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Originally published Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Museum of the Month

Step into New England at Port Gamble National Historic Landmark

Port Gamble has an interesting museum — and the village itself is like a museum.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Museum location: 32400 Rainier Ave. N.E., Port Gamble, Kitsap County.

Setting: On a drive from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula, this pretty yet rather anomalous village appears like a New England vision on Kitsap Peninsula. A National Historic Landmark, the 19th-century company town was modeled after the founders' hometown in Maine. The lumber-manufacturing operations of the Puget Mill Company here, founded by Andrew Jackson Pope and Frederick Talbot, eventually grew into the longest continuously operating sawmill in North America.

Museum displays: A museum is located under the general store, on the lower level facing the bay. Rather than explain the history of the town in a clear linear narrative, its strength lies in its artifacts and its reconstructed scenes from the town's glory days. See Captain Talbot's re-created cabin on the brig Oriental, and peer into its dark cargo hold amid the sound effects of creaking rigging and shrieking gulls. Admire the master bedroom of manager Cyrus Walker, with its beautiful Victorian furniture shipped around the Horn from Europe, or imagine lounging in the lobby of the Puget Hotel (1903-1963). In contrast, peek inside a simple cedar-shake house typical of those used by the local Native Americans (some of their descendants live on the Port Gamble S'Klallam Reservation just across Port Gamble Bay).

Highlights: This charming place is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Bring printouts of the two walking tours on the town's Web site as a guide to the historic buildings, and browse the antique shops, galleries and bookstore that lease them. Make plans to have lunch in the tearoom or at the general store deli. Walk up the hill above the town to the hilltop cemetery, and take in the views of the water with the Hood Canal Bridge in the distance. Numerous fun monthly events include curator-led afternoon town walks and evening ghost walks ($10-$15; reservations required for both). On the first Friday of the month, stores are open late and there's a monthly dinner at the general store (reservations required).

Museum hours: May 1 through Oct. 31, open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1 through April 30, open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday only (and on major Monday holidays).

Admission: Museum admission is $4 adults, $3 students, seniors and military; kids 6 and younger free.

Directions: Port Gamble is located about a mile east of the Hood Canal Bridge on Highway 104, about eight miles from the Kingston ferry dock and about 25 miles from the Bainbridge Island ferry dock.

Details: 360-297-8074 or www.portgamble.com. For a thorough self-orientation, print out the walking tour and the Port Gamble historic cybertour.

Cathy McDonald is a freelance writer who lives in Renton. She is regular contributor in NW Weekend.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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