Northwest Maritime Center opens Welcome Center May 9

By Kirk Boxleitner
Posted 5/8/24



One week before its official grand opening on Thursday, May 9, The Leader visited the space of the Northwest Maritime Center that had been known as the Chandlery, to see how …

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Northwest Maritime Center opens Welcome Center May 9




One week before its official grand opening on Thursday, May 9, The Leader visited the space of the Northwest Maritime Center that had been known as the Chandlery, to see how it had been transformed into the campus and facility’s new Welcome Center.

Katie Oman, chief operating officer for the Northwest Maritime Center, noted how the Welcome Center’s layout had been arranged to resemble a marine navigational sextant, curving its informational displays around a central compass rose on the floor painted by Whale Song Signs of Port Townsend.

“We went to local maritime tradespeople whenever possible,” said Oman, noting the Welcome Center’s projection screen, furnished by Port Townsend Sails, as well as the pieces crafted by Rain Shadow Woodworks, and the reclaimed wood supplied by Pacific Northwest Timbers.

The open-concept informational display “walls,” curving around the floor’s central compass rose, address the region’s marine history in sequence, starting with “You Are Here” at the front entrance, summarizing what Oman described as “10,000 years of human history” on the area’s waters, including the multiple Native American tribes who made use of those waterways well before European colonizers arrived.

That historic account becomes more focused around the 18th and 19th centuries, and then again in the 1970s, when Oman credited “a generation of artisans” with heralding a veritable “renaissance” of boat-building and woodworking in Port Townsend and its surroundings.

The “You Are Here” display even includes Port Townsend photographer Jeremy Johnson’s compilation of profiles of local maritime tradespeople, highlighting their numbers and diversity, which Northwest Maritime Center Campus Director Kate Philbrick was happy to show off.

The “Coming Together” display delves into the origins of the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival, and Oman proudly touted the Northwest Maritime Center’s possession of several of the earliest festival posters and programs.

The “Things to Do” display includes a weekly calendar of events and activities at the Northwest Maritime Center, while “The Sea Is the Most Powerful Teacher We Know” elaborates on its educational programs for people of all ages and “A Spirit of Adventure” outlines the Race to Alaska. and the SEVENTY48 race.

The Welcome Center’s reception desk is built from an actual sailing boat, while the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building, Hasse and Company, Port Townsend Sails and the Port Townsend Foundry had jointly built the Welcome Center’s scale model sailboat, “to showcase the engineering, craft and knowledge in building sails and rigs that can withstand the rigors of use at sea,” according to the model’s informational placard.

Oman explained how the model sailboat will allow visitors, both young and old, not only to identify the parts of a sailboat in miniature, but also to practice lowering and raising its sails, as well as tying seaman’s knots.

Oman reserved her greatest enthusiasm for the topographical map, oriented toward true north, physically reflecting not only the terrain’s elevations, but also the waterways’ depths, as well as the latter’s beacons, channel markers and traffic separation schemes, with the electric lights on the map matching the colors and timing of those in the waters.

Oman credited Seattle-based Mithun architects with creating a natural foot-traffic flow for visitors to the Welcome Center, from the topographical map and information displays at the front entrance, to the retail space and the showcased collection of model ships in back, replacing the solid wall separating the Chandlery from the Velocity coffee shop with windows, to let in natural sunlight and open up another view of the water.

“We also sell supplies to folks looking to get onto the water, whether they’re visitors or locals,” Oman said. “There are people who have lived in the community for decades who don’t know the breadth of what the Northwest Maritime Center does, or the resources it provides. We hope this Welcome Center can help change that.”

The Welcome Center’s May 9 grand opening event will run from noon to 6 p.m., with snacks, store discounts and Northwest Maritime Center staff and board members on hand to answer questions and share information about the project.

The front door and dressing room have been modified to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards to enhance accessibility, while enhanced wayfinding signage has been added to help those visiting the Northwest Maritime Center find where they need to go.  

Jake Beattie, CEO of the Northwest Maritime Center, deemed its Welcome Center “the culmination of years of work,” with a more welcoming new front door, while NWMC Communications Director Molly McCarthy noted the Welcome Center was funded by donations from local supporters, the Heritage Capital Projects program administered by the Washington State Historical Society, and a grant from the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area.

Following its grand opening, the Welcome Center will be open daily, Sundays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., although those hours are subject to change with the seasons, special events and holidays.

“The Northwest Maritime Center has created a wonderful space for locals and visitors to feel the beauty, history and culture of our beloved waterfront,” said Carol Hasse, master sailmaker, commissioner for the Port of Port Townsend, and co-founder of Wooden Boat Festival. “It says ‘Welcome aboard’ to all to enjoy the Northwest Maritime campus, and to learn more about its endeavors, programs and events, and the annual Wooden Boat Festival that started it all!”