An Island Story

Discover the rich and varied history of Bainbridge Island through Bainbridge Island Historical Museum’s main exhibit, “An Island Story”, housed in the Island Center’s original 1908 one-room schoolhouse. The exhibit takes visitors on a journey through time, focusing on key aspects and events in Bainbridge Island history.

Commodore BainbridgeNative American communities lived on the island before the first explorers arrived while surveying the waters of the Pacific Northwest. One such explorer, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, visited the area in 1841 and named the island after Commodore William Bainbridge. The promising abundance of trees and waterways eventually led to the establishment of logging, shipbuilding, and boating industries in the area.

Logs In Mill PondIn 1863, a sawmill was built at Port Blakely, which drew in immigrant laborers and helped to grow a diverse island community. With the increased traffic and a need for accessibility to the goods created on the Island, ferry transportation was established between Bainbridge Island and the nearby expanding city of Seattle. The sawmill eventually shut down in the 1920s, and its former workers turned to other jobs such as strawberry farming. Fumiko HayashidaLater on, the events leading up to World War II impacted Bainbridge Island’s Japanese American population, who were the first in the nation to be relocated to internment camps. These and other events helped to shape Bainbridge Island as it appears today.

Other topics covered by the exhibit include the history of whales in the area, the role of Filipino and Japanese communities on Bainbridge Island, and the history of the Island’s school system. Historical images and objects from the museum’s collection, oral history audio recordings of Bainbridge Island residents, and short films immerse visitors and provide a detailed overview of past and present life on the Island.

In 2008 the Island Story exhibit was a “Muse Award” recipient from the American Association of Museums; “in recognition of the highest standards of excellence in the use of media and technology in the category of Multimedia Installations.”