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Originally published June 30, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 31, 2007 at 11:02 AM

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Neighborhood of the week

Port Madison, Bainbridge Island

When you're looking for a good restaurant, it can help to ask where the locals like to eat. This can also be a good rule of thumb when looking...

Special to The Seattle Times

Port Madison, Bainbridge Island


Population: About 200 in Port Madison. The population of Bainbridge Island is approximately 21,760.

Distance to downtown Seattle: 15 miles including the eight-mile ferry crossing of Puget Sound.

Schools: Port Madison is served by the Bainbridge Island School District.

Historic fact: In 1857, a new county was formed and eventually named Kitsap in honor of the Indian chief. The first county seat was at Port Madison. Business was conducted from the office of Commissioner George Meigs, owner of the Port Madison Mill.

— Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf

When you're looking for a good restaurant, it can help to ask where the locals like to eat.

This can also be a good rule of thumb when looking for a place to live. And if the place you're looking is Bainbridge Island, you're likely to find a lot of locals like Port Madison.

"Often the people who want to move there are already on the island," says Bainbridge Island real-estate agent Bill Hunt.

He says they've come to appreciate the area's history, diversity of home styles and picturesque placement overlooking Port Madison Bay.

But it's not easy to snag a spot in the "real" Port Madison. The original town — established in the 19th century and known for decades for its lumber mill — includes just a handful of streets on the east side of the bay.

The neighborhood on the bay's opposite shore, known not surprisingly as West Port Madison, doesn't make the same cut.

So when locals mention living in "Port Madison," you can bet good money that they mean the older area. You can also bet on this: You're going to need good money if you want to live there too.

For $1 million, a buyer might land a fairly average home on a quarter-acre to half-acre lot with some water views.

To buy a home on a larger lot or anywhere near the shoreline, expect the price to rise significantly.

But even if money's no object, don't call your mortgage broker quite yet. When it comes to buying a home here, good timing may be just as important as good financing.

"Properties don't come available very often," Hunt said.

Given such a tiny area, the number of homes is limited. Then add the fact the homeowners don't tend to leave, and it equals a market that's typically tight.

It's all a part of "the Port Madison factor," as Hunt and his colleague Mark Wilson call it — that combination of high desirability and low availability that keeps the area's properties at a premium.

For instance, only one property was on the market recently. It sold for $750,000, with most of its value in the land.

Wilson, a Bainbridge Island native and real-estate agent, moved to Port Madison 17 years ago and feels fortunate to have found a home there.

"It's a special spot," says Wilson. "It's tucked away and feels very protected. This isn't an area that's apt to change too much."

He notes Port Madison has an established feel and a strong sense of community, plus big old trees and little traffic.

"It's on the road to nowhere," says Wilson, referring to Port Madison's spot at the very north end of the island. "People aren't passing through to get somewhere else. Almost the only traffic you see is people who live here."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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