British explorer George Vancouver came upon what he called a “very safe and capacious harbor” during his travels in 1792 along what is now the coastline of Washington state. Vancouver, himself the future inspiration for the names of cities, mountains, and islands in the region, named the area for his friend the Marquis of Townshend. By the late 1800s, Port Townsend was a booming seaport with a raucous and rowdy reputation rivaling San Francisco's. In 1889, the Union Pacific railroad announced that its northwestern line would terminate at Port Townsend, and the town went wild at the prospect of incredible riches. With the ability to transport goods to and from the rest of the country, they saw themselves becoming the largest harbor on the West Coast. Speculators inflated an unprecedented land and housing bubble; mansions were built and a few European nations even established consulates there. A depression in 1893 caused the railroad to drop its plans and the bubble burst. Many residents left town, and houses and shops were abandoned. In the 1960s and 1970s the town was “rediscovered” with many of its original Victorian homes still standing, as if in a museum, with none of the usual renovations or modifications that occur over time.
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