This web site represents a small portion of an ongoing photographic project I have undertaken to explore the past and the present of Port Townsend. Using historical photographs as a guide I have been re-photographing the buildings, houses and landscapes to visually connect the area’s past with the present, to chronicle change.
An element of our understanding of history and of place is informed by our visual memories. We remember places as they were when we first viewed them or perhaps their images are lodged in our memory because of an experience we had there. Port Townsend is rich with history and each person that loves this area has his or her own vision of what it looks like or what it should look like.
I am a fourth generation Port Townsendite. During my lifetime, I have seen many changes in Port Townsend and the surrounding area, an inevitable part of life and place. Many of theses changes have been so gradual that they hardly register on one’s consciousness, others are rapid; a building gone, a new building built, or a massive remodel. In the past Point Hudson was a swamp, Memorial Field was filled with buildings, there was a street (Front Street) on piers beyond Water Street, and a trolley provided mass transit.
My grandfather, George Welch, a long time resident of Port Townsend, was a photographer and I am fortunate to have a large collection of his images. Most of his photographs were taken between the years 1903-1925, the majority of them in the Olympic Mountains. For the past four years, during the summer months, I have hiked in the mountains looking for the sites that he photographed, and the precise location where he set up his camera. Not all that easy; imagine hiking for three days only to discover that you’re on the wrong ridge or that the caption on the photograph that says “Gold Creek” is now Silver Lake. But the elation of finding a site after a long hike more than makes up for the disappointment of not finding another.
In the winter of 2005 I decided to re-photograph the images that I have of the Port Townsend area. There are some that I have from my grandfather’s collection and many more that have come from my brother, Mark Welch’s, collection. The Jefferson County Historical Society has been very generous and has allowed me the use of their extensive photograph collection to make re-photographic matches. They are a fabulous organization, established in 1879, they have continued their original mission to “ … to actively discover, collect, preserve and promote the heritage of Jefferson County in the State of Washington”. Anyone interested in Port Townsend should visit them in person or on the web. http://www.jchsmuseum.org/
The photographs that you are viewing on this site are reproduced in a small file size to make them “web friendly”. The final product of this exploration is an interactive CD that includes many more matched images in a much larger size, as well as information about the photographic subjects including historical research and newspaper articles. There is also a large collection of photographs that are impossible to match but will add to our understanding of this place.
If you would like to be kept informed about this project please contact me. To purchase the CD, click on the "Purchase" button for more information.