Often, I go back to places I loved and find them different, as in not-as-good as I remembered. This is especially true of restaurants. That’s why my return to Fort Nisqually less than 2 weeks ago was such a thrill. It’s not only as-good, it’s better.
First of all, it’s in an incomparable setting on the western side of Point Defiance Park. To get there go to Tacoma, Washington, and take SR 16 (stay in the middle lane) to the 6th Avenue/Pearl Street Exit. After exiting, turn right. Follow Pearl north and you’ll end in The Park where there’s also a zoo, Puget Sound vistas, an aquarium, seasonally spectacular gardens, etc. Even if you skip these, do drive the loop around Point Defiance to see an all-seasons temperate rainforest that is, ironically, even more beautiful in dismal rain. Take the marked turnoff to Fort Nisqually.
Even though it was a fort too, Nisqually was, more importantly, a 19th century shopping center. It began in 1833 as a Hudson Bay Company outlet. The 1st European settlement on Puget Sound, Nisqually’s current subtitle is, aptly, LIVING HISTORY MUSEUM. Both times Ruth & I have been there, costumed curator Bill Rhind has given us information filled tours. The 2nd time we were part of a group that hung on his every word. Due to his vast knowledge of the place, Bill is one of those rare tour guides who makes facts come alive imaginatively. I was fascinated, for example, when he showed us a rectangular black iPad sized enigma that looked like an old game board and told us what it was a tea brick from Asia sold in the Fort’s store.
If, unlike us, you pre-plan your visit, you can take advantage of scheduled events like 19th century Christmas (just over). The next major one is Sewing to Sowing Living History Day, April 27.
After only 13 years as an international trading post run by the British, Nisqually became part of the United States about the time that the fur trade, largely beaver pelts, was in decline. Two of the buildings erected during the mid-centruy pioneer/western settlement era, the lovingly restored Factor’s House and a granary, survive. All the rest of the buildings are thoroughly researched reconstructions. The Visitors’ Center offers a museum, a gift shop, and a warm welcome.
After Fort Niqually officially closed in 1869, it changed hands often but was never completely abandoned. One of its more surprising owners was DuPont. Yes, that DuPont. The well-known chemical company bought it in 1906 and manufactured explosives there. A town called DuPont 15 miles north of Olympia remains. What’s left of the original village in what was a rare Northwest company town is on the National Register of Historic Places. Ruth & I haven’t been there. Yet.