Port Washington: The Kitsap city that almost was

I was bumbling through the county’s public records website the other day when an old plat map from 1890 caught my attention.

The plat was for a Kitsap County city called Port Washington: A city that doesn’t exist.

city.of.port.washingtonI was immediately fascinated (my editors might say “sidetracked”) by this mystery city. From a glance, it was clear the backers of this town had big ambitions.

The sheer number of lots seemed astounding. The plat showed several hundred tiny parcels squeezed into a 130-acre waterfront property. It was the kind of urban density that would make a modern planner proud. 

Sprinkled amid the residential lots were spaces for schools, parks and a courthouse. The tidy rows of numbered streets would have intersected avenues with titles like Humboldt, Olympian and Delaware — names not found on modern county maps.

At least the name Port Washington was familiar.

port.washMost Kitsap residents are well aacquainted with the Port Washington Narrows, the picturesque strip of water that separates East and West Bremerton and connects Dyes Inlet to the rest of Puget Sound.

But Port Washington, as I learned, and many old timers probably know, once referred to the entire inlet. Surely the city was somewhere on its shores.

A few paragraphs in the Kitsap Historical Society’s excellent history book filled in some of the remaining blanks.

port.washingtonThe townsite of Port Washington was indeed planned on Dyes Inlet, just north of the Chico townsite. Chico was an up-and-coming settlement in 1890, with a newly-built school and regular Mosquito Fleet ferry service.

Some Seattle developers saw an opportunity to cash in. They built a two-story hotel and dock north of town. Then they schemed up the City of Port Washington, envisioning a lucrative waterfront resort community with easy access to the city.

Developers platted the townsite in 1890 (and entered this revised plat in 1891). They even installed water pipes to irrigate lawns and flower gardens that would no doubt be planted.

The idea of building a resort town in a relative backwater sounds audacious today, but the plan may not have been unusual for the time.

“You know, this was all new, raw land,” Kitsap Historical Society researcher Bonnie Chrey said in an email. “Lots of people were looking at getting rich at promoting various ideas. This would have been a good scheme to sell lots and make some money.”

There were hints of early success in Port Washington, according to “Kitsap County: A History.” A gazebo and community hall hosted dances. Ferries dropped off vacationers on weekends and profited from the increased ridership.

kitsap
A 1909 map of Kitsap

The stream of visitors apparently wasn’t enough to sustain the town in the long run. “Kitsap County: A History,” offers this brief epitaph to Port Washington: “As a summer resort, the project was a failure even before the dock and hotel burned on Aug. 22, 1903.”

The site was later sold and the grand City of Port Washington never came to be.

As Port Washington fizzled, other Kitsap towns flourished. Most of the communities we live in today were originally platted in the final years of the 19th century, or the first few years of the 20th.

I’ve uploaded a number of historical plat maps here, including plans for Bremerton (1891), Charleston (1891), Chico (1889), Kingston (1889), Navy Yard City (1909),  Silverdale (1889).

I’ll keep adding maps as I come across them. Feel free to drop a request in the comment section if there’s a plat you’re particularly interested in. Most can be found online using the Kitsap County Auditor’s public records search tool.

If someone knows more about the history of Port Washington than what I’ve scribbled here, give me an email at tad.sooter@kitsapsun.com

6 thoughts on “Port Washington: The Kitsap city that almost was

  1. Lots of name changes in Kitsap County. Dickeyville, Happy Valley, Sidney, Charleston, & Barton are no more. And, of course, Kitsap wasn’t the original name either. Most of the county was originally part of King County; then we were Slaughter County before becoming Kitsap.

    1. I know I’ve seen it before, but don’t know where… Do you know when Marine Drive – which was an island – was linked to the mainland?

      And do you have old plat maps showing Rocky Point?

      I’ve collected a very few stories of old Rocky Point and always have plans to talk with older residents…. spinning my wheels as usual, just thinking about it, etc etc. Thanks – Liz

      1. Hey Liz,

        Thanks for your interest. The only plat for Rocky Point I found was this one for “Rocky Point Park” https://www.scribd.com/doc/252769725/Rocky-Point-Park

        That’s neat trivia on Marine Drive. I haven’t been able to figure out when the channel was filled yet but I’ll poke around. Someone in the newsroom says it was called Huckleberry Island, does that sound right to you?

        Tad

        1. Marine Drive was called Bear Island. It was owned by Sam Fitz who came to Bremerton from Seattle in the early days to open his tailor shop which became Fitz’s Mens Store on Washington Ave. He is the one who hired a crew with heavy equipment to push a hill top down into the channel where Mud Bay flowed into Oyster Bay to connect the island.

          1. Sam Fitz, Sr. was my Grandfather. We lived on Marine Drive during the summers from 1950 to 1970. The property at 2638 Marine Dr. faced Mud Bay. My other Grandfather owned the Chicken Coup on 6th.
            I am interested in the history of both.
            I have some 16mm film of parades and other subjects from about 1950.

          2. I’m curious to know more about Sam Fitz’s involvement on Marine Drive. He was my grandfather. I understood that he originally owned three acres around the current Fitz Drive, then sold them and bought the two acre lots to the south, one for his son and one for his daughter. His son later purchased the three back and developed Fitz Drive. I later purchased my mother’s lot.

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