Poulsbo is a thriving North Kitsap County city, located on Liberty Bay, a sheltered arm of Puget Sound. Best known for its popular tourist destination, historic “Little Norway,” and for its vibrant, waterfront shopping district, it’s also home to a diverse mix of thriving businesses, both large and small.
As of late 2015, the median sales price for homes in Poulsbo as $321,000 – an increase of 16.7% over prices in late 2014. During this time the number of home sales also increased by 18.5%. This median value is 10.7% greater than the Washington average and 66.6% greater than the national average.
Privately owned homes in Poulsbo start in the low $200,000s with a good number offered under $300,000. Waterfront / water view homes are offered with prices into the 800s and 900s – and even over one million.
Bank owned homes are available starting at about $100,000 and going up to more than $700,000.
While home prices are higher than average, Poulsbo residents also earn slightly more than Washington State averages, with an estimated median household income of $59,200.
A bit of history…
For at least 5,000 years before the first Scandinavian immigrants arrived in Liberty Bay in the 1800s, the area was inhabited by the Squamish people and their ancestors. They fished the bays and streams, collected shellfish along the shoreline, and hunted in the forests and floodplains.
Then came the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott in 1855. At that time most Suquamish natives relocated to the Port Madison Indian Reservation, although the tribe reserved some cultural and natural resource rights to their historical territory. To this day, the tribe exercises those rights.
The city of Poulsbo was founded by Jorgen Eliason, an immigrant from Fordefjord, Norway. At that time, the primary method of travel to and from Liberty Bay was by water – first by rowboat and later by steamboat.
Before long, a large number of Norwegian and other Scandinavian immigrants joined Eliason, probably because of the area’s similarities to their native countries. One of the early Norwegian settlers, I.B. Moe, suggested that the community should have a post office, and suggested the name Paulsbo, after his Norwegian birthplace. The petition for a post office was granted and Moe became the first postmaster, but the name of the community was misspelled. The community became officially known as Poulsbo, and was incorporated under that name on December 18, 1907.
In the 60 years following the first settlement, water remained the primary method of travel. A fleet of more than a dozen steamboats, dubbed the “Mosquito Fleet,” delivered farmers’ produce to Pike Place Market in Seattle, and carried both passengers and freight to and from Seattle.
Up until World War II, the primary language in Poulsbo was Norwegian, due to the vast majority of residents being Norwegian immigrants. Then, during the war, the military constructed approximately 300 residential
units to house workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in nearby Bremerton, and the population nearly tripled. This diversification led to English becoming the primary language.
In honor and celebration of 150 years of Norwegian settlement in the U.S., King Olav V of Norway visited Poulsbo on October 22, 1975.
Poulsbo’s Norwegian heritage still plays a significant role in Poulsbo’s thriving economy. One of the city’s primary tourist attractions is the pedestrian, child, and pet-friendly “Little Norway,” which borders Front Street.
The galleries, museums, and shops along Front Street reflect Scandinavian architecture and many shops have Norwegian names such as the Nordic Maid, and Thor’s Hammer and Needle. The area is adorned with Norwegian flags, buildings with murals depicting Scandinavian culture, and benches created with Viking details. At the entrance to the city is a sign proclaiming “Velkommen til Poulsbo!” (Welcome to Poulsbo.)
Sluys Poulsbo Bakery, on Front Street, has become world famous for Poulsbo Bread, and also offers a selection of distinctly Scandinavian pastries.
Founded in 1991, the Poulsbo Historical Societyhas a mission to record, preserve and exhibit the history and culture of Poulsbo and the North Kitsap area in general, and they’re doing it well.
Three distinctive museums serve to take visitors back in time to see things as they were more than 100 years ago.
The Martinson Cabin, built in the 1800s and moved to its present location in 2006, depicts almost every aspect of daily life for the early Poulsbo pioneers.
Heritage Hall also presents daily life, but changing exhibits provide a look into the evolution of Poulsbo from the early beginnings to the present day. Heritage Hall is the central office of the Poulsbo Historical Society and features an extensive research library for those who wish to learn more.
The Poulsbo Maritime Museum, which opened in September 2015 in partnership with the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce and the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation, showcases the rich maritime history of Poulsbo and North Kitsap.
Interactive displays and imaginative exhibits take guests through the years when families traveled from dock to dock to deliver their farm products to Seattle, through the home-porting of Alaska codfish fleets, to the era of the “Mosquito Fleet,” and on to the paddle boards and tour ships that navigate Puget Sound’s waters today.
More things to do in Poulsbo
The outdoor Poulsbo Farmer’s Market is a popular attraction, open on Saturdays from April through mid-December. 35 or more crafters, farmers, and food processors offer visitors some of the freshest products available, while local acts perform live music ranging from country and the blues to ragtime, jazz, and gypsy fiddle tunes.
The Poulsbo Farmer’s Market brings citizens events such as the Harvest Dinner, Tomato Taste-Off, and the Pumpkin Party, as well as classes on gardening, preserving, beekeeping, and ice cream making, talks from visiting authors and demonstrations by local chefs.
In keeping with the Scandinavian theme of the city, Poulsbo hosts annual events such as the Sons of Norway Annual Lutefisk Feed in January, Viking Fest in May, Scandia Midsommarfest in June, and Yule Fest in December.
Other events include Westsound Business Expo in February, two Easter Egg hunts, the Muddy Paw Dog Agility Trials in July, Chief Seattle Days in August, and the Yule Cup and Lighted Boat Parade in December. For a complete list of annual events, visit the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce site. (link to http://www.poulsbochamber.com/annual_festivals.htm)
Parks and trails: Poulsbo has 143 acres devoted to fifteen city parks. About half of this acreage is undeveloped or designated as open space. There are also five linear miles of trails. While the city has been active in park development, volunteerism also plays an important role in stewardship of these areas.
Poulsbo has 9 public elementary and middle schools and 2 public high schools. It is also home to 5 private elementary and middle schools and 2 private High Schools.
The Northwest College of Art & Design and Olympic College Poulsbo both make their home in Poulsbo, and there are 7 other colleges/universities within 12 to 18 miles.
The number of adult residents who hold Bachelor’s or Masters degrees is slightly higher than either the Washington State or national average.
Getting to work
The majority of Poulsbo residents drive their own cars to work, and report travel time of 30 minutes or less, possibly because of the abundance of jobs right at home.
While the city is best known for the waterfront district, Little Norway, and the restaurants, hotels, and shops that support tourism, Greater Poulsbo has another side. In addition to large businesses/employers such as Gravitec, Watson Furniture, and Twiss Labs, Greater Poulsbo is home to unique entrepreneurships such as Blue Frog Solar, Valley Nursery, and Orbea Signs.
Poulsbo boasts a number of physicians, dentists, chiropractors, and veterinarians, and is served by Group Health Cooperative via the Poulsbo Medical Center. Major hospitals are nearby in adjoining communities.
In addition to the boutiques and specialty shops on Front Street and beyond, Poulsbo is home to a few nationally recognized stores such as WalMart and Office Max.
The Poulsbo Village Shopping Center offers a full array of goods and services, from groceries and clothing, to hair care, to investment advice, to a variety of dining choices, and much more.
Central Market is a 69,000 square foot “destination food store” that draws customers from far and wide and employs more than 240 people. Built in 1996, it was one of the state’s first major commercial buildings to “go green” by using recycled materials in its construction.
Poulsbo, Washington is an interesting, prosperous city of 9,200 residents. It offers stunning vistas, a wealth of things to do and see right at home, and a central location that puts all the amenities of the big city within a few minutes’ drive.
If Poulsbo sounds like the right location for your next home, get in touch. I’ll be pleased to help you locate a home that suits both your lifestyle and your budget. In the meantime, if you’d like a preview of homes available today, click here. (link to Poulsbo search page)