Aberdeen, Washington

November 17, 2014 by  


Early European explorers viewed the Washington State Pacific coastline as a formidable foe. Steep rocky cliffs appeared insurmountable and served no useful purpose against this unpredictable ocean. The beaches seemed to emerge from thick forests that scouts could not penetrate. American explorer Robert Gray made his second voyage to this area in 1792. He discovered a protected bay that he named Bullfinch”s Harbor. Eventually, it became Grays Harbor.

Grays Harbor would not be secret for very long. Like good fishing holes, the word spreads. Those calm, sheltered waters began to attract plenty of attention. In 1859, nearby Hoquiam became a town. During the next two decades, many villages emerged along the shores of Grays Harbor. However, Aberdeen remained the shining star that dominated all other settlements.

Cans and Logs

Samuel Benn arrived in 1859 and five years later, he acquired a large parcel of land extending along both sides of the harbor. His family then came up from San Francisco and settled in Aberdeen. Six years passed and George Hume came to Aberdeen in search of a site where he could build a cannery. Samuel Benn provided that parcel of land. Many Scottish investors, who supported the establishment of this cannery, lived in Aberdeen, Scotland. Therefore, the town took on the name of Aberdeen in 1884.

Benn was instrumental in the establishment of the cannery. In his mind, he was the owner of HIS blossoming community. He proceeded to actively advertise a site that would be perfect for a sawmill. The word traveled quickly to a Michigan community, where a certain lumberman named AJ West resided. West set sights on Aberdeen and arrived there in 1884. Construction began immediately and it took less than a month to have his sawmill up and running.

This prompted a man named Captain John Weatherwax to build a sawmill nearby. At the time, lumber was quite plentiful. The sawmills could support a shipbuilding industry with ease. However, the shipbuilding aspect did not survive the test of time.

Schooners provided transport for the lumber to places up and down the Pacific coast, but businessmen of Aberdeen craved a rail line to ship inland. They made overt offers designed to lure Northern Pacific Railroad to build a terminal here. Although their efforts failed, the town fathers pushed ahead with Plan B. They bought rail from an auction and constructed a spur line connecting to the Northern Pacific terminal. Access inland was now available.


Aberdeen formed a mayor-council form of government. A representative from each of six wards sits on the council. The city council is responsible for setting and/or changing policy. Council decisions go to the mayor”s office and the mayor makes the final decision. The mayor”s authority includes the ultimate power of veto.

Aberdeen Washington prospered under the leadership of previous creative town fathers who had a personal stake in maintaining prosperity. Even after the Fire of 1902 and another the following year, Aberdeen would rebuild, survive and prosper.

The city council enacted codes to make sure the Aberdeen Washington of the future would be safe for its 17,000 residents. Success breeds success and during the next 30 years the population swelled to 26,000. European immigrants came to Aberdeen from all over the globe. The majority of the immigrants claim roots in Scandinavia.


Economic conditions in Aberdeen have peaked and sunk over the years. Depletion of natural resources without replacement spells doom for industries
that depend on these resources for economic support. Necessity allowed Aberdeen the flexibility to change its economic identity over the years. The early settlers were creative and pliable, doing whatever they could to build a new community.

Depression years created devastation in Aberdeen. Some mills closed and remaining mills began hiring Filipino immigrants as well as the Jewish people. Aberdeen did experience a short-lived boom during and following World War II, but the economy finally tanked in the late 1950s.

From 1900 to 1960, Aberdeen Washington cultivated a healthy reputation as the supreme “rough and tumble” town of the West Coast. The alternative to mining and canning fish was apparently the establishment of whorehouses, gambling centers and saloons. The town had effectively positioned itself to welcome sailors coming into the harbor after long stretches at sea. Tourism could be the natural successor to these “businesses”.

During the next 20 years, mills closed and fishing enterprises slowed down causing a dilemma for the city leaders. The current unemployment rate is reaching 10%. Slightly more than 60% of all workers live and work in Aberdeen.


The population of Aberdeen Washington is steady at approximately 16,500 (8,000 males and 8,500 females). There are presently 7500 households in this town. In 2007, the average household income was about $38,000 with the average home value at $125,900.

Aberdeen is a young town with a large, white, immigrant population from Europe (German, Irish, English, Norwegian and Swedish) mixed with those of Native American and Hispanic background.

Business and Industry

Although Aberdeen is not the headquarters for any major business right now, there is a wide choice of occupations for workers in this town. Male workers tend to gravitate toward agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, construction, hospitality, wood and woodworking, education, public service and dining.

The female workforce tends toward fields such as healthcare, social services, public administration, education, hospitality, dining establishments and general merchandise retail.


Aberdeen Washington is the financial hub of the region surrounding Gray”s Harbor. It is home to institutions such as the Pacific Financial Corporation, which oversees the state commercial banks.

Branches of the Timberland Bank, Anchor Mutual Savings Bank, Washington Mutual Bank, Bank of America, Bank of the Pacific, Sterling Savings Bank and Keybank National Association are part of the Aberdeen landscape. Aberdeen sits on a 10.5 square mile area and there may be more than one location for each bank. On the surface, it appears that there is at least one bank for each square mile!


Two AM radio stations are located in Aberdeen: KXRO (1320 AM) and KBKW (1450 AM). On the other hand, seven FM stations have Aberdeen addresses: KDUX (104.7 FM), K205EN (88.9 FM), K207BD (89.3 FM), K221BG (92.1 FM), K296CV (107.1 FM), KJET (105.7 FM1) and K265DP (100.9 FM).

There are also two television stations in Aberdeen Washington: K23AS (CHANNEL 23) and K25CG (CHANNEL 25).


Educational experiences are plentiful through the 12th grade level. There are seven elementary and one middle school serving close to 2500 children. Two schools begin with Pre-Kindergarten youngsters and one of those is exclusive to the Pre-K level. The other PK school advances to grade six.

One private (catholic) elementary school is located in Aberdeen and educates 138 students from Pre-K through grade 8. Assuming one classroom for each grade, this small private school has a teacher-pupil ratio of 1::15.

Three high schools serve almost 400 pupils. The two traditional high schools have distinctly different structures. HOMELINK is an alternative school.

One institution of higher learning is located within Aberdeen Washington: Gray”s
Harbor College. This public college serves almost 1300 full-time students. Other colleges are 50-95 miles outside Aberdeen.


Aberdeen has several different types of accommodations to satisfy the taste of weary travelers. The Harbor View Inn is a bed and breakfast located ON Gray”s Harbor. Five comfortable guestrooms each have an awesome view of the harbor. They range in price from a winter low of $139 to a summer high of $225.

Guesthouse International Aberdeen is less expensive, but no less engaging. It is in downtown Aberdeen on the bank of the Chehalis River. Rates range from $80 to $99 per night. There is a selection of suites available with access to the indoor pool, hot tub, gym, fitness center and the internet. Rooms include a daily deluxe continental breakfast each morning.

Other hotels and motels are available in Aberdeen as well. These include the Red Lion Hotel, Olympic Inn Motel, Nordic Inn and the Thunderbird Motel.


Indoor Leisure Activities

Restaurants – Dining

There are few fast food establishments in Aberdeen! You will find a wide range of dining experiences including casual dining, family dining, bistro dining, gourmet dining and fine dining. Aberdeen has 24 known eateries with the following recommended restaurants on its “short” list:

Billy’s Bar and Grill
322 E. Heron Street
Local favorite with bar in rear. Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Bridges Restaurant
112 N. G Street
Wonderful Steak and Seafood. Banquet rooms / lounge

Coffee Bean Cafe and Popcorn
101 E. Wishkah Street
Coffee, espresso, lunch or popcorn. Downtown location / Outdoor seating

Duffy”s Restaurant
1605 Simpson Avenue
Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Family dining tradition since 1945. Fried chicken with wild blackberry pie.

1017 S. Boone Street
Authentic Mexican food. Multiple decorated dining rooms.

Thai Carrot Restaurant
412 S. Boone Street
Best Thai food. Closed Mondays / Hours vary each day

There are at least 16 more eateries of various types, sizes and dining experiences. This makes up the remainder of the list of 24 establishments. It is always a good idea make dining reservations in advance.


Aberdeen Washington has a bowling alley, but rumors still circulate as to its longevity. User BillSimpson2009 alerts us that Hoquiam is located very close and there is an exceptional bowling center just two blocks into Hoquiam. Visitors should not miss the experience of SpareTime Bowl. This 52 year old center hosts amateur and professional tournaments, and is reported to have good customer service. Very friendly and accommodating. By far the best and oldest center on the Harbor!


Aberdeen Washington has a couple of small theatres, but it is not a “theatre” town. Hoquiam is located very close and there is an exceptional theatre in the downtown area. Visitors should not miss the experience of the 7th Street Theatre. This beautiful, historic and atmospheric theater seats more than 1,100 people for the enjoyment of both amateur and professional productions including concerts and plays.

For the rainy day, there is a 10-screen movie theater in south Aberdeen at the Southshore Mall.


Boutiques? Yes. Malls? One. You must leave Aberdeen Washington to find your mall shopping experiences, but who’d want to? If you are looking for a satisfying shopping experience, antique shops and specialty stores are abundant in downtown Aberdeen. There is also one unique shopping experience in Aberdeen: Gray”s Harbor Street Market.

The Gray’s Harbor Street Market is open Saturday and Sunday in spring and summer only. This market is famous throughout the Pacific Northwest as THE street market. Visitors will find items here that cannot be located anywhere else. A variety of up to 150 vendors offer fresh
fruits, vegetables, arts, crafts, gifts, treasures, wood works, flowers, home made food, snacks and walkway entertainment. This is a safe place to bring friends and family for a unique and fun experience.

Museums and Galleries

No visit to Aberdeen is complete without a stop at the Aberdeen Museum of History. Both static and interactive exhibits trace the development of Aberdeen from the early days of the logging industry leading to the establishment of Aberdeen. Additional exhibits of artifacts and slide shows enhance the main museum exhibits. The museum is open from November until March 1.

Aberdeen is not an “art gallery” sort of place, which is ironic when one considers the fact that this town is the birthplace of painter, Robert Motherwell. His works are those of an abstract expressionist painter. Motherwell was a contemporary artist who lived to be 75 years old. He died in 1991.

Outdoor Leisure Activities

Recreation and Tours

Aberdeen”s Skate Park is a safe place for skateboarding or inline skating enthusiasts to enjoy themselves while continuing to develop their skills. It is a challenging, facility that is used by skaters, skateboarders and scooter riders.

Westport Winery is a vineyard and commercial winery that owes its existence to urgings of an agricultural extension agent. This vineyard is not entirely about grapes. Westport wines are about good food, great guests, wonderful activities and fabulous scenery.

Another popular tour originates at the historical seaport where the Lady Washington resides when in town. The present ship is a full-scale model of the original vessel built in Massachusetts in the mid 1700s. This is the first American vessel to complete a trading voyage via Cape Horn and sail on to arrive at the West Coast of North America. Lady Washington is also the first American ship to sail into Hong Kong, Honolulu and Japan on goodwill and trading missions.

Today”s Lady Washington is an exact replica of the original, which historians researched and skilled shipwrights constructed. Every detail is a careful match to the original vessel. In addition, the new, improved Lady Washington meets every safety requirement set by the United States Coast Guard for a new millennium ship. Lady Washington has a maximum crew of 12 overseeing a passenger capacity of 48 people. Updated information about educational sessions, sailings and harbor tours is available from the Gray”s Harbor Historical Seaport Authority (800-200-5239) or by emailing ghhsa_admin@historicalseaport.org.

For the landlubbers who love to golf, there is the Gray”s Harbor Country Club course in Aberdeen Washington. This is a par-70, traditional, narrow 9-hole course designed in 1921. Two other local golf courses include the Highland Golf Course in Cosmopolis and the Oaksridge Golf Course in nearby Elma.

Organized Hiking comes in the form of an excellent walking tour of historic Broadway Hill. The homes and gardens on the hill belonged to the businessmen and the lumber barons of old Aberdeen.

Beachcombers, boaters and fishermen would be in heaven as they ply the waters and beaches of this Olympic Peninsula.





Grays Harbor
Board of Tourism

Post Office Box 1229
Elma, WA 98541
Aberdeen City Hall
200 E. Market Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520360-537-3227
Grays Harbor
Chamber of Commerce
506 Duffy Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520360-532-1924

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