A HISTORY OF KALA POINT, PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON
A HISTORY OF KALA POINT,
PORT TOWNSEND, WASHINGTON
BARBARA M ACLEAN
Prologue (by Michael Machette)
At the height of the last glacial epoch, some
18,000 years ago, 3,000 to 4,000 feet of glacial ice
covered the northern Quimper Peninsula where Port
Townsend and Port Hadlock would eventually be
built. Kala Point, the namesake of our home
owner’s community, would have to wait another
12,000 years before it was formed by a melting ice,
rising sea level, and coastal processes.
The glaciers that occupied Puget Sound and the
Straits of San Juan de Fuca came from the north,
not the east. They were Canadian imports, before
there were Canadians. The glaciers were fed by the
massive snowfall in the high coastal mountains of
British Columbia, such as around Whistler, feeding
constant and unending streams of ice into the Queen
Charlotte Straits and south into Puget Sound. This,
the most recent of many glaciations in the past 2
million years, is named the Vashion advance for
exposures of glacial deposits on Vashion Island, just
north of Tacoma.
By about 13,000 years ago, the glaciers had
stopped advancing, broken up, and receded back
into their Canadian headwaters. Meltwater from the
stranded glaciers flowed north toward Discovery
Bay and cut valleys into the glacial deposits. At the
same time, the land rose about 300 feet in a process
called glacial rebound. Thus, most of the land on
which the Kala Point development is built emerged
from beneath ice and was uplifted above sea level.
At the same time, glaciers around the world were
melting, raising sea level almost 200 feet around the
globe. The complex interplay between glacial
retreat, rebound, and stream erosion shaped the
modern landscape of the entire Puget Sound.
As the climate warmed around the Earth, early
man moved into the area, occupying the rich coasts
where game, fish and berries became abundant.
Kala Point was probably a prime spot for a nomadic
lifestyle (as it still is).
Marine waters flooded into Port Townsend Bay
as sea level rose and stabilized about 6,000 years
ago. From this time on, our coastal bluffs came
under assault from wind-driven waves and nearshore currents. Sand and gravel from the adjacent
bluffs of Kala Point were carried both north and
south by marine currents according to Shannon &
Wilson’s recent report of the bluffs.
Kuhn’s Spit (as known as Kala Point). From
Google Earth, April 2012.
The intersection of two currents formed a sandy
spit at Kala Point, which is one of the finest beaches
in the region.
As you’ll read later, many artifacts of early man
have been found in the Kala Point spit, evidence
that this has been a great place to live for the past
thousands of years.
In the beginning
Kala Point, a residential community halfway
between Port Townsend and Port Hadlock, spreads
across bluffs overlooking Port Townsend Bay.
Entry is at an unmanned, octagonal windowed
gatehouse with a peaked shake roof. Beyond
stretches Kala Point Drive, a mile-and- a-half long
curved road, shaded by hemlocks, cedars, Douglas
firs, madrones and alders.The edges of the road,
which ends at the northern border of the
community, disappear into clumps of salal and other
natural ground cover.
Foxfield Drive is the first road to the left just
past the gate and initial development began here in
the early 1970s. Houses along Foxfield, as in other
neighborhoods of Kala Point, somehow avoid looking directly at one another. Homes on the left side
of Foxfield sit at various elevations while the curves
of the street move houses on the right to views
beyond their neighbors. Other homes hide along
three short cul de sacs. Foxfield completes a
leisurely loop and ends further along on Kala Point
Kala Point entry gates (photo by Michael Machette,
The first road to the right past the gatehouse is
Sailview Drive. On the right, Sailview passes
homes that are in one of the final areas of
development – the Terrace. Further down the hill,
mostly hidden by trees, are 38 timeshare units,
among the first buildings at Kala Point. Below the
blocks of multi-storied balconied buildings is the
Kala Point Clubhouse, center for community
activities – everything from Monday bridge games
to exercise classes and Friday night social
gatherings. Below the clubhouse is one of three
groups of tennis courts. A path through the woods
to the beach begins at the parking lot of the courts.
The beach is a favorite destination especially for
Kala Point dog owners – and there are many. Elsewhere dogs must be leashed, but the beach provides
freedom for pets and people. Giant logs, who knows
their history, border the sands and the meadow
growth of grasses and wild roses. Speculation about
these timbers is endless, lost from log booms,
washed in during storms, or left behind when oldgrowth trees were logged decades earlier. The 1.5
mile stretch of beach curves at a point with a cluster
of trees and grasses. A resident bald eagle, and
sometimes his mate, often perches on the winddistorted top branches of the point’s tallest tree. A
wetland borders the shore side of the point and
water moves into and out of a protected lagoon
filled with logs and debris. Walking the trail that
runs alongside can provide seasonal views of
Back at the parking lot, the road heads up again
just past the dock and boat launch ramp. The beach
area to the left of the dock provides storage racks
for the small boats, canoes, and kayaks owned by
residents. Here you may see blue herons and other
birds, maybe a family of otters. It is also the site of
an intriguing shipwreck.
In “A History of the Olympic Peninsula, Port
Townsend, Kala Point,” former resident Virginia
Olsen tells this story: In 1867, the bark, Southern
Chief, arrived in Port Ludlow to pick up a cargo of
lumber. The captain and crew disagreed over wages
and the crew hired a Port Townsend lawyer, L.W.
Tripp, who settled for the men on the captain’s
terms. After the crew threatened to kill Tripp he
armed himself with a double-barreled shotgun.
When they met again, Tripp shot dead two of the
sailors and clubbed to death a third. Tripp was
arrested but claimed self-defense before leaving the
country to avoid lynching.
As Port Townsend grew
In December 1894, the Southern Chief was en
route from Tacoma to Australia with 970,000 feet
of lumber on board. She got as far as Cape Flattery
when a gale came up and she began taking on
water. Pumps could not handle the leak and 30,000
feet of the deck load were jettisoned. Two hours
later the stern quarters were carried away; the seams
opened, decks buckled, capsizing the donkey engine
and boiler. Heavy seas swept the decks, setting the
steering gear adrift and leaving the vessel helpless.
The crew, fortunately, was rescued and after
landing at Port Townsend sent tugs to bring in the
ship. The Port Townsend Leader of December 27,
1894, described her as “one of the sorriest objects
ever seen in the waters of Puget Sound … “
James McCurdy wrote “the ancient craft had
reached the end of her hectic career and was subsequently beached and burned on Kuhn’s spit, where
a portion of the hull can still be seen at low tide.”
It seems miraculous that the wreck remains after
all these years, after all the winter storms, the currents and tides.
Weather and history
North of Windship Drive a second area borders
Sunken ship “The Southern Chief” at low tide on
Kala Point Beach (sketch by Barbara MacLean).
Heading back up from the beach on Sailview
Drive, on the right, four buildings of dark brown
wood stretch across the slope. These condominiums
were among the first dwellings built at Kala Point.
Continuing up the hill, across from the timeshares
are the Bluffs, two-unit balconied townhouses with
windows facing the bay, also built along the curve
of the slope and surrounded by extensive lawns and
Back again at the corner of Kala Point Drive and
continuing north, Windship Drive is on the right. This is
another of the early areas developed. Here the road borders a view of all of Port Townsend Bay. Below the road
stretches a line of houses. On the hillside above them,
home owners look across the roofs for an unobstructed
view of the water. On the north end of the road is the
first house to be built at Kala Point. The home, in
English Tudor style, was built in 1973 for Renate
Wheeler, founder of Kala Point, and has been the
residence of the David Gooding family since 1976. The
loop just past the house and up the hill connects
Windship with Trafalgar Drive, another curving road
with homes enjoying a higher-on-the-slope vista of the
bay. Houses are also tucked among trees on two cul de
sacs off Trafalgar.
As one moves through the diverse residential
neighborhoods one becomes aware of a symmetry
and beauty that can be compared to the creative and
connected composition of a huge wall mural – or a
the bluffs: Kala Heights Drive. Like Windship,
water-view homes line both sides of the access road
that follows the curve of the bluff. Behind is Cedarview with a slightly higher elevation and views of
the bay above the roof tops below.
At the end of Kala Heights Drive, a walking
lane leads into Old Fort Townsend State Park, a
wonderful, untouched, and protected forest area
laced with trails. The park forms the eastern border
of Kala Point and runs from Kala Heights Drive to
the administration office and RV lot at the end of
Kala Point Drive, the northern boundary of the
Along Kala Point Drive, lie small cul de sacs
and entries to curved streets such as Kala Heights
Drive and Cedarview and on the upper side,
Baycliff which provides access to Belvedere; plus
Pinecrest Drive, Fairbreeze and Oak Shore Drive.
In addition to the natural beauty of the area, the
climate provides another plus. Average high
temperatures at Port Townsend are 57.8 F and lows
are 44.8 F. According to A Kids’-Eye View of Port
Townsend and Jefferson County . . . by the students
of the Port Townsend Loft School, the average
precipitation is 18.46 inches. Bud Babcock, longtime Kala Point resident and weather buff says the
22-year average precipitation at Kala Point has been
Olympic Mountains rainshadow (the Blue Hole),
from KOMONEWS.com, April 9, 2012.
This is significantly less than in other areas
because of the “rain shadow“, a climatologic
phenomenon created by prevailing winds and the
Olympic Mountains (City of Dreams by Peter
Simpson). This rain shadow is effectively marketed
by the real estate companies, calling it the “Blue
Hole.” The Blue Hole provides Sequim and Port
Townsend with a lower annual rainfall than the rest
of Puget Sound. Winter storms generally approach
the Washington coast from a southwesterly
direction. As the storm air moves upward into the
mountains, it cools and condenses into rain and
snow. Areas in the west end of the Olympic
Peninsula receive between 90 and 200 inches of rain
per year. By the time those clouds reach the
northeasterly communities of Port Townsend and
Sequim, the clouds have become a sponge wrung
dry … nearby Port Angeles attracts 25 inches and
Quilcene is double that at 51 inches … the Olympic
rain shadow keeps local residents drier than any
Pacific coastal inhabitants north of Los Angeles . .
At the time of this writing, in 2012, Kala Point
(about 370 acres) had 371 single-family homes, and
72 unbuilt lots. There are 51 Bluff condos, 37
Harborview condos, and 10 Kala Heights condos. In
addition there are 456 timeshare members of 38
units, 12 members per unit.
Native Americans – the Chimacum Indians –
are the earliest known occupants of Kala Point.
According to accounts in Simpson’s City of
Dreams, the Chimacums were a particularly
warlike, aggressive, unclean, and disagreeable lot,
reported to have suffered near or total extinction at
the hands of their enemies. There are reports of attacks on them as early as 1790, and a second massacre somewhere in the first half of the 19th century.
Census records show their population decreased
from 400 in 1870 to three in 1910.
In 1869 Port Townsend residents found vast
quantities of human bones on the beach near Kuhn
Spit, not far from the beach at Kala Point, according
to a seldom-cited 1895 work by J.C. Costello.
Though Native Americans of the area refused to
talk about what was discovered, in Costello’s
account, Joe Kuhn, a Port Townsend resident,
tricked Chetzemoka, the Chimacum tribe leader,
into confessing that he had persuaded the Skagit
tribe to go to war with him. While the Chimacums
were camped in the beach area, the Skagits arrived
by boat.When Chetzemoka and his followers burst
out of the woods, warfare erupted and “soon there
was not a Chimacum left.”
Bronze statute of Chetzemoka at Port Townsend
Golf Course (photo by Michael Machette).
And in A History of Olympic Peninsula, Port
Townsend, Kala Point, Virginia Olsen writes that in
1989, Harriet Beale from Western Washington
University in Bellingham included the Kala Point
beach in her geologic study of the lagoon salt
marsh. What she found included evidence that the
nearby Chimacum Indian villagers used the
southern point as a kitchen midden (dung heap or
hill), depositing enough shells to create a protective
berm. This berm altered previous tidal circulation.
The ridge at the southern tip of the Kala Point beach
is composed mostly of these shells.
The Kala Point promontory on the western
shores of Port Townsend Bay, formed by sediment
from our bluffs, first became known to Port Townsend residents as the site of Joe Kuhn’s periodic
clambakes in the late 1800s.
In Port Townsend Memories, J. Hermanson
reports that Kuhn also began construction of a fourstory hotel (across from what was Swain’s in Port
Townsend) but had to abandon it after the shell had
been completed. Today, Hermanson writes, Kuhn is
best remembered for the “elaborate clambake,
which was held each summer for over thirty years.
These usually at a spot known as “Kuhn’s Spit,”
though now referred to as Kala Point.”
It is likely that Kuhn’s Spit so impressed Renate
Wheeler with its natural beauty that she under-took
the development of the land that lay above it.
The beginnings of Kala Point
Quite coincidentally, Renate Wheeler’s first
Photograph of Kuhn’s Clambake. Cauldon is about
4 feet in diameter. (Courtesy of the Jefferson
County Historical Museum).
The sociable Joe Kuhn’s connections to Port
Townsend began with his 1866 arrival in the town.
Most recently he had spent six years of freighting
covered wagons across the plains of the Midwest
(from City of Dreams by the late Peter Simpson).
Kuhn had come to Port Townsend to visit his
brother Louis, a local physician. Sensing
opportunity, Joe stayed, supporting himself as a
photographer while he studied law.
After Joe Kuhn’s admission to the bar in 1870,
his ambition and entrepreneurial spirit led to a series
of careers and businesses. Besides serving as
mayor, he also served as a state legislator, probate
judge, and commissioner of immigration as well as
school board and city council member.
In addition, Kuhn was an active participant in
the star-crossed Port Townsend Southern Railroad
and involved in most of the city’s economic
developments of the late 1800s. But over the years,
whatever his business or civic responsibilities,
Kuhn never forgot his duties as social director.
Every summer he would load locals aboard a boat
and head to Kuhn Spit near Chimacum Creek.
There, the group would eat clams, drink whiskey,
make music, and debauch until dawn.
view of the area she would develop was from the
beach where a century earlier Joe Kuhn chose as
the destination for his summer parties.
Renate and her husband, Ed Croom, lived in
Southern California at that time. An employee of
Croom’s who had lived in Washington state
maintained strong ties to the Olympic Peninsula.
After making hunting and fishing trips to the area,
Renate’s husband wanted to move there but knew,
recalled Renate, “it would take a lot to get me up
here. I loved California.”
One year, as a birthday present, he made
reservations for them at the Port Ludlow resort. On
an earlier trip, he had been told of the 400-plus
acres that now make up Kala Point. So it happened
that in 1970, the couple landed their rented boat on
the beach below Kala Point.
“It was a gorgeous day,” Renate remembered.
“We walked the beach. At some point, he asked me
if I liked it? ‘What’s not to like?’ I replied.”
The property was available he told her. At the
time, Renate worked in real estate, a field she had
been in about two or three years before her
introduction to Kala Point.
Reluctantly, on her husband’s urging, she
contacted her brother-in-law, Paul Dencker, a
venture capitalist, and a third individual — Jurgen
Manchot, heir to a chemical company in Germany
— who became the principal investor.
“I thought I could do it from afar and we
bought it,” Renate said. Her plan was to continue
living in California.
The purchase was made without conditions and
without a great deal of knowledge of the land. The
investors bought the spit separately from a different
seller. The original plan was to dredge for a harbor,
allowable at that time, and build a restaurant on the
spit. As it worked out, the partnership wanted
private roads and could not have these with an
open-to-the-public restaurant. A decision was
reached: the private roads would go ahead and the
land would remain natural.
That all happened in 1972. Since the other
partners were out of the country, Renate moved to
Kala Point from California. She became involved
immediately. Road construction began along with
all the amenities.
Recalled Renate, “we were not just selling blue
sky.” A vivid memory of those early days
accompanied her self-introduction at what would
become her bank in Port Townsend.
“Oh yes,” she was told. “That’s the place where
they never found water.”
After not sleeping a week after hearing that
news, Renate contacted a water witch – a Mr. Mayberry from Quilcene. He told her, “Don’t worry.
Earlier she had hired a top engineering firm in
Seattle who had done well for her up until this
point. But they had also determined the
development should not go ahead because of the
absence of water on the site. After Renate told the
Seattle engineers that Mayberry had said there was
water, they invited her to visit their Seattle offices.
Mayberry came along in his rubber coveralls. The
two of them walked into the firm’s elegant suites
where engineers stood over a table of maps – maps
showing no wells in Jefferson County.
Mayberry recited the locations of fifteen wells
he had personally dug. “In Jefferson County,” he
told his audience, “we never record wells.”
Renate called the soil “pure luck.” Port Ludlow
came with clay. In Kala Point sandy earth required
no community-wide sewer system, a costly
undertaking which she said, would have required
smaller lots and would have negated the rural feel.
The decision was made for a gated community
with private roads: development began in 1973.
Kala Point became the area’s first community
required to file an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) with the county, something that had not been
required of Port Ludlow.
Another hurdle, Renate recalled, came with the
Chimacum Indian tribe. The EIS, as directed, had
been sent to all agencies including Indian Affairs.
Chimacum Indian history involved the Kala Point
area, reputed site of a famous massacre. The
Chimacums wanted access to the beach, did not
want a gate.
The partnership arranged for several digs to
recover any artifacts. These were returned to the
tribe. Pottery was uncovered when the road to the
beach was put in, plus arrowheads on the beach.
Whenever there was construction on a site with a
tribal history, Kala Point financed the dig that preceded it.
Ed Croom, Renate Croom, and Paul Dencker
incorporated the development as the Kala Point
Swim and Racquet Club on October 2, 1975. At
first they concentrated on selling lots along Winship
Drive, the first residental street to be paved in Kala
The first steps
To settle the water issue, Renate accompanied
Mayberry, the Quilcene water witcher, into the
woods to check. It was not an easy trip. There were
no roads in the property then, not even Prospect
Avenue. The closest main road was State Highway
19. But the expedition paid off: Mayberry found
The Gooding residence in 2012 (photo by Michael
In 1973, Renate moved into the first house built
on her property – the distinctive peaked- roof English-Tudor at the end of Windship Drive. She lived
there for two to three years before selling to David
Gooding ,who still lives there with his family.
The new community was initially advertised on
radio. Disc jockeys flew in on seaplanes from Lake
Union, landing at the Kala Point dock to talk about
the beauty that greeted them. Later, advertising
appeared in newspapers in Seattle and Port
Originally, Kala Point was promoted as a
community of weekend homes, but Renate recalled,
many purchasers made it clear they were seeking
permanent residences. Eighty percent of the buyers
came from California, and thus were familiar with
gated communities, just appearing in the Northwest.
Others believed that waterfront lots at $30,000
would prove a good investment. Developers
provided financing and sold about a hundred lots a
year. Initially a high-end real estate firm out of
Seattle, McPherson, which specialized in recreational properties, was put in charge of sales.
A special promoter for Kala Point turned out to
be Jack Sikma, a pro basketball player with the
Seattle Supersonics. In time he became a personal
friend of Renate and her family as well as a topscoring sports star. Though initially an unknown, he
became NBA champion in 1979, making his
endorsement of Kala Point valuable. A condominium was part of his compensation. To many at that
time, Kala Point became known as Jack’s Point.
One of the Harborview condominium buildings,
2012 (photo by Michael Machette).
The first condominium buildings were
completed in 1977. First owners in the first
building of seven units were Renate, Dencker, and
In November 1977, the owners hired Bill
Lindeman to replace Ed Croom as President of Kala
Point Company, as a general partner of Kala Point
Development Co., and as President of Kala Point
Utility Co. Bill has remained acive in the Kala
Point Coumminity followin his retirement in 2003.
The Club House was built in 1978 and a block
of property was purchased by McPherson to
develop the Time-Share units, which was becoming
a popular and affordable real estate option.
As first condominiums were completed, the
developer recognized that there was a strong market for part-time and permanent homes at Kala
Point. From this point on, development of Kala
Point proceeded in stages with Windship and
Foxfield the first two divisions and Kala Heights
being division nine, in 2000.
Some of the development involved water views,
some woodland. All the roads and amenities were
put in by the developers. Ownership of the roads
was required since the developers had chosen to
make Kala Point a gated community. The Lagoon
and Terrace (divisions 10 and 11) were completed
in 2008. At that point, the Kala Point Development
Company’s mission was complete.
ventually the original owners of Kala Point
reached a parting of the ways. The property was
divided with Renate Wheeler’s brother-in-law (Paul
Dencker) receiving the undeveloped division, the
unsold, and undeveloped Bluffs and Terrace,
whereas Renate and Jurgen Manchot received all
the unsold lots and the undeveloped Lagoon property.
In 1987, Renate opened a real estate office on
six acres she bought at the Kala Square corner of
Prospect Avenue and the highway. She had the
acreage rezoned from residential to commercial and
opened Kala Square Realty. A few years later, this
became the 60th Windermere office and the first on
the Olympic Peninsula. Soon afterward she and her
late husband, Joe Wheeler (he died in 2010) bought
a restaurant across from the ferry dock in Port
Townsend and established a Windermere office
there. In 2003 they sold the business; in 2005 they
sold the building.
Of the success of Kala Point, Renate called it a
“a matter of timing. If we had waited, with the new
environmental controls, we would have had to have
five-acre lots and would not have been able to get
rezoning from residential to commercial at the Kala
Her involvement now? Renate has served on the
Kala Point Homeowners Association Board which
administers the community. In addition, she is a
member of the Architectural Committee.
Renate was born in Germany. Her father, Franz
Suess, was Jewish; her mother, Elly, was Catholic.
In 1933, after becoming aware of what was
happening to Jews in Germany, Suess moved his
wife, Renate, and her older sister, Liz, from
Cologne to England. They made their home in
When World War II began, the children were
evacuated from London. Renate and Liz were sent
to boarding school in Surrey and remained there
through high school.
In Germany, her father had owned a winery and
vineyard. In London he started his own business as
a broker for non-ferrous metals, eventually opening
offices in Stockholm, New York City, and London.
He enticed Renate to join him in business when she
completed high school. After a couple of years of
working in London, she chose to work in the New
York office but with the understanding that she
would first attend college. She enrolled in the
journalism department at Columbia University,
attending school part time and working part time.
She lived in International House in New York City
where she met her husband, an Annapolis graduate,
doing post-graduate studies at Columbia.
The couple remained in New York for two
years. The following year the family, which now included two young children, moved on to two-year
postings in Virginia, Pennsylvania, the Philippines
and California. In the latter, they ended up at
Westlake Village, a new and upscale develop-ment
north of Los Angeles.
“My concept of Kala Point,” Renate said, “was
based on my knowledge of Westlake Village. It was
a planned community, much larger than this. It also
had standards, covenants.”
And after 40 years?
“I am pleased at how well Kala Point has been
maintained,” Renate admitted, “and how the
community is embraced by those that chose to buy
A final question: The name of the community,
where did that come from?
She said, “I was told ‘kala’ was the Indian name
for goose and the Point was always called Kala, so
we never changed it.”
The Rose Theater, a popular attraction in Port
Townsend (sketch by Barbara MacLean).
About the authors
Barbara MacLean is a retired artist, journalist,
and the author of three books ther last being Strike
a Woman, Strike a Rock: Fighting for Freedom in
South Africa.. Barbara and her late husband, Fraser,
came to Kala Point in July 1999. She is a longtime
member of the Publications Committee.
Michael Machette is a retired research geologist
who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in
Denver, Colorado. He and his wife Nancy built
their retirement home in Kala Point in 2010; he is
currently the Chief Financial Officer for the Kala
Point Home Owners Association.
A Brief Historical Sketch of Port Townsend by
William D. Welsh, Port Townsend Chamber of
A History of Olympic Peninsula, Port Townsend,
Kala Point, Virginia Olsen, pub, year
City of Dreams—A guide to Port Townsend, edited
by Peter Simpson, Bay Press, 1986.
Geologic map of the Port Townsend South and part
of the Port Townsend North 7.5-minute
quadrangles, Jefferson County, Washington, by
H. W. Schasse and S. L. Slaughter. 2005,
Washington State Department of Natural
Resources Geologic Map 57, 1:24,000 scale.
Kala Point Coastal Bluff Study, KPOA, Port
Townsend, Washington, by Shannon & Wilson
Inc. and Coastal Geologic Services, Contract
Report, March 2, 2012.