Like nearly all other small towns across America and throughout the World, Bainbridge Island has a deeply rooted and storied history that spans generations. The tapestries woven into our small island’s history include: Native American families that used the island as their seasonal hunting and fishing grounds; the explorers who charted Puget Sound; the early families who homesteaded the island; the Croatian fisherman who settled in Eagle Harbor in the 1880s; the Port Blakely lumber mill; and perhaps the most famous bit of Bainbridge Island History, the Japanese American internment exhibit. Once you’ve learned a little about our small but charming island, we think you’ll want to stick around and explore a little more. Destination Bainbridge is here to help, with a full calendar of the Island’s lodgings and their availability. Browse through our listings, and settle in to learn more about the fascinating history of Bainbridge Island.
Bainbridge Island History
Before the first explorers arrived in North America, Bainbridge Island was used as seasonal hunting and fishing grounds by Native American Tribes. One of the first explorers to charter the waters around Bainbridge Island was Captain Charles Wilkes in 1841. It was Wilkes who named the island, after Commodore William Bainbridge. Ultimately, as the western world began to grow, Bainbridge Island was seen as a unique repository filled with an abundance of trees and waterways. It wasn’t long before the logging, shipbuilding, and boating industries moved into Bainbridge Island.
In 1863, a sawmill was built at Port Blakely. The Port Blakely Lumber Mill was at one time was the most productive lumber mill in the country. In conjunction with the Hall Brothers Shipyard, the lumber mill was responsible for rapid population growth on the Island, as it needed immigrant workers to fuel the operation. Ultimately, this growth led to the development of a ferry system between Bainbridge Island and Seattle. The Port Blakely Mill closed in 1914. At that point, much of the immigrant labor on Bainbridge Island turned to farming strawberries, which continued successfully until World War Two.
During WWII, Bainbridge Island’s Japanese American residents were the first in the nation to be forcibly removed from the island and sent inland to concentration camps, due in large part to our close proximity to Naval Bases. In total, 227 Japanese Americans were ordered to leave the island with six days’ notice. This act is a poignant piece of Bainbridge Island History, and is commemorated by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.
As you can see from even this brief overview, the history of Bainbridge Island is fascinating and informative. If you’d like to know more about any point of Bainbridge Island’s history, the best resource is the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, just off Winslow Way. The museum itself is housed in an old school house that dates back to 1908. When you want to find a soft place to land for the night, look at Destination Bainbridge’s availability calendar and book a room with any of our fine lodging properties.