Bake House

Photo of four children, dressed in 1840s attire, shaping dough into sea biscuits on a table in the Bake House.

Volunteers help bring the Bake House to life by demonstrating the making of sea biscuit at a special event.

NPS Photo


Imagine yourself working for the Hudson’s Bay Company as a sailor aboard ship or perhaps a laborer on one of the company farms or even a fur trapper out in the Snake River country.

One of the staples of your diet would have been sea-biscuit, an unleavened whole wheat cracker perhaps baked at Fort Vancouver in the Company Bake House. It was said that the three or four bakers who worked at the fort's Bake House could produce enough sea-biscuit to supply 200 to 300 men each day. Much of this production would be stored away in barrels to be issued out to the laborers each week or perhaps to provision company ships leaving for England.

Sea-biscuit is a hard unleavened wheat cracker which is baked until virtually all of the moisture is removed. If a person could keep them dry and keep the weevils out of them, these crackers would last indefinitely.

The Company cultivated thousands of acres of wheat which they ground to flour at the water powered grist mill. This grain and flour was used locally for food production and was also the medium of trade between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Russians in Alaska.

The staff and volunteers in the Bake House will be pleased to share with you the life of a company baker and the ways of making sea-biscuit.


Dig deeper...

To access many of the park's historical studies, including the historic furnishings study for the Bake House, click here.

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