William Bishop Sr, Port Townsend Pioneer
Built in 1890, the Bishop Block was financed and built by William Bishop Sr., (pictured here, right) one of the locally famous pioneers in Jefferson County history. William Bishop and his British Navy companion, William Eldridge, abandoned ship near Victoria during the Crimean War. They paid a local Native American .50 cents to row them across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Dungeness Spit. From there they hiked to Port Townsend. Here they met early settler Loren Hastings, who hired them to work on his farm near the site of the present Port Townsend Golf Course.
He later staked a claim along Chimacum Creek and in May 1857, bought Glendale Farm in Chimacum. Mr. Bishop first married Sally, a Native American woman, by whom he had three children. He later married Hannah (or Anna) Hutchinson and had four more children. He established a cheese and dairy business and sold his produce in Port Townsend, making the day-long trip by horse and wagon. He was the first farmer in the area to grow hops. In 1889, Mr. Bishop retired to Port Townsend, where he became a leading Port Townsend builder, including the erection of the Bishop Block building.
Bishop operated the building for a number of years, renting out the street-level spaces. His original intent was to have offices on the upper floors, but the economic decline of the 1890s took away the demand. The original street-level occupants were I.D. O’Neill and Co. Insurance and attorney Oliver Wood. Bishop later sold the building to the Owl Cigar Company which continued to rent out the street level offices and used the upper levels as a tobacco storage and distribution facility. Later, the upstairs became rented rooms.
The Port Townsend Soda Works, operated by Tanner and Swan, were long-time ground floor renters during the teens and twenties. In later years the space was occupied by furniture stores. During part of this period, Ed Sims and Jack Carroll were the building’s owners. In 1940, the U.S. Navy bought it and converted it into a rooming house to shelter civilian workers during WWII. Then, Mr. and Mrs. John Pickett purchased the building in 1980 and opened it as a hotel.
Purchased by the current owners in the 1990's, they lovingly restored the building to reflect the Victorian period, with antique furniture and glass, paintings and flowers. Most of the period pieces gracing the hotel were purchased locally. It’s a fine example of an era without elevators. From a ground-level door outside the lobby, you’ll ascend 26 steps to the second-story guest rooms. The layout of the suites and common areas of the three-story hotel is designed to encourage guests to feel at home and wander freely through the building.
Pictured top of page: The Learned Opera House and the Bishop Block Building. Pictured below: A Fourth of July Celebration in downtown Port Townsend.
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