Friday, August 19, 2016
Fort Vancouver NHS & Pearson Air Museum
The park covers 207 acres and preserves the history of Fort Vancouver, a British Hudson's Bay Company compound established in 1824; Vancouver Barracks, a large US Army barracks used in part by the military for various purposes from 1849 to 2010; and Pearson Field, the site of the Spruce Cut-Up Mill which supplied wood for plane construction during WWI. Stop at the visitor center and get a map of the park. Ten walking routes are marked on the map with information on the length, elevation change, and wheelchair accessibility of each.
Fort Vancouver was established in 1824 and was used by the British until 1860. A fire destroyed it in 1866 so the buildings are recreations but they’re built in the original locations using the construction techniques common to British American fur trading posts. Just a handful of buildings have been reconstructed including the Chief Factor's House, bakery, blacksmith shop, central stores, and fur storage facility. Some are self-guided and some are opened only if an employee is present. We toured the factor’s house, the bakery, the carpentry shop, and the trading company store. A beautiful flower and vegetable garden is located near the entrance to the fort. A recreated village of a few houses is located a short distance away.
Most of the fort is accessible. The factor’s house has a lift but it appears to be inoperable. The only access is a flight of steps. The garden is accessible. We did not visit the village.
Pilots have been landing on Pearson Field since the early 1900s. At that time it was the polo field of the Vancouver Barracks. When the United States entered World War I in 1917 a huge lumber mill was built on the grounds. The whole operation was managed by the army. New recruits became lumberjacks and mill workers providing lumber for Curtiss JN-4 and De Havilland DH-4 aircraft. This little known but interesting story is told in the Pearson Air Museum. The museum also covers aviation history including an unexpected landing of a Soviet plane in 1937. The three man crew of the first trans-polar flight originally planned to fly from Moscow to San Francisco but when they ran into problems they brought the plane down on the little airfield to the surprise of the base commander, General George C. Marshall, who drove straight across the post golf course to welcome the pilots.
The museum is accessible.
We walked/rolled along some of the sidewalks of the Vancouver Barracks. The buildings, which date from the 1880s to the early 1900s, are being restored as money becomes available. Some house businesses and some can be rented for functions. Interpretive signs are located along the sidewalks.
The visitor center and fort parking lot gates are locked at 5:00 but the lot at Pearson Field is always opened. Small RVs will fit in the lot. Larger RVs can be parked on the street.
Fort 45.6244, -122.66104