Woo-hoo again! I have news. But first a little background.
In the Oregon Territory of 1842, the opening year of my book The Shifting Winds, the British Hudson’s Bay Company held sway over the region from their western headquarters at Fort Vancouver in what is now the city of Vancouver, Washington. Several scenes in The Shifting Winds take the reader to this amazing place, and I began to have a dream. What if I could have an event there, to draw others to this place so they could walk where my characters walked?
The fort has been meticulously reconstructed with a number of the original buildings, like the Big House, grand home of the Chief Factor, then Dr. John McLoughlin.
I called the site and learned that yes, they do host events, and was directed to Mary Rose, Acting Director of the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. She expressed a strong interest in the story immediately. I sent her a book, we emailed back and forth, talked on the phone. Then yesterday, the day after my event at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, I drove up to the fort to meet her.
I am excited to announce that we agreed on the date. The event is scheduled. It’s four months away, a Saturday afternoon, July 16. Right in the middle of tourist season when the fort becomes a major destination. It’s going to happen! A dream come true for me.
After meeting with Mary in the Visitor Center I went down to the fort, first to the Big House, where I stepped into Dr. McLoughlin’s office. This was a spot of British civilization in an otherwise wild land.
Back outside, I surveyed some of the other structures from the long front veranda. Many of the buildings have been reconstructed, not all. This scene faces south. The Columbia River isn’t too far away in that direction, convenient for transportation in those days.
Looking west, down the long veranda, one can see the next building over, the Counting House or Office. The British had two different offices built over time. The one in the photo replicates the second office, which came after our story. The one the book portrays as the residence and workplace of our handsome Hudson’s Bay Company clerk, Alan Radford, has not yet been reconstructed.
Here is the elegant table in the Mess Hall where American mountain man Jake Johnston stops for a quick bite the evening of the Christmas Ball–the tables set up differently of course for the occasion.
I had visited the fort before I wrote the book, but seeing all this again after publication, I reimagined my characters wandering through these places, and strolling out across the grounds. The story and people lived for me again.
What a fantastic place to have an event for this book!
In a quest for accuracy I spent a lot of time here before, and had copies of the two huge volumes of the Historic Structure Report by John A. Hussey providing historical data prior to reconstruction. They did their best to build an authentic representation of the original, using archeological finds (they even found blue-and-white Spode china), and many documents from the period offering description and detail.
The fort is now a National Historic Site maintained by the National Park Service. My reading and signing will be held in the new Visitor Center, a beautiful venue just up the hill from the fort. Afterward we can either walk or drive down to the grounds to explore this glimpse of the past.
When I got home yesterday I took my usual walk up the mountain of the family farm described in my first book, A Place of Her Own, and when I stood looking out over the green slopes and the mountains beyond, I smiled. A walk across the historic grounds of Fort Vancouver in the morning, a walk up Martha’s mountain in the late afternoon. All under the same shining sun. What a grand day!