Learn about the towns of Bellingham
Learn about the early town of Fairhaven
Learn about the early town of Sehome
Learn about the early town of Whatcom
Learn about the early days of Bellingham
Learn about early industry
Learn about people of early Bellingham
Learn about early schools in Bellingham
Learn who created this website

The Early Towns of Bellingham


Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #1196 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Bellingham Bay and waterfront viewed from Sehome Hill, with North Garden Street and the elevated section of Dock Street (now Cornwall Avenue) in the foreground and the Great Northern Railroad tracks curving across the bay. The tracks intersect with elevated sections of "C" and "G" streets. Morrison mill is visible towards the center of the image. undated (1890-1910).

Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #402 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     A view across Bellingham Bay. Bellingham Bay Lumber Company's lumber and planning mill in center. Bellingham City Hall on the right side of the photo. Undated (ca. 1910).




Fairhaven

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Howard Buswell Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

PLAT OF FAIRHAVEN, 1883, Howard Buswell Collection 19-17,  Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     This original plat of Fairhaven was filed for record on January 2, 1883 by Daniel J. Harris, the "Dirty Dan' of local lore and legend. No surveyor is named, so presumably Harris was his own surveyor.
     Although sites for a shipyard and a mill were designated, not a great deal happened around Harris Bay until 1888 when Nelson Bennett arrived and talks began that led eventually to the purchase of the property by Bennett and the setting up of the Fairhaven Land Company. The doubtful promise by James J. Hill of a transcontinental terminus for the Great Northern Railroad brought realtors and entrepreneurs scampering to Fairhaven from all parts of the country, including Boston, New York and San Francisco, and Fairhaven briefly boomed.
     Harris's original plat was later modified, but the proposed arrangement of numbered north-south streets has remained, and of the east-west streets only Columbia is not there today. McKenzie Avenue was singled out for special treatment by Harris, rather than Harris Street (Avenue), which today is the more important thoroughfare; although all other streets were designed to be 80 feet in width, McKenzie was to be 100 feet.

Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

"BIRD'S EYE VIEW" MAP OF FAIRHAVEN, 1890 Galen Biery Collection, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Like many such drawings, this bird's eye view of Fairhaven in 1890 uses a degree of artistic license -- particularly in regard to the somewhat overstressed commercial and industrial activity. At the same time, it gives a fine picture of the layout of the streets, houses, major buildings and other structures, as well as showing clearly the undulating topography of the town.
     Particularly noteworthy is the then just-completed Fairhaven Hotel on Harris Avenue, the busy row of tidewater industries and the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad line. Although claiming a population of close to 6,000, according to the 1890 Census Fairhaven had only 4,369 inhabitants, considerably fewer than the number for Whatcom.

Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #1184 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     View east down Harris Avenue in Fairhaven from atop the hill that once blocked passage to Poe's Point (Post Point), undated (ca. 1890-1900).




Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #513 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     View down Harris Avenue from the intersection of 13th Street, with the National Bank Building, Mason Block and Market Place to the left, and the Fairhaven Hotel on the far right. Undated (ca. 1890-1910)



Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #1394 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Fairhaven Hotel, ca. 1909.













Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #1399 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Looking north at intersection of Harris and 11th streets, in "South Bellingham". On the far right is the northeast corner of the Blonden Block, across Harris is the Sandwith Building and the Knights of Pythias building (now Village Books). The building behind the double-horse-cart is the Thistle Building, home of the Thistle Opera House. Ca. 1890-1900.

Sehome

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Howard Buswell Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

PLAT OF SEHOME, 1858 Howard Buswell Collection26-1 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     This Sehome plat carries the designation number one of volume one of Whatcom County plats. It was filed for record a century and a quarter ago on May 8, 1858, on behalf of E.G. Fitzhugh (superintendent of the Bellingham Bay Coal Company), C.C. Vail and James Tilton, the owners of the property, which covered much of the Vail and Fitzhugh donation claims. The surveying was undertaken by Captain W.W. DeLacey, civil engineer, who a few months later was engaged in the clearing of the Whatcom Trail across the county to the Fraser River gold workings.
     None of the street names have survived. Front Street is now Railroad Avenue; Main Street is State Street; and Washington and Jackson are Forest and Garden Streets respectively. The cross streets leading down to the shoreline were to be named for local and state personages, including Territorial Governor Isaac Ingals Stevens and Captain (later General) George Pickett. Today all these streets carry the names of common tree: Maple, Pine, Chestnut, Laurel, etc. It should be noted also that the 80-feet wide streets, though on a rectangular grid, are not aligned with the township/range survey, then in the early stages of its bottom righthand corner of the map.
     Growth of the town was slow, and before steady development came in the late 1880s a number of amendments were made to the original plat, the most important of them being the 1883 plat of New Whatcom initiated by P.B. Cornwall.

Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #553, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Sehome, Washington, 1889. View of Elk (now State) Street. Photograph taken by E.A. Hegg."







Whatcom

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Bellingham Bay Improvement Company Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

WHATCOM & SEHOME, 1883 Bellingham Bay Improvement Company Records, 9-1 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Although entitled "Map of the Town of New Whatcom," this is a map of both Whatcom and Sehome, the latter of which is 1883 was renamed New Whatcom by P.B. Cornwall. The map, prepared for the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company, was signed by Pierre Cornwall, its president. No surveyor is given -- conceivably it was E.C. Prather, engineer of the company -- but I.A. Lafevre is named as draftsman. The land holdings of the company, which included most of the Vail and Fitzhugh donation claims, were considerable. The holdings are indicated, but as these were hand colored on the original map they are not easily discernible in this reproduction.
     Features that might be noted on the map are the newer plats developed on a north-south, east-west grid, and the platted tidelands that carry the original grids of Sehome and Whatcom out into the bay.
     No plat that would tie the main streets of the two towns had as yet been proposed for the area left blank just south of Whatcom Creek. Today this is where the Post Office, the Whatcom County Courthouse, Bellingham City Hall and other public buildings now stand. The proposed Liberty Park between Ohio and Kentucky Streets and a few blocks east of the present Bellingham High School was never developed. The Sehome Wharf had become the New Whatcom Wharf, and a second wharf called the Coal Wharf built. The railroad rights-of-way were still to be negotiated, but various pieces of land were reserved for railroad purposes.

Howard Buswell Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

"BIRD'S EYE VIEW" MAP OF WHATCOM, 1889, Buswell Collection 886, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     During the later nineteenth century it became the fashion throughout North America to commission "bird's eye view" maps as a means of encouraging interest in the community and of boosting investment. Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane were each depicted in this way a number of times during the 1880s and 1890s. Parts of the Bellingham Bay area were treated in at least three bird's eye views, all of which are reproduced in this volume.
     In this view of Whatcom the dominant feature is the Colony Wharf. The central business district is shown around the intersection of 13th (West Holly) and C Streets. Along the water's edge many of the buildings are on pilings, as a few still are to this day. Broadway shows up well, and near the intersection of Broadway and 13th is the original St. Paul's Episcopal Church, which is now in use as the church hall. Other churches can be seen in the map, including the First Baptist Church, which like St. Paul's celebrates its centennial as a congregation this year (1983). The old courthouse is visible on E Street, and also Elizabeth Park just north of Broadway. Many houses that are still standing can be readily identified.

Jeffcott Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

"BIRD'S EYE VIEW" MAP OF WHATCOM & SEHOME, 1889, Jeffcott Collection 1322, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     The best known of the three bird's eye view maps of the bay area is probably this view of Whatcom and Sehome. The drawing looks southward from Whatcom across Sehome to Fairhaven, and both Lake Whatcom and Mount Baker are visable. 
     The drawing was the work of James T. "Jimmy" Pickett, a talented artist and the half-Lummi son of Captain (later General) George Pickett. Young Pickett returned to the area in 1888 and on April 19, 1889, the Whatcom Reveille reproduced a double-page engraving of the drawing. Below is the description given by the Reveille:
As you sit facing the picture, you see Fairhaven and the Bennett railroad, coal bunkers, hotel and sawmill on the extreme right margin; to the left of this, observe the Bellingham wharf, hotel and sawmill; a little further to the left, the Sehome coal bunkers, large new sawmill, wharf and railroad leading to the coal mines and to the Lake Whatcom timber country . . . At the edge of the woods on the creek the flows to Whatcom from the lake, observe the machine shops of the B.B. and B.C. Railway Company. Over the first timbered hills beyond this, is the famous valley of the south Fork of the Nooksack River . . . The long wharf reaches out from the Whatcom sawmill, owned by Bennett, and the tramwayand engine are used in transportation out to the warehouse. The other wharf, farther to the left, reaches out from Broadway, and the Canfield railway and train can be seen along the waterfront coming in from New Westminster. In the lower corner of the cut, the Bennett mill and Whatcom waterpower are shown . . .


Howard Buswell Collection: Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Howard Buswell Collection #544 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     View of Whatcom, looking towards Sehome, 1887.






PR Jeffcott Collection: Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Jeffcott Collection #218, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Town of Whatcom looking from Sehome; a lumber mill is in the foreground, ca. 1889.





Howard Buswell Collection: Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Howard Buswell Collection #546 Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Holly Street in New Whatcom, July 4, 1899, showing the Post Office and the Sunset Block on the corner of Dock (Cornwall) street, with streetcar and overhead power and phone lines also visible.



Bellingham

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Howard Buswell Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

PLAT OF BELLINGHAM, Buswell Collection 14-13, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     Austin and Shepard were the surveyors of the town of Bellingham, for which a plat was filed for record on April 24, 1883, on behalf of Edward and Theresa Eldridge, the owners of the property. Located on the Morrison and Pattle donation claims -- note the misspelling of Pattle -- the town of Bellingham was never incorporated, and it remained, until joined with Fairhaven in 1890, the smallest of the four Bellingham Bay settlements.
     The grid is a north-south, east-west one, with north being to the left, rather than as usual the top of the the map. Front Street today is the Boulevard, and all the north-south, as well as many of the east-west streets, apart from Douglas, Fillmore, Taylor and Adams, have been renamed.

Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #143, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     View of South Bellingham from near 10th and Bennet streets, with Earles mill to center left, and Pacific American Fisheries in the background. November, 1895.





Galen Biery Collection:  Center for Pacific NW Studies Western Washington University

Galen Biery Collection #605, Center for Pacific NW Studies, WWU

     The Bellingham Hotel, built in the first settlement of Bellingham, north of Fairhaven, undated (ca. 1890-1910).







Selected maps and captions are from the book Whatcom County in Maps: 1832-1937 by James W.Scott and Daniel E. Turbeville III.