My family and I had a wonderful time experiencing the historical flavor of Ft. Vancouver. You can really get an idea of what life must have been like for the mountain men, Native Americans, trappers, soldiers, pilgrims and pioneers who all found in Fort Vancouver an essential point of convergence of their rugged lives.
A favorite attraction in the fort is the blacksmith building. It continues its life as a working forge and blacksmiths still may be found applying their craft creating the same items made by the original blacksmiths back in the 1800s. All of the hardware used in keeping the fort in its original condition is still made in the blacksmith shop. If you keep an eye out you will see these items used in many applications around the fort.
They made traps and many other items used by trappers who would come in after more than eighteen months in the wilderness and trade their pelts for the supplies then needed. There was sufficient room and equipment for four blacksmiths to work simultaneously.
The trading post store is open and set up just as it was. The gentleman running it was a fountain of information concerning all that went on in and around the fort. He filled us in on what things were worth in trade and how they were used.
The pelt building is still full of old pelts. Beaver, Muskrat, Mink, Wolf, Wolverine, Badger, Otter, Fox and Bear pelts were present. It was not surprising that this was my daughter’s least favorite building in the fort. The pelts were brought to the fort in large leather bundles in which they were shipped to England. Standing in this room you get an idea of just how many animals were killed in the area to support the demand for furs by the gentry back in England. There were huge tobacco leaves dried and hanging in the pelt room, they were bundled up with the pelts to keep insects away from the valuable furs.
Above is a huge counterbalanced fulcrum used to dipping water out of the well, much easier than pulling it up with a rope, and of course all the hardware for the fulcrum and the bucket were made in the blacksmith's shop.
The glass in the windows was all made in England and sent over by ship. The fragile glass was kept safe by submerging it in barrels of molasses then it was retrieved, cleaned off and used once the barrels arrived at the fort.
The carpentry and cooper's shop, the barracks, bakery, officers’ quarters, jail and lookout towers are all places you can walk through to get a feel of how life operated back then. It is truly a very interesting place to visit and take a peek back into our very interesting history of the Pacific Northwest.