Fort Nisqually Living History Museum at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma is a restoration of a fort that once existed above the Nisqually River delta. The fort was owned by the Hudson Bay Trading Company from 1833-1869.
The museum features volunteers and staff in period clothing who demonstrate crafts of the 19th century and engage visitors in historic dialogue, along with interactive exhibits and tours of the historic structures.
History of Fort Nisqually
In 1833, Fort Nisqually was established by the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) as a British fur trading outpost. The original fort was located between Tacoma and Olympic, in what is now DuPont, Washington.
Initially a cabin on the shore of Puget Sound, it was moved up the hill to a prairie. Fort Nisqually was the first European settlement in the area and a principal port for domestic and foreign trade on Puget Sound. It never had a military purpose. Native Americans were welcomed at Fort Nisqually as friends, customers, fur traders, farm and livestock employees, and as spouses.
In 1839, the decline of the fur trade necessitated a shift in focus from fur trading to commercial agricultural enterprises. So, the HBC subsidiary Puget Sound Agricultural Company (PSAC) was established. The PSAC raised cattle, sheep, and horses along with crops such as wheat, barley, oats, and peas. Products were exported to Russian America, Hawaii, Spanish California, Europe, and Asia.
In 1843 the fort was moved about one mile west, to the south bank of Sequalitchew Creek.
By 1869, the British outpost was surrounded by American territory and faced increasing pressure from settlers who wanted the 160,000 acres of farmland for their own use. HBC sold its holdings to the United States government for $650,000, closed the fort, and withdrew from Washington Territory.
Civic-minded citizens preserved two of the original structures at the fort, the Factor’s House and Granary. These building were donated to the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma and are the only surviving HBC buildings in the United States. The House and Granary are listed on the National Historic Register.
There are no visible remains of the fort’s location in Dupont. However, the area is a protected archaeological site. A trail along the south bank of Sequalitchew Creek from Center Drive leads to a marker for the fort that identifies the location and describes the post. There is also a group of black locust trees originally planted in the 1850s near the Factors House.
In the 1930s, Nisqually Fort was reconstructed at its current location in Point Defiance Park by the Works Progress Administration, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal plan to lift the country out of the 1930s Great Depression.
Today, Fort Nisqually is a living history museum. Through exhibits, tours, and events, visitors can experience what life was like on Puget Sound in 1855.
Visiting Fort Nisqually
Historic exhibits showcase objects from the Fort’s permanent collection and provide insight into the daily lives of the Fort’s residents and the workings of the Hudson’s Bay Company. All exhibits include hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.
Location: Located inside Point Defiance Park. Fort Nisqually, 5519 Five Mile Dr, Tacoma, WA 98407.
Parking: parking stalls at the fort.
Hours: Open daily May-September from 11 am to 5 pm. Open October-April from Wednesday-Sunday and closes at 4 pm.
Regular admission: $9/adult. Ages 3 and under free. Buy online, at Fort Nisqually, or at Point Defiance Zoo.
Free admission to Fort Nisqually
FREE admission for Fort Nisqually members, plus other benefits. Pays for itself in five museum visits.
Website: Fort Nisqually Museum
Exhibits & events at Fort Nisqually
- Online: Search select artifacts from the Fort Nisqually Permanent Collection. You’ll find objects from the people who lived and worked on the Puget Sound in the mid-1800s.
- Exhibits: Personal belongings of the families of Fort Nisqually provide a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who lived and worked at Fort Nisqually.
- Gardens: The Heritage Gardens at Fort Nisqually represent the much larger historic garden that was located at the original location along Sequalitchew Creek (now Dupont). The gardens reflect 19th century agricultural and sustainability practices that can be used today.
- Group Tours (minimum 10 people) are available for an additional fee by advance reservation.
- Special events are held throughout the year. Visit their website or check our calendar list below.
Calendar of museums and other attractions
The following calendar list includes events at museums and other attractions around the Puget Sound region.
Friday, December 8, 2023
Saturday, December 9, 2023
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