Featured Exhibit: Yama & Nagaya

Captain William Renton established the Port Blakely Mill Company in 1863. The mill flourished by the 1870’s and became one of the largest mills in the world. A high demand for labor in that industry grew in 1882 when the U.S. government implemented the Chinese Exclusion Act. This forced all Chinese nationals in the country out of the labor force and prevented further immigration from China. The mill then recruited new immigrants, including Japanese, to help fill the increased demand for labor.

The mill’s workforce lived in barracks and neighborhoods immediately surrounding the mill’s buildings. Unlike the Port Madison Mill, the Scandinavians, Croatians, and Japanese workers at Port Blakely’s lived in segregated housing. The mill rented out a tract of land to the increasingly large group of Japanese millworkers so they could build their own barracks. The first structures housed single men and the community was called Nagaya. Later, as more men married or brought their wives from Japan, the settlement was extended up the hill and grew into the settlement known as Yama.  Learn more..

Permanent Exhibit: An Island Story

Housed in the Island Center’s original 1908 schoolhouse, “An Island Story” provides an overview of the rich, unique history of Bainbridge Island. The exhibit is packed with historical objects covering a timeline that includes Native American lore and the history of whales in the area, the logging and boating industries, and the diverse ethnographic community which helped to shape present life on Bainbridge Island. Learn more…