Serendipitous opening for Maritime Museum

Everything fell into place in building's transformation.

POULSBO — If you ask Jim Shields, president of the Poulsbo Historical Society, about the Maritime Museum’s opening on Sept. 12, he’ll tell you it was “serendipitous.”

“Things have just really fallen into place,” Shields said. “When we needed something, it showed up. When we needed somebody to do something, they showed up. It’s been serendipitous how all the pieces have fallen into place.”

The historical society leased the former Gifts of Promise building — historically, it was the first home of Liberty Bay Bank — on Front Street and turned it into a free maritime museum and visitor’s center.

The Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce is paying for some space in the museum, and the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association is pitching in some funds to make the museum’s restrooms open to the public.

The historical society also operates the Poulsbo Historical Museum in City Hall.

On July 1, the historical society came into possession of the back of the building and began renovation. On Aug. 1, it took possession of the front. Then, six weeks later, the museum was ready to be opened, and hosted a ribbon cutting with City Council members, Mayor Becky Erickson, state Sen. Christine Rolfes, state Rep. Sherry Appleton and dozens of Poulsbo residents and visitors present.

“It’s wonderful to see all the numbers of people who are here to support this,” said Marc Abshire, executive director of the chamber. “It’s just incredible.”

The front half of the building is mostly dedicated to the chamber’s visitor’s center. There is Poulsbo merchandise available to purchase, a small library and, Abshire said, the menus of all the restaurants on Front Street.

“Another thing I like about this location is, it’s going to bring people up to this end (of Front Street), toward the Sons of Norway, from further downtown,” Abshire said.

“Just the fact that the sign is up here — visitor’s center, maritime museum — it’s going to bring people up to this end.

“It’s a win-win-win for everybody.”

Shields and Abshire credited volunteers with how quickly the joint venture opened.

“This has all been put together in such a short period of time, and that’s what it took: an army of volunteers,” Shields said.

Abshire said, “The thing that makes me most happy is, it was not difficult for me to find a pool of volunteers who are excited about manning the desk here at the visitor’s center.

“These are people who love Poulsbo. Many of them have been living here for multiple decades, so they know the town, they know the people, they know the culture. They can answer people’s questions, they can talk really positively about Poulsbo.

“It’s going to help the visitors who come in here with questions.”

But, Shields said, the museum is still “a work in progress.”

Though the inside of the museum has been set up with exhibits featuring local maritime history, the historical society is still working on a feature that for the property’s side lot.

There, actual boats will be displayed, some complete, and some being built. Shields said they also plan to build a replica of the Hyak; the front will face the street so that visitors can walk into the boat, get their picture taken, and then walk “down the dock” to view other boats on display.

“We’re not done,” Shields said of the museum. “We’re just at a point where we’ve got a good start on this, so it’s going to continue growing.”

Among the visitors during the grand opening was Chas Clak, who worked for the City of Poulsbo more than 30 years ago. Since then, he’s lived in Arizona and Mexico, and is looking to move back to the area.

“I think (the museum) is lovely,” Clak said. “It blows my mind that there’s this kind of collection.”

Clak said that not only would he “absolutely” come back to the museum, but, “I want to bring my brother.”

Shields said, “This is a museum that, the historical society, we didn’t built it for ourselves.

“We built it for the community,” he said. “We built it for the people who live in our town, the visitors who come to town, family, friends. That’s who it’s for.”