Fort Vancouver and surrounding areas in Vancouver, WA
Across a few visits over the last couple of months, I have been exploring Fort Vancouver and the surrounding area. A month and a half ago, I checked out the “land bridge” that crosses from the Columbia River over the highway 14 freeway over to Fort Vancouver and the barracks and “officer’s row.” One month ago I dined at the Grant House on “officer’s row” and walked around the military barracks across the way. Two weeks ago I toured Fort Vancouver. It has been interesting to learn a bit about the local history.
The “land bridge” and “Old apple tree park”
The “land bridge” starts across from the Who Song and Larry restaurant on the Columbia River. You first encounter an old apple tree and then a leisurely stroll over the freeway past local plants that are labeled to a “viewing” area just above the freeway and then continuing along a path toward Fort Vancouver and the “village.”
Photo of Fort Vancouver from the “land bridge”
Photo of Hudson Bay Company and US military post while walking on the “land bridge”
My husband and I celebrated passing his orals for his dissertation at the Grant House on “officer’s row” at Fort Vancouver. The atmosphere was lovely with opportunities to dine inside in the historical building or outside on the veranda. We chose to eat outside on the veranda and enjoy the balmy evening. Service was initially excellent with drinks and appetizer (the calamari was great!), but then they must have gotten busy inside or on the other side of the veranda after we were served our main course. 😦 The salmon wasn’t quite what I had expected over a broth of lemongrass, but the salmon was absolutely delicious on its own. My husband enjoyed his prime rib with asparagus. We were pressed for time so we had to pass on dessert. 😦
Grant House from the street
Sign walking up to the Grant House
Grant House veranda
Grant House menu on veranda
Military barracks across from the Grant House
I can’t believe that I haven’t ever checked out such a major piece of local history in the 11 years that I’ve lived in the area. My husband and I viewed the 22 minute video about the Fort and the surrounding area and historical times at the Visitor center before going in.
3D models of Fort Vancouver in Visitor Center
Fort Vancouver from the parking lot
There was a large, well tended garden in front of the fort with arches made of shrubs.
Fort Vancouver from the garden
Map of Fort Vancouver
Hudson’s Bay Company flag and crest
Cannons in front of main house (Chief factor’s residence)
It was nice to be one of just a few people there. There were supposed to be interpreters in a couple of the buildings, but we wandered around on our own until we ran into them. When we stumbled upon one of the interpreter’s, we followed them through the main house.
She explained that the fort actually burned down in 1866? so this fort is a reconstruction based upon photos. There had been a spruce mill there after the fort burned down and before the reconstruction.
Dining room where the men ate vs. dining room where the women and children ate
A sitting room
We went through the dining room, bed rooms, and parlor/library rooms and then down to the basement where the kitchen was.
The interpreter explained that the women’s job was to take care of and educate the children so they didn’t do cooking (they did eat in a separate area). It was male hired help that did all of the cooking over an open fire type of stove. It was mostly men that lived at the fort and they mostly married local Indian wives. She pointed out the replications of blue Spode china on the shelves. I already had recognized it having had a grandmother with a business in antiques and depression ware.
We then went to the Bake house which was a separate building next door. This was where “sea biscuits” we’re made.
We really enjoyed the infirmary and apothecary even though we didn’t get to go inside.
We also enjoyed the Fur warehouse and were lucky to have a knowledgeable interpreter there. It was huge with pelts hanging from the ceiling and piled up on the floor. At a glance, there were beaver, mink, muskrat, wolf, bobcat, badger, deer, etc. They were also bundled in tanned hides and labeled by fort name, year, and number of package. They had ledgers showing contributions from all of the forts in Canada and the northwest US down to California. All were shipped out from Fort Vancouver. Beavers were the most valued and most expensive due to hats in Europe. There was a huge scale with beaver pelts on one side and iron weights on the other. In 1844 they made 3 million plus in British pounds worth of shipping.
We walked through the remaining buildings. The Wood shop had lots of wood and tools and a self pumping lathe.
We hope to visit the Pearson Air Museum near Fort Vancouver and the Kaiser Shipyard in the area to pick up on other historical tidbits about the area.
McLoughlin House in Oregon City, OR
We made it to the McLoughlin House before the Pearson Air Museum or Kaiser Shipyard so stay tuned on those.
The McLoughlin House
Fountain behind the McLoughlin House
Close up of the fountain
Gravestones of Doctor (John) McLoughlin and his wife
Since we weren’t able to take any photos inside the McLoughlin House, the best photos are the “slide show” on the Fort Vancouver website.
Here is a brief summary of tidbits of the extensive and informative tour that we received.
John McLoughlin apprenticed from the age of 14 until 18 and became a doctor at 18. He was hired to be a physician and clerk at Fort William, Ontario on Lake Superior with North West Company before it merged with Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1824 he traveled from Ontario in eastern Canada on a 5 month canoe trip with his wife and 3 and 7 year old kids to Fort George in Astoria, OR. He then moved on to Fort Vancouver in 1825 to be the chief factor of the region. Indians called him the “white headed eagle of the whites” because of his white hair.
McLoughlin helped American settlers from the Oregon trail and was a shrewd businessman trading with Indians. He knew that these connections would be important since he’d be living in the region with all of them. The first Oregon trail wagon train was in 1843. Each year were more settlers until the gold rush in California when more went south.
McLoughlin ran Fort Vancouver and the region until 1845 when he resigned/was fired and moved into his house in Oregon City in 1846. This was also when the British government accepted the 49th parallel (the current Canadian border) as the boundary between the US and Canada (previously the US and England co-owned the NW through a treaty) and 2 years later the Oregon Territory was created. McLoughlin applied to become an American citizen which was granted in 1851. He was named “Father of Oregon.”
The McLoughlin House was not built at the current location, but rather it was moved from the Willamette falls. McLoughlin was a tall man at 6’4” and all of the doorways in the house were for much shorter individuals. One interesting thing we encountered in the house were called tea “bricks.” They were from China in which tea was packed into a square brick shape. Pieces of the brick were cut off to make tea. Tea “bricks” were also what were used at the Boston Tea Party rather than tea bags.