10 Cool Things You Need to Know About Port Angeles History

Port Angeles HarborPort Angeles is a small seaside town in the Pacific Northwest that is known for its whale watching, a nearly endless list of outdoor adventures for visitors and locals to enjoy year-round and its proximity to the nearby Olympic National Park. While hiking and exploring may be the sole focus for many visitors, it’s hard to spend any time here without picking up on a bit of Port Angeles history.

You may expect Port Angeles history to begin with Spanish explorers and indigenous peoples, but you may not have anticipated its connection to Hollywood movies, Arctic drilling rigs, Hall of Fame football players and influential poets. Here at the George Washington Inn, our emphasis, of course, is on the impact our first president had on the region and the nation. However, more than one U.S. president has played a key role in the development of Port Angeles history. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt join George Washington in leaving lasting marks on the region. Read on to find out 10 of the coolest things that make Port Angeles history a subject worth exploring…

1. What’s in a Name? 

The name Port Angeles dates back all the way to 1791. Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza traveled here on an expedition from southern California. He named the harbor Puerto de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles (Port of Our Lady of the Angels).

2. Famous Footballer: John Elway

Port Angeles is the birthplace of football Hall of Famer John Elway. At the time, Elway’s father Jack was the head football coach at Port Angeles High School.

3. The Strait and Narrow

The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The strait was named in 1787 by the maritime fur trader Charles William Barkley for Greek navigator Juan de Fuca. Port Angeles history is largely shaped around the Strait. You can even hop on a ferry from Port Angeles to cross the Strait and disembark in Victoria, British Columbia.

4. Second National City

Port Angeles history features a startling distinction: It is the only other city officially platted by the federal government (in addition to Washington, D.C.). In 1890, the U.S. Board of Trade named Port Angeles the “Second National City.” President Abraham Lincoln designated 3,520 acres at Port Angeles a federal reserve. The street plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still exists today!

5. In Deep Water: The Ediz Hook

Port Angeles features a long and narrow natural sand spit named Ediz Hook that projects northeasterly nearly 3 miles into the Strait. The resulting large, natural deep-water harbor provides anchorage for large ocean-going ships such as tankers and cruise ships. In fact, Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig spent several weeks in Port Angeles at the end of 2015.

6. Overshadowed, but in a Good Way

The temperate climate of Port Angeles is courtesy of the Olympic Mountains’ rain shadow. Winter lows rarely drop below 25F and summer highs rarely rise above 80F. Port Angeles history has also been largely shaped by the logging industry supported by the region’s natural landscapes.

7. Olympic National Park

Port Angeles is the home of Olympic National Park. The Park was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, and remains a huge draw to the region.

8. Ready for its Closeup: Hollywood Connections

Port Angeles history intermingles with Hollywood history. The Strait of Juan de Fuca north of Port Angeles was used for filming several scenes in the 1990 film, “The Hunt for Red October.” Plus, Olympic Game Farm played a key role in early Disney nature films.

9. Poetically Peaceful

Poet Raymond Carver is buried in Port Angeles. He passed away on August 2, 1988, and his final resting place is in the Ocean View Cemetery.

10. Mount Vernon on a Bluff

Port Angeles is home to a replica of Mount Vernon, the home of the state’s namesake, George Washington. The George Washington Inn sits on a bluff along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Our estate spans 10 acres and encompasses panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the Olympic Mountain, and our lavender farm! The George Washington Inn was recently featured in a Seattle Times story, which highlights the Inn’s features as well as some of the special events we hold throughout the year. Come, see for yourself the indelible legacy George Washington left on our region and our country. Book a suite fit for a president! We look forward to seeing you.