By at least 1930, a spur track for the Northern Pacific Railroad ran down the alley between North State Street and Railroad Avenue, servicing warehouse loading docks on Railroad and commercial buildings fronting North State Street. As a result of these rail links, development along Railroad Avenue was predominantly machinery shops, repair shops, grocery warehouses, agricultural supply companies, and other types of manufacturing and commercial enterprises. Most of the historic buildings along Railroad Avenue date from the years 1900-1915 or later. North State Street had automobile-related businesses by the second decade of the 20th century, with more appearing in the following years. As early as the 1920s, North State Street was attracting offices and depots for bus lines. In 1925, North State had a depot for “auto stages,” or buses. By that time, there were at least two bus services running from Bellingham. In the post-war era, customers primarily arrived downtown by automobile, which was changing the streetscape. Buildings of this era, particularly in the late 1950s and 1960s, were often auto-oriented, evidenced by drive-through windows and increase in surface parking around the building. These later buildings were typically set back farther from the street than their predecessors, occupying sometimes irregular footprints. Parking meters had been installed in 1948, supported by merchants who wanted to keep parking fluid to increase the number of customers. However, this created a disincentive effect for downtown shoppers. As the auto-centric culture became well established, consumers relied on more parking than curb-side spaces could supply and parking lots became a desirable feature. State Street was particularly affected: as older buildings were torn down or destroyed by fire, they were replaced by parking lots. Self-service businesses such as supermarkets, sold a larger variety of goods and required more space to house greater inventories.36 Stores moved outside of downtown, as they could occupy more square footage and provide larger parking lots.
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