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History of Fort Nisqually

Historic image of the restoration of Fort Nisqually in Point Defiance ParkFort Nisqually was the first European settlement on Puget Sound. The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) of London, a vast fur trading enterprise chartered by King Charles of England in 1670, established it in 1833. The original site was on the beach and plains above the Nisqually River delta in the present town of DuPont, Washington. Today, Fort Nisqually, including two of the original buildings, is located inside Tacoma's Point Defiance Park. Fort Nisqually is owned and operated as a Living History Museum by Metro Parks  Tacoma.

Fort Nisqually was operated and served by Scottish gentlemen, Native Americans, Kanakas (Hawaiians), French-Canadians, West Indians, Englishmen and American settlers. Gradually, Fort Nisqually grew from a remote outpost to a major international trading establishment. A subsidiary, the Puget Sound's Agricultural Company, was formed to establish new sources of revenue for the HBC. Soon Fort Nisqually was producing crops and livestock for local consumption and export to Russian America, Hawaii, Spanish California, Europe, and Asia. Native Americans were welcomed at Fort Nisqually as friends, customers, fur traders, farm and livestock employees, and even as spouses!

Fort Nisqually never had a military purpose, but the palisade does resemble some frontier army stockades. It was only occasionally visited by American and British military personnel during its active years. The 1846 treaty between the United States and Great Britain established the boundary between the two country's claims at the 49th parallel. This treaty left Fort Nisqually on American soil. With fur trade profits declining, increasing competition from American settlers, and mounting harassment from American revenue agents and tax collectors, Fort Nisqually was closed in 1869. The United States government, under the 1846 treaty agreement, paid the HBC $650,000 for Fort Nisqually and the Puget Sound Agriculture Company lands.

Fort Nisqually Washroon and KitchenOne hundred years after construction and 65 years after closing, major efforts were undertaken to preserve the few remaining structures. Only the Factor's House and the Granary had avoided disrepair and decay. Civic minded citizens moved those two historic buildings and re-created several others to present Fort Nisqually as it was in 1855.

Today Fort Nisqually hosts 90,000 visitors annually at a beautifully restored site. Seven structures are open when trained staff are present during the summer months and during living history events. The Factor's House has recently been restored to original 1855 conditions, when the building was brand new.

Fort Nisqually GranaryThe Granary, the oldest building on Puget Sound, is open. The Blacksmith shop and the laborer's dwelling house are historically accurate. Living history re-enactors are often available for interpretation of the detailed history of Fort Nisqually.

Opened in June 2009, is the Men's Dwelling House, which houses the Visitor's Center and Museum Store. Also, a Large Store (Education Center) provides a multipurpose room that is available as a rental facility.  This building additionally houses staff offices, a research library, and curatorial storage.

Fort Nisqually stands as a memorial to the servants of the "Honorable Company of Gentlemen out of Hudson's Bay" who risked their hides for skins in the Pacific Northwest. Please come to visit Fort Nisqually Living History Museum for a World-Class adventure into your past.

Fort Nisqually's Research Library: Fort Nisqually’s “Large Store” (also known as the Education Building) is home to the fort’s Research Library.

Our library houses a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials about the history of the fort, fur trade era and the Pacific Northwest in the 19th century.

HOURS: Thursdays from 1pm to 4pm or by appointment.

Occurrences: The Journal of Northwest History During the Fur Trade
Published by Fort Nisqually Living History Museum

This award-winning publication is a benefit of membership in the Fort Nisqually Foundation. Individual copies can also be purchased in the fort’s Museum Store.

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