The largest city in and the seat of Clallam County, it is on the Strait of Juan de Fuca across the Strait from Victoria, British Columbia in northeast Clallam County. It has an excellent harbor and substantial industries. The city’s business section slopes gently to the harbor front, while the residential section lies on bluffs above.
Recorded history of the city goes back to 1791, when Captain Francisco Eliza, exploring for the Viceroy of Mexico, sailed into the harbor behind the sandy claw and found an Native American village. He christened it, eloquently, Porto de Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles (Sp. Port of Our Lady of the Angels). Directly across the Strait, approximately 17 miles in width at this point, is Victoria, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island.
In 1861, a post office was established as Cherbourg, but was changed to Port Angeles in 1862. Victor Smith, a special treasury agent appointed by President Abraham Lincoln, persuaded the President to issue an order which reserved 3,520 acres on the bay for lighthouse and military purposes. Smith had most of this platted as a town site and had the custom house removed from Port Townsend to Port Angeles. He called his platted town “The Second National City of the United States after Washington, D.C., only.”
By the 1940s three pulp and paper mills, a large export lumber mill, and a concrete-products plant contributed to the commercial importance of Port Angeles. Dairying in the district about the city supported three creameries. Clallam County once claimed the highest record for butter-fat production per cow of any county in the State.