A SHORT HISTORY OF BAINBRIDGE ISLAND
Bainbridge Island was discovered by Europeans in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver, as was almost everything else on Puget Sound. He dropped anchor in what is now Blakely Harbor, met with Chief Kitsap, named Restoration Point in honor of Charles II, and sailed on to discover something else.
About fifty years later, Captain Charles Wilkes was sent here by the U.S. Government to draw up maps and charts. Every rock, island, and inlet that Vancouver had not named for England, Wilkes named for American heroes.
Puget Sound extends for a hundred miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the north to Olympia in the south, and in between are islands of every shape and size, spits and reaches, hooks and peninsulas. Except for a few like Nisqually Reach or Skagit Bay, all have names like Madison, Budd, Admiralty, or Pickering.
Wilkes named the island after William Bainbridge, a naval hero of the War of 1812. Eight miles west of Seattle, it is approximately twelve miles long and four or five miles wide, one of the larger islands in Puget Sound.
Port Blakely, once the site of the world's largest sawmill, is at the south end of the island and looks across to West Seattle. North of Port Blakely on the eastern shore is Eagle Harbor, with Winslow situated on its north side. Marinas and public docks cluster along the beaches. From Eagle Harbor, the coastline winds north, jutting out here, cutting back for a cove there.
Port Madison is on the north end of the island. In 1854 George A. Meigs built a lumber mill and Bainbridge Island's first town there. The mill is long since gone, but some of the houses remain, and many large homes and private docks are in this area. From here, the shore goes up to Agate Point, past the swift currents of Agate Pass and the only bridge, linking the island to the Olympic Peninsula.
Down the west side of the island, the harbors are calm and fishing boats troll the narrow channel. Point White is at the southern end of Bainbridge Island, on the western side, where many former summer cottages were converted for year-round living. From Point White, the land sweeps around a cluster of stores at Lynnwood, past Pleasant Beach, past the now-deserted radio station at Fort Ward, finally turning at Restoration Point.
South of Bainbridge Island is Vashon Island, hiding Tacoma. To the north is Whidbey Island and all around are views of the mountains. The Olympics, on the western horizon and snowcapped most of the year, provide spectacular views from the Seattle ferry both during the day and in silhouette at sunset. The Cascades to the east are often visible, revealing Mount Baker, a volcano near the Canadian border, and the 14,408 feet of Mount Rainier to the south.
Like the other islands in Puget Sound, Bainbridge is tied to Seattle by ferry, a beautiful and usually tranquil thirty-five minute trip to and from the Ferry Terminal in downtown Seattle. In the old days, passenger steamers of the Mosquito fleet served our harbors twice a day. Now, the ferry schedule rules life here for many island residents, from the first boat to leave at 4:45 a.m. to the last return trip at 1:35 a.m. For pedestrians, most ferries are now met by Kitsap Transit buses, and if not, taxis are available.
In 1991, Winslow, a town of approximately 2,500, annexed the rest of Bainbridge Island, and officially became the City of Bainbridge Island with a population of about 23,000. Winslow remains the urban center on Bainbridge Island. The architecture along the one main street is a combination of Frontier Clapboard, California Adobe, Swiss Alpine, and Longhouse Rustic. Most important, the citizens of Bainbridge Island are engaged with a deep sense of civic participation and volunteerism. Bainbridge also has a history of supporting the arts, local organic farming, and progressive thought (we are the home of Yes! magazine, for example, and the one West Coast community in which the local newspaper opposed the internment of Japanese Americans).
Downtown has shops, services, and restaurants of all types and varieties, but other than two large building supply/hardware stores, there are no discount outlets or department stores on the island. Poulsbo, a town of appproximately 7,500 on the Kitsap Peninsula, is a fifteen-minute drive from Winslow, as is Suquamish, where Chief Sealth is buried. Siverdale's Kitsap Mall, a major shopping area, is about 35 minutes away. Of course, all of Seattle is readily available, either by taking a car on the ferry or by taking advantage of Seattle's efficient public transportation system.
The schools are excellent, the islanders friendly and helpful, the countryside beautiful, the big city close but not too close, the lights more and more reliable during storms: who could ask for more!
Copyright © 2008 Winslow Cohousing Group