Quilcene is a small community located at the mouth of the Quilcene River approximately 15 miles south of Port Ludlow in east central Jefferson County. It was named for the Indian tribe that once lived there, the Quil-ceed-a-bish, meaning “saltwater people.” In 1841, the Wilkes Expedition charted the place as Kwil-sid. In 1860, Hampden Cottle, a logger from Maine, and several other families settled here and eventually established a town.
Quilcene’s economy was based primarily on farming and logging and by 1880, had a population of 53. The town had great expectations for growth when it was learned that James G. Swan (1818-1900) was promoting a rail line from Portland, Oregon, through Quilcene to Port Townsend. In 1887, the Port Townsend and Southern Railroad was incorporated and began laying tracks south. In 1889, the Oregon Improvement Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, purchased the track, promising to continue it to Portland. By August 1890, the track had been extended 20 miles to Leland Lake, but the Union Pacific Railroad had developed financial problems and there was no activity on the Portland end of the line. The Oregon Improvement Company, left to its own devices, declared bankruptcy in 1891, but work continued on the track another five miles to Quilcene and then stopped.
In 1902, the Tubal Cain Mining Company claimed that Quilcene would become the center for the smelting of gold, iron, copper, and manganese they expected to find in the Olympic Mountains. Mining exploration continued until the 1920s, but little ore was ever discovered. Today, Quilcene is primarily a residential community, in relatively close proximity to Bremerton, the U.S. Navy Trident Submarine Base at Bangor, and other population centers. In 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Quilcene had a population of 591.
In 1917 Maple Inn opened it’s doors to hunters, fishermen and loggers visiting the Quilcene area. The old inn was built by a Port Townsend contractor. It was commissioned by Rosetta Bailey, who came to Quil looking for a new life from the farm in South Dakota. Rosetta being a wonderful cook began serving Saturday night fried chicken dinners. The dinners continued long after Rosetta left the hotel. Large statues of chickens adorned a counter in the kitchen up to the 1990’s. The hotel was near the train that came from Port Townsend and welcomed overnight visitors. sports.
The hotel had two floors; the first floor with the owner’s quarters, kitchen, lobby and dinning room also there was a sun porch-reading room combination in the back facing Quilcene Bay. The second floor had seven bedrooms off a long hall and one bath. There was a small sink in each room, but no closets. At one end of this hall was a small visiting with a writing desk with rockers.
The inn had a large covered porch that wrapped partway around the building; which was taken off long ago, along a name change to The Quilcene Hotel.
Two long time owner Ray and Virginia Corley bought the hotel as a get away and a place for Ray to go fishing and to store his taxidermies finds . One such was an all white deer fawn that again was on display till the 1990’s. When Virginia got sick her sister Laura Clark from Montana came to help and stayed. She owned the hotel many years and was a colorful figure around Quilcene. She loved to drive here 1980’s red Oldsmobile convertible, especially in the parades with Quilcene Hotel advertised on the doors. I still can remember the red neon sign on the north east side of the building “HOTEL”, which could be seen from 101 and was on when Laura wanted to rent rooms. Many people still came for fishing after the logging die and the hunting season closed.
But then a lot changed on Monday, May 15, 2006, a fired, which started by lint in a dryer vent, left a leveled mess of the building. Being made of old dried wood, the fire consumed the entire hotel in no time, the owner could salvage nothing. Sad day. Only things left for weeks afterwards were two large black cement bears that Laura added on each side of the hotel’s front door and a bit of a blackened fence you can still see.
The picture above, an early photo of the hotel and below the hotel in fire.
This is the entrance to the Falls View Campground. It is a great place for the family to go camping, for a walk or biking. If you follow the trails, you can see some beautiful water falls.
It is difficult to image that three old barges were removed from this site and 12 tons of fill material were brought in to make this estuarine restoration project what it is today.