The pretty town of Aberdeen, on Grays Harbor at the mouth of the Chehalis River, is known for its lovely harbor, spread glittering and gray along the west edge of town, where the bay bobs with sailboats and speed cruisers. Vast swaths of lumberyards are broken up by towering cranes, which transport the massive timbers onto immense metal barges. Forested hills serve as a backdrop to town, promising a picturesque entry into the Olympic Peninsula to the north. The town is also dotted with the classic, century-old mansions built by shipping and timber barons of the 20th century. Walking tours provide looks at some of the largest and most beautiful homes as well as local highlights from some of the town's best-known former residents, including Bill Boeing and Kurt Cobain.
Aberdeen was settled in 1867 by farmers. Some of the earliest residents were Scottish immigrants who named it after their own city set along a harbor at the mouth of a river. Growth and prosperity came to the town after Scotsman George R. Hume started a salmon cannery here in 1878 and the town's first sawmill was built in 1884. Soon tall ships crowded the narrow harbor to load lumber, and waterfront bars were busy with sailors and lumberjacks.
Early homesteaders found the cleared forest land too soggy to support anything except cranberries, which still thrive in the bogs. Other farmers turned to cultivating oysters in the shallow harbor bays. In 1903 most of Aberdeen's buildings, made of wood and surrounded by streets of sawdust, burned down during a dry spell. These were replaced with stone and brick buildings, many of which still stand in the downtown area.