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The British Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Vancouver in 1825 as the headquarters of the company’s fur trade, controlling the fur business from Alaska to Southern California, and out to the Rocky Mountains. Vancouver was the main colonial settlement in the Pacific Northwest, located in what is now Washington State, right across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. It was the center of trade for the region and for settlers traveling the Oregon Trail west from Missouri, it was the last stop for supplies before setting up their homestead.
In 1846, the Oregon Treaty set the Canadian-US border at the 49th parallel, putting Fort Vancouver within American territory.
In 1866, the fort burned to the ground. What can be visited today is a reconstruction built on the footprint of the original fort.
We were lucky to get to the Fort an hour before they closed and hop on a ranger-led tour…and it was free for the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration. We’d been to the Mcloughlin House in Oregon City prior to the fort, so we’d already set the historical context for what this fort was about, otherwise we would have needed more time here.
The ranger took us inside some of the buildings that wouldn’t normally be open. The tour began at the Chief Factor’s House, the residence for the fort’s high-ranking officers.
This building was designed to impress. The officers entertained important people and clients in the large dining room and parlor.
In the mercantile was a man dressed in period costume talking about the beaver fur trade. Trappers would come here to trade pelts for household supplies.
There is a lovely garden at the entrance where we paused for some photos as we were leaving. Historically the garden covered five acres and was designed to be aesthetically pleasing as well as provide fruits and vegetables for the fort. The Hudson Bay Company shared seeds, cuttings and agricultural knowledge with local settlers and Native Americans.
The carpenter and blacksmith were not in their shops as it was a scorching hot day, so we peered in the windows and then moved on.
Location: 612 E Reserve St, Vancouver, WA 98661
Designation: National Historic Site
Date designation declared: 6/30/1961
Date of my visit: August 2016