Croatian and Slavic settlers came to the east coast of the Olympic Peninsula in the 1860s to fish in the bays. They were soon joined by Scandinavian immigrants and settlers from the Midwest who started farming and logging.
There were few roads and until 1940 when the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was built almost everyone took the ferry or rowed themselves across the bay to Tacoma. The bridge cut automobile travel distance from 90 miles down to 7. However the design of the bridge caused the deck to move up and down on windy days earning it the name “Galloping Gertie”. Four months after it opened it was hit with 40 MPH winds. The deck started swaying side to side as well as up and down, adding a twist which broke cables and towers. Fortunately everyone managed to get off the bridge before it collapsed.
Labor and material shortages due to WWII meant a new bridge could not be built until 1950. They got it right the second time. This bridge is still in use although a second bridge was added in 2007 to carry the increase in traffic.
This excellent small museum covers the history of the Native Americans who lived here first and the immigrants and their means of making a living. Besides the museum galleries, a one room school house and the Shenandoah, a fishing boat that was used from 1925 to 1967 and is being restored, are on the grounds and opened to tour.
The museum is accessible but to get to the second level which contains the bulk of the museum it’s necessary to go outside where the Shenandoah display is located and up a long ramp. The exhibits are accessible but some of the video screens are hard to see. The schoolhouse is accessible. The interior of the Shenandoah is not accessible.
The parking lot is small. Large RVs can be parked on the street.