Downtown Aberdeen along West Wishkah Street. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

Aberdeen is a city in Grays Harbor County, Washington. Founded by Samuel Benn in 1884. Aberdeen was officially incorporated on May 12, 1890. The city is the economic center of Grays Harbor County, bordering the cities of Hoquiam and Cosmopolis. Aberdeen is called the "Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula," but it is more famous as being the "Birthplace of Grunge," and the hometown of Nirvana members Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic. The population was 16,461 at the 2000 census. Aberdeen is 67 miles from Tacoma.



Aberdeen in 1910.

Aberdeen was named for a local salmon cannery, a namesake of Aberdeen, Scotland, because it is situated at the mouth of two rivers just like a cannery in Aberdeen, Scotland. Although it became the largest and best known city in Grays Harbor, Aberdeen lagged behind neighbors Hoquiam and Cosmopolis in the early years. When A.J. West built the town's first sawmill in 1894, the other two municipalities had been in business for several years. Aberdeen and its neighbors vied to be the terminus for Northern Pacific Railroad, but instead of ending at one of the established mill towns, the railroad skimmed through Cosmopolis and headed west for Ocosta. Hoquiam and Aberdeen citizens banded together to build a spur; and in 1895, the line connected Northern Pacific tracks to Aberdeen.


West Wishkah St. Downtown Aberdeen, 1915.


Downtown Aberdeen in 1915.

By 1900, Aberdeen was considered one of the grittiest towns on the West Coast, with many saloons, whorehouses, and gambling establishments populating the area. Aberdeen was nicknamed "The Hellhole of the Pacific", or "The Port of Missing Men", because of its high murder rate. One notable resident was Billy Gohl, known locally as Billy "Ghoul", who was rumored to have killed at least 140 men.


Aberdeen in 1916.

During the Great Depression, Aberdeen was hit hard, reducing the number of major saw mills from 37 to 9. The timber industry continued to boom, but by the late 1970s most of the timber had been logged. Most of the mills were closing down by the 1970s and 1980s.

Salmon runs dwindled as spawning grounds were destroyed and rivers filled with silt. The Satsop Nuclear Plant was built in 1978, creating thousands of construction jobs with the promise of permanent employment once the plant was complete. The project was aborted in 1982, doubling the unemployment rate almost overnight. Recently a local sawmill was shut down, causing the community to lose 342 more jobs. However, a new biodiesel plant has opened on the Aberdeen / Hoquiam border, bringing 80 jobs into the community, and a huge pontoon construction project was recently announced to start there in the near future. Aberdeen is also the home port of the tall ship Lady Washington, a reproduction of a smaller vessel used by the explorer Captain Robert Gray, featured in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film The Curse of the Black Pearl.


Aberdeen sits on the banks of the Wishkah River. It is also is on the banks of Grays Harbor, which is a safe water harbor from the Pacific Ocean.


Aberdeen experiences an oceanic climate. It is often wet and cloudy all year round in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen, WA climate is mild during summer when temperatures tend to be in the 60's and cold during winter when temperatures tend to be in the 40's.

The warmest month of the year is August with an average maximum temperature of 69.10 degrees Fahrenheit, while the coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 36.10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperature variations between night and day tend to be fairly limited during summer with a difference that can reach 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and fairly limited during winter with an average difference of 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

The annual average precipitation at Aberdeen is 83.71 Inches. Winter months tend to be wetter than summer months. The wettest month of the year is December with an average rainfall of 13.07 Inches.


Despite attempts to diversify the local economy, Aberdeen and the rest of Grays Harbor remain dependent on the timber and fishing industries.


Downtown Aberdeen is mostly desolate today. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

On December 19, 2005, Weyerhaeuser closed the Aberdeen large-log sawmill, and would close the Cosmopolis pulp mill in early 2006. This resulted in the loss of at least 342 jobs. In January, 2009, Weyerhaeuser closed two additional plants in Aberdeen, resulting in another 221 lost jobs. In both cases many employees were not told by Weyerhaueser management, but learned about the closures from local radio stations who received a press release prior to a scheduled press conference.

Employers on the Harbor include locally-owned Grays Harbor Paper L.P., The Westport Shipyard, Sierra Pacific, The Simpson Door Co., Dead End Street, LLC, Hoquiam Plywood, the Stafford Creek Corrections Center, a state prison which opened in 2000, and Safe Harbor Technology, a technical support center.

Other major employers include the cranberry-growing cooperative Ocean Spray, worldwide retailer Wal-Mart and Washington Crab Products.

In 2007, Imperium Renewables of Seattle invested $40 million in the construction of the biodiesel plant at the Port of Grays Harbor. It is estimated the plant will produce as much as 100 million gallons of biodiesel fuel made from plants and vegetable material annually.



Many downtown shops are closed up in downtown Aberdeen. AJM STUDIOS Northwest Photo Journey photo.

Downtown Aberdeen is greatly depressed, like much of this region. Depression is high as well, due to limited job opportunities and foul weather. Aberdeen's once bustling downtown today sits mostly derelict and empty. Few groups are trying to restore what they can, but most of downtown is slowly dying.




Daily World


Health systemsEdit

Grays Harbor Community Hospital serves most of Grays Harbor County, and adjacent counties around it. Mark Reed Hospital is located in McCleary, and is the only other hospital in Grays Harbor County.


Aberdeen is serviced by the Grays Harbor County Sheriff's Department and the Aberdeen Police Department.


Highway 101 runs north to south through Aberdeen. The Olympic Highway connects Aberdeen to the rest of Grays Harbor County and Washington State.

Bowerman Field is coastal Washington's only jet-capable airport. Bowerman is a destination for thousands of air travelers and visitors alike. There is a pilots lounge and restaurant also at Bowerman Field.

The Port of Grays Harbor also runs the port in Aberdeen, which services large scale ships that travel the Pacific.