this grassy Port Gamble bluff.

Soon, weddings and other events will take place in a facility under construction where the hotel once stood.

The Hood Canal Pavilion will be nice, but not extravagant or overreaching, reflecting the caution Port Gamble manager Olympic Property Group is taking as it begins to build a new economic base for this frozen-in-time mill town.

What starts as a simple wedding venue may someday end up as the familiar town with new history-sensitive business and conference facilities. It may even have a hotel down below on Port Gamble Bay, where a sawmill operated for almost 150 years.

“It’s years off,” Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, said of future development.

Still, “In the north end, there’s … historically been a shortage of good business conference space.”

Opening in June, the wedding-and-event facility will be made almost entirely of wood. The building will have 2,900 square feet of space mostly in one big room with exposed timbers and a stone fireplace, along with a small kitchen.

A bank of French doors will swing open to the Puget Sound view, with wedding and event crowds of up to 400 spilling out onto the lawn and adjacent covered patio during warm summer days. The facility alone will have a capacity of 175 people.

Besides weddings, it will host receptions, parties, conferences and community get-togethers. 

The facility is the first significant construction in Port Gamble since the 1920s, Rose said. The tiny town, owned by OPG parent Pope Resources, is a national historic landmark.

Michael Sullivan of Tacoma, one of the historic preservationists working on the project, said the facility “is a bit of a vanguard” for other eventual new construction planned for Port Gamble. 

It “reads” as a new building, but nods to the past, he said.

This former rough-and-tumble town’s entrance into the world of billowing lace has been gradual over the past several years. 

OPG began hosting weddings in the town’s tiny church and under tents outdoors.

Business gradually grew and last year, OPG hosted 97 weddings and other events. Sixty percent of the business came from Seattle. Some parties came from as far away as California and Texas, according to OPG wedding and events coordinator Julie McAfee.

With the new facility coming online, OPG plans to host 150 weddings a year.

“Over a very short period of time, we expect to be very competitive,” Rose said.

The old church will still be used and is being spiffed up a little now, with new flooring and fresh landscaping. Rose anticipates some couples tying the knot there, then heading down to the new facility for the reception.

“You can rent the town, you know?” Rose said.

As for competition for weddings and events, OPG has its eye on Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort and Kiana Lodge.

“We’re not going to come in as a bargain place or as a value place,” Rose said. 

While the town has a couple guest houses, no hotel may hold business back.

“Our biggest challenge is the fact that we don’t have a hotel on site,” Rose said.

So far, it’s been a cautious, solid journey toward bringing new lifeblood to this museum community of about 55 residents. 

“It is a walk-before-you-run place,” Rose said. “Because too many people go too fast and fall on their face.”

The Puget Hotel, by the way, was heavily damaged by the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, and torn down after that.


To Book a Date

For booking information on the Hood Canal Pavilion in Port Gamble, call Julie McAffee, Olympic Property Group’s wedding and events coordinator, at (360) 297-8074.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Is water a solid or a liquid at room temperature?