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Port Angeles

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.


1914 view of street work in Port Angeles.

Photo by Asahel Curtis. Source: Washington State Historical Society

1937 view of Ediz Hook and the U. S. Coast Guard Station.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Clallam County Courthouse

The historic Clallam County Courthouse, on the corner of South Lincoln and East 4th St., is a marker between these two sections of the city. Behind the courthouse rise the snowcapped ridges of the Olympic Mountains, as if lifted from an Albert Bierstadt canvas.

Port Angeles Civic Historic District

The district is a two-block section of the city’s downtown area that contains three contributing buildings spanning from 1915 to 1931 and represent county and city governmental functions that came together over the 15 year time span during a significant period of growth in the community. Due to constant flooding of downtown streets, improvement efforts in the first quarter of the 20th century raised the road level by several feet. Portions of the historic, now subterranean, street fronts can be visited as part of a Port Angeles walking tour. Colorful, large-scale murals adorning numerous buildings tell the history of the city.

Ediz Hook

A narrow spit of sand, Ediz Hook, a curving finger extending into Juan de Fuca Strait, protects the harbor. Industrial plants line the water’s edge; coastwise and ocean freighters load and unload at electrically equipped docks. The harbor is the first American port of entry for ships coming into Puget Sound from the Pacific. On Ediz Hook are a Coast Guard air base and Ediz Hook Lighthouse built in 1908 to replace an earlier tower dating from 1865.

Masonic Temple

Distinguished by a Neoclassical façade and colonnaded portico, the Masonic Temple in Port Angeles is the most imposing example of a fraternal hall on the northern Olympic Peninsula. The well preserved structure is among the region’s best examples of the Classical Revival in the early 20th century, and an enduring symbol of the prominent role played by fraternal organizations in the life of the city. In addition, for four decades after its construction in 1921, the temple served as the primary venue for important public gatherings in Port Angeles.

St. Andrews Episcopal Church

St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is the most significant example of the Gothic Revival style in Port Angeles, distinguished by a steeply pitched gable roof, pointed arched windows, buttresses, a rich use of native woods on both the interior and exterior, exposed timber trusses and the finest examples of stained glass craftsmanship in Clallam County. Intimate in scale and rustic in character, the chapel recalls a traditional English parish church, an architectural idiom promoted by Episcopal churchmen throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Built as a mission church in 1905, the church served the city’s Episcopal community for the next 60 years. Today, it still retains outstanding integrity from that period and has suffered only slight deterioration due to weather and age. Historical Background: Settled by members of the utopian Puget Sound Cooperative

Naval Lodge Elks

The Naval Lodge Elks Building is a significant example of fraternal lodge architecture in Port Angeles. The five-story building, which is the tallest structure in the city, reflects the Renaissance Revival Style of the early twentieth century, distinguished by a restrained exterior and an eclectic interior design. Like other urban lodge buildings from the period, the Naval Lodge is a free standing structure with elaborate meeting rooms, ground story retail space, and a classically inspired facade that reflects the prominence of the organization. An architectural landmark in Port Angeles, visible from every approach to the city, the lodge has served as an important meeting place for the Elks and other civic groups since its construction. The Naval Lodge Elks Building was designed by architect J. Charles Stanley and constructed in 1927 as an expanded facility to replace the organization’s first structure built next door in 1915. When dedicated in 1928, the building was the largest fraternal lodge in the city, complete with ballroom, meeting halls, hotel rooms, and swimming pool. For many years it was considered the “most elaborately equipped and costly structure in Port Angeles.” The lodge boasted many prominent residents among its 1,112 members in 1928, including numerous Navy personnel. First chartered in 1896, the Lodge received a special dispensation from the national Grand Lodge of Elks which permitted the organization to use the name “Naval Lodge” rather than name of -the city, in recognition of the Navy personnel among the charter members. It is the only Elks Lodge building in the country with a name not derived from its location.

US Post Office

An active fight to obtain a Federal building in Port Angeles began in 1913 but wasn’t granted until 1931 with an allocation of $130,000 from Congress for the construction of a post office. The cornerstone for the new Federal building was laid on Saturday, July 30, 1932, with great poop and ceremony. It was inscribed “A. W. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, James A. Wetmore, Acting Supervising Architect, 1931”. The VFW and a naval detachment led a parade from the masonic temple to the building site where Mayor Ralph Davis; Congressman Lindley H. Hadley; and High Mason, Attorney Walter Meier, presided from the speakers’ platform. “Stores were closed for the hour, and an immense crowd witnessed the ceremony.”

Puget Sound Cooperative Colony

In June 1887, the Puget Sound Co-operative Colony, incorporated in Seattle the previous month, moves its headquarters to the small settlement of Port Angeles, where its founders envision building an ideal collective community. Dozens of adherents are already living at the colony site on Ennis Creek. By fall some 400 colonists will have doubled Port Angeles’s population. The colony is the first of many utopian communities that will emerge around Puget Sound over the next 30 years and the only one that plays a significant role in building a major city. Over the next few years, Colonists construct Port Angeles’s first sawmill, its first office building, many homes, schools, and churches, and an ornate Opera House. As an experiment in co-operative living, the Colony survives for only a few years, but the energetic and committed settlers it attracts play a major role in the rise of Port Angeles as the civic, commercial, and industrial center of Clallam County.