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Downtown Bellingham

The city is comprised of several small towns and communities founded between 1854 and 1900, and consolidated in a long process ending in December of 1903. The towns included Sehome, Fairhaven, Whatcom, and New Whatcom. The name is from the bay on which the city is located.

The downtown consists primarily of Sehome and Whatcom.

Sehome was once a town on Bellingham Bay which combined with three others to form the present city of Bellingham in Whatcom County. It was the first town on Bellingham Bay being platted on May 8, 1858. It was named for Sehome, a sub-chief of Clallam Indians who married into the Samish tribe. A daughter of Sehome married Edmund Fitzhugh, manager of the Sehome Coal Mine and Sehome was a frequent visitor to the mine.

Whatcom was a community on the site of present-day Bellingham. It was one of four towns on Bellingham Bay which merged October 27, 1903 to form the city of Bellingham. The plat for Whatcom was filed July 24, 1858.

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Bellingham National Bank Building

Located at 101-107 E. Holly Street, the Bellingham National Bank building was designed by Architect Stanley Piper and completed in 1913. This building was the second home of the Bellingham National Bank. The five-story reinforced concrete structure with rectangular plan is clad in cut stone and brick veneer. The clock was added to the exterior of the building in 1927. The Bellingham National Bank Building is individually listed on the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register of Historic Places for its commercial styling which marked an important aesthetic shift away from the area’s ubiquitous brick and sandstone Romanesque structures. The Bellingham National Bank was chartered on November 16, 1904, and began operations early the next year in the Clover Block at Holly and Commercial Streets. By 1912, bank president Victor Roeder and other founders secured a building site on the main downtown intersection at Holly Street and Cornwall Avenue. The project was spearheaded by Roeder, whose father had helped found the city in 1852 and amassed a family fortune from a land claim which included most of the downtown. The bankers and architects originally planned a four-story building, but as investor tenants came forward an additional floor was added along with better quality materials and richer detailing.

Mount Baker Theatre

Located at 100-120 N commercial Street, the Mount Baker Theatre was designed by architect Robert C. Reamer and built by the A.W. Quist Company in 1927 in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. The building features a rectangular plan containing a performing arts theater and multiple retail spaces. The two story reinforced concrete building has varied rooflines and features walls clad in stucco, terra cotta tiles, and cut stone. The original plan, cladding, and octagonal tower are intact. There have been extensive alterations to the original windows. The building is listed on the Washington Heritage Register and the National Register for architectural significance. R.C. Reamer’s architectural mastery is evidenced by his prolific career, having created over 40 structures as diverse as lodges in Yellowstone National Park and at Lake Quinault in Washington to hotels and theatres in Seattle and Bellingham. Many consider Reamer to be a “master of styles ranging from rustic lodge, Chinese, and French Normandy, to Mediterranean palazzo, Moorish-Spanish renaissance, Art Deco, Moderne, and Modular.”

US Post Office and Court House

Also known as the Bellingham Federal Building, the U.S. Post Office and Court House was constructed in 1913 and stands on Magnolia Street (100-104 W Magnolia) as a testament to the city’s importance within the county and region in the early 20th century. Supervising Architect of the Treasure, James Taylor Knox, designed the Beaux Arts style building. Federal buildings signified regional importance, housing not only postal and judicial spaces but also offices for federal agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Agriculture, Weather Bureau, and US Customs to name a few. The second floor courtroom remains an intact example of turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts inspired design.

Flat Iron Building

The building at 1313 Bay Street was built in 1907 in the Commercial style. Designed by Frank C. Burns, the Bellingham Bay Furniture Company Building (BB Furniture Company Building or the Flatiron Building), the seven-story reinforced concrete building is triangular in plan and one of the first commercial buildings in the Pacific Northwest to be constructed entirely of reinforced concrete. As an engineering anomaly in 1907, it was a practical solution for its builder, a furniture retailer, to the ever-present danger of fire in his business. Ironically, the building suffered a major fire on April 28, 1924, but the structure’s integrity survived and the building was rebuilt around the basic concrete structure. Known as Bellingham’s first skyscraper, the Flatiron Building served as the city’s talent building from its completion until 1926. The architect, Frank C. Burns designed numerous buildings downtown including the Daylight Building 1201-13 North State Street), the Kirkpatrick Building (1401-15 Commercial St), and several others. Interestingly, the architect of the Dahlquist Building (1311-13 North State Street), James C. Teague, drew up the original plans for the Flatiron building but his plans were rejected and Frank C. Burns ultimately designed the Flatiron.

BPOE Building

The B.P.O.E. Building (1412-14 Cornwall Avenue) was design by William Cox and built in 1912 as a fraternal lodge for the local chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.) in the Beaux Arts/Neo-Classical style. The Elks Club was one of Bellingham’s most prestigious social organizations, with many political and civic leaders as members. The building offered members use of a card room, pool tables, and a three-lane bowling alley. The clubhouse was a place to gather and socialize, but the Elks were also a service organization and contributed many charitable, patriotic, and civic causes, as well as supporting youth activities.