May 2024 – Fort Vancouver, Kings Cross Write-Up and Photos

May 2024 – Fort Vancouver, Kings Cross Write-Up and Photos

Words by Sasha Poseur. Photos by Manual Phocus

Saturday, May 11, 2024, nine JOCO members and one guest joined Gene and Sarah Owens at historic Fort Vancouver, Washington for a chance to step back in history. We met at the parking lot (most of us brought our Jags of one flavor or another) and waited a few minutes for any other late arrivals before walking past the gardens and stepped in to a “guard house” to pay the nominal admission ($10.00/person) – or if one possesses an “America the Beautiful” pass the admission is free. (If one qualifies, the cost of a “Senior Pass” is quite reasonable, and is a lifetime membership, well worth the initial cost.)

Our first stop was the “Chief Factor’s House” (perhaps the modern corporate equivalent of a “Director” or “Senior Director”) – the residence for the person in charge who, at that time, was a representative of the British Crown. (The U. S. and England had not yet agreed on a boundary dividing the U. S. and Canada, so this area was still under British control.) At the time it was built in the 19th century by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in their “Columbia Department,” it was the furthest west principal outpost (Astoria was the furthest) for the fur trade. One of the docents at the fort (dressed in period-correct clothes, including a top hat) indicated that there were approximately 25 distinct ethnic groups represented among the inhabitants of the fort and surrounding area. This was a true “melting pot” where commerce was conducted, and cultures intermingled.

We were able to explore almost the entirety of buildings and their displays. First stop was the Chief Factor’s House (impressively guarded by a pair of 18-pound cannon cast in 1804, which are still quite intimidating) and its kitchen; the blacksmith forge; fur store (in today’s language a warehouse); bake house (supplying a large quantity of baked bread and other necessities to sustain Hudson’s Bay ships and locations from what is now northern California to southern Alaska and as far east as Montana); the “Indian Trade Shop” and the fort’s hospital are in a combined building (meaning that this outpost had a full-time physician in residence); carpenter shop; and more. This outpost was quite an undertaking in its day, and the fort was always envisioned as a place of commerce and harmony.

Each location within the fort had at least one docent/actor that explained their location, its purpose, and what the significance of the materials within its walls had. The kitchen was actively cooking a meal in period correct cookware in and around an open-hearth fireplace. The blacksmith’s shop had a forge at either end, and each forge had two “work areas” – one on either side. The “Indian Trade Shop” displayed both native-crafted goods (such as obsidian knives and decorated leather goods), and European made goods such as beads, brass buttons, firearms ammunition, as well as blankets and fur pelts. The carpenter’s shop was as endlessly fascinating as the other areas, and the carpenter was very engaging, answering all questions put forward by each visitor. He also displayed examples of how almost everything at the fort was constructed, from log cabins (quite weather tight) to how wheels for carts were patterned and constructed.

The fort was so fascinating that we spent a bit more time at each area of the fort than the timetable had allowed for, so we had to move on to Kings Cross Auto rather quickly, since we had a 12:30 appointment. Some folks walked, others chose to drive the short distance, saving a bit of shoe leather. Kings Cross has a large floor area, and there is quite a selection of motorcars parked out front. Jags, Land Rovers, Rolls Royes, and so forth. The customer lounge is impressive, providing a comfortable area to wait for your vehicle if it is simply in for routine maintenance, and there is also a retail store with Kings Cross merchandise on display. We were free to roam about the shop area and ask questions, observing other European marques being worked on as well as our favorite British marques (there were two Series III V-12 E-type FHC’s currently undergoing service). 

At last, it was time for lunch, and the majority opinion was to “keep it close,” which meant we would head back to Officer’s Row and have lunch at the Grant House (currently operated by Willful Wine). The food was very good, and we few that were left (all 10 of us – only 2/3 of the original group) enjoyed a delicious meal, whatever your menu choice was.

We congenially bid our adieus and found our way toward whichever route would provide a relatively unencumbered route back to our respective domiciles.

Support our Partners