The Time Machine: Highway 101

The Olympic Peninsula is a relatively young area of the country.  A lot of our settlement here came after the Civil War and our history doesn’t include witch trials or the industrial history of the east and Midwest.  Still, we have a rich history of farming, mining, logging and industrial pursuits on the Olympic Peninsula and for much of that early period we have a daily account of life here through the eyes of the Port Townsend Morning Leader.  While there were other papers on the Peninsula, the Port Townsend Leader is the only newspaper continuously published since the early years.  It started publication as a daily in 1889 and many issues from that period are available online.  There is an excellent overview of the Leader’s history on the Port Townsend Public Library website. 

If you enjoy history, it is interesting to look back a century to see how our forebears lived and what they were doing. Recently we looked back a century and discovered the beginnings of Route 101 – then the Olympic Highway.  We thought you might be interested.  The first stretch was from Hama Hama to Duckabush  a distance of 22 miles.   If you follow the link there are also other hints of daily life at the turn of the twentieth century.  We talk about a litigious society today, but the story of the Port Townsend lady who sued the fortune teller may remind you of W. C. Fields “You Can’t Cheat and Honest Man.”    

   If September 1913 was the beginning of the highway, it was a long time a-building. The stretch of highway along Lake Crescent was completed in 1922.  Pictures from that period show the timber rails that kept cars out of the lake.   The whole 300 mile plus loop of the highway wasn’t completed until 1931.  It cost $10 million to build but it did open the peninsula to the outside world.  Then, as now, tourism was important and the dedication of the highway in August of 1931 in Kalaloch was a big deal drawing dignitaries from Seattle and elsewhere to what we still consider a pretty remote part of the peninsula.     

The photo here shows  the Storm King Ranger Station in the background as well as a government trout hatchery that operated there until 1943.  Our peninsula was a beautiful and wild place in 1922 and if you have driven the 101 through the Lake Crescent area you know it still is.  

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