Visiting teaching is charming in port town

Variety and charm are abundant for Relief Society visiting teachers in this quaint little town midway between Seattle and Vancouver Island.

The charm comes from the colorful and ornate Victorian homes and buildings that give the city a fascinating appeal and unique history. The variety comes from the many ways that visiting teachers can serve those they visit, and the interesting roads they travel on through forests, along seashores and in the towns.Karen Porter and Tonna Bound are two such visiting teachers who enjoy the charm and adventure.

Sister Porter, her husband Jeff, and their four children moved recently from California to one of the Victorian houses – the blue and white Horton house on Clay Street, built in 1889. It's not the oldest nor the biggest of the famous houses, but they enjoy the historic feeling it gives them.

"We love the house," said Sister Porter. "A lot of people stop for pictures. We like the weather, too. Can you imagine only 18 inches of rainfall per year, and everything's so green? The storm clouds are stopped by the high Olympic Mountains to the west, or they are pushed up and over across the Puget Sound. We have clean air and quite a bit of sunshine.

"I'm from Canada, and here I'm close to my family. I have just been up to see my mother, and came home on the ferry."

Sister Bound and her husband Dennis moved from Las Vegas, Nev., to Port Townsend 10 years ago with their family, now five girls and two boys.

"I never grow tired of the forest and the sea," she said. "As we go from the cliffs to the north base, we pass the Victorian houses, and see it all."

On a typical visiting teaching day they pass the Rothschild house, built in 1868, that is maintained as a state park. Original wallpaper, rugs and furniture have been preserved in the house.

The two visiting teachers also walk past the F.W. Hasting house, circa 1889, a brick red house trimmed with white that was once the German Consulate. Down the street is the yellow home of the dentist E.E. Gleason, who copied a Boston house in 1900 as his Port Townsend residence.

The most photographed house in town is the George Starrett house, larger than most and dominated by a front tower. It was built in 1889 in the Victorian stick-style architecture.

All in all, these sisters could visit more than 60 historic homes, not to mention the commercial and government buildings that maintain the Victorian style. Their bishop, David A. Grove of the Port Townsend Ward in the Silverdale Washington Stake, is the city clerk-treasurer with offices in the city hall. Here the council chambers maintain the original natural wood interior.

But houses and history are not the thrust of visiting teaching.

"We want to become examples and friends and see if there are any needs in the families," Sister Bound explained. "We want to get to know the sisters, and if there is someone confined to her home, we take her a flower or a treat. Flowers grow so well here, and so do berries."

"It's important to support the families in their work and at home," Sister Porter added. "When they know we are their friends with a personal interest, they respond with love. The sisters are so sincere here, all the members are close and very friendly."