Bellingham, Washington, (population 72,230) is located on Bellingham Bay in northern Puget Sound. The area’s first inhabitants were the local Indian tribes. Lummi tribal leaders permitted the construction of the first mill on Whatcom Creek, and lumber became the livelihood that fed the areas early settlement.
Four separate towns were settled on Bellingham Bay in the 1850s – Whatcom, Sehome, Fairhaven, and Bellingham flourishing on their own before consolidating in 1904 as the city of Bellingham.
Bellingham’s economic history has been characterized by boom and bust cycles—the Fraser River Gold Rush in 1858, the railroad boom in the 1870s, and the logging and fishing industry boom in the 1880s and 1890s. Other local industries of the past include salmon canneries, sandstone quarries, and a variety of types of farming. Today, the forest industry, health care, boatbuilding, the service industry, and dairy and berry farming all contribute to the community’s economy.
Bellingham is experiencing a period of rapid growth and infill, and the city recognizes the threat posed to its historic architectural character. A series of free public historic preservation workshops has resulted in public-private partnerships, improved awareness of the value of the city’s historical resources, and guidance on how to preserve them.
Historic walking tours take visitors through downtown Bellingham, Oldtown, and Railroad Avenue. The Roland G. Gamwell House, built in the 1890s, is one of Bellingham’s many historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
One of the city’s most popular attractions is the Whatcom Museum of History & Art. Its centerpiece is the red-brick 1892 Old City Hall Building, an architectural and historic landmark in Northwest Washington. Each summer the museum hosts weekly cruises that explore the history of Bellingham as it was originally viewed—from the shoreline.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2007.
For more information
City of Bellingham Historic Preservation
Whatcom Museum of History & Art