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The story began as Harris pondered the run-down remains of what was once the largest canned clam producer on the West Coast, the Clam Cannery.
Infatuated with the 1885 brick landmark that had sat empty for 40 years, he masterminded a plan to restore the building and bring it back to life as a boutique all-suite hotel. During the painstaking process, he called on local artisans to use materials that were reclaimed from the structure, such as old wooden beams that were turned into cabinets and discarded clam shells that were pressed into new glass countertops.
Today, Clam Cannery is the only four-star waterfront hotel in the northwest Washington town, a place where most accommodations are bed-and-breakfast establishments located in renovated Victorian buildings. Thanks to its seaside perch, it offers views of the Cascades, Olympic Mountains, Whidbey Island and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
Each of Clam Cannery's four suites -- appropriately named the Clamshell, Seashell, Sand Dollar and Starfish -- is distinctive. In two of the units, the bed pulls out from the wall Murphy-style, while the other two come with separate bedrooms. All rooms are equipped with huge flat-screen televisions featuring free Netflix movies and television shows, and complimentary high-speed Internet access is available throughout the property.
While the suites are situated on the building's second floor, Harris has created a new room on the ground floor for special events, from weddings to board retreats.
Even though Clam Cannery is pricier than most of Port Townsend's bed-and-breakfast lodgings, it justifies the cost by offering all of the amenities of home. Each unit has its own washer and dryer as well as a full kitchen featuring top-of-the-line appliances and plenty of pots, pans and cooking utensils. That, combined with its pet-friendly policy, makes Clam Cannery an excellent hotel value for families.
"Since the hotel is on the more expensive side of the spectrum, we're marketing it to clients from Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria who have disposable income, people who enjoy traveling and guests who like to stay in unique hotels," said Harris.
And unique it is. With concrete floors, hand-blown glass fixtures, custom cabinets and countertops, and touches of hand-forged steel and hammered copper, the suites in Clam Cannery combine elegance with a distinctively Pacific Northwest design flair. Lest guests forget where they are, large picture windows provide them with an extraordinary sense of place, right down to sightings of the classic Keystone-Port Townsend ferry.
When clients enter their Clam Cannery lodgings for the first time, they are greeted with a welcome amenity. Ours included a box of chocolates, a bag of granola, milk, cheese, crackers, smoked salmon and apples. Tea and coffee are supplied as well, and guests will find a selection of cooking spices and oils.
Clam Cannery sits right next to Port Townsend's historic ferry dock, which Harris plans to restore by the end of 2011. By doing so, he can create moorage for guests arriving by seaplane or boat. You might call it his next brainstorm.