Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Just north of Portland, across the Columbia River in Washington is the town of Vancouver.  In the very early 1800s, there was sort of a friendly dispute between Great Britain and the United States as to who should control this portion of the continent they called “Oregon Country”.  Eventually, they agreed to share access until they could make a final decision.  In 1825 Britain tried to stake a claim to the area by setting up the Hudson’s Bay Company headquarters at what they called Fort Vancouver.  Fur trade was their business, especially beaver fur, and under the direction of John McLoughlin, Fort Vancouver became the fur trade capital of the Pacific northwest.
Bastion, no shot was ever fired in anger

Chief Factor's residence

As the trade business grew, so did the “fort”.  This center of commerce in the wilderness was quite attractive to folks back east and thus started the steady stream of wagons over what would become known as the Oregon Trail.  The influx of Americans to the area pretty much forced a decision as to who would have control and in 1846 the US border was set at the 49th parallel.  Although Fort Vancouver was now in American hands, the Hudson’s Bay Company continued to trade with Native Americans and the newly arriving settlers.
Indian Trade Store

The counting house

Of course,  there is a limited amount of furs to be had when so many were trapping.  The availability of furs declined and so did business.  By the 1860s, the Hudson’s Bay Company closed up shop.  The fort fell into disrepair and eventually burned.
McLaughlin insisted on gardens

Today, under the direction of the National Park Service, the fort is being excavated and restored.  The ranger-led tour we joined was very informative and, being with a ranger, we were able to see the archeologists hard at work cataloging relics from the Fort’s hey day.
Gen Marshall's house

After the US took control of the area, it established an Army base just outside the Fort.  Across the street from the Fort is Officer’s Row.  These upscale homes were sold to the city and several are leased to various businesses and some for private residences.  Three of these homes are open to the public.  The US Grant House is now a restaurant.  We were able to tour the George C. Marshall House.  General Marshall lived in this 9,000 square foot house until he was called away for WWII.

We tried to get our touring done before the heat got too bad, but were unsuccessful.  We had originally planned to hike again tomorrow, but, with the heat, may stay inside instead.

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