For those who grew up in Bellingham or have called it home for many years, it seems the landscape constantly shifts with us. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and one year away in graduate school, I’ve appreciated how quickly things change. I typically write history articles on the distant past, so I thought: What about the history of landmarks we’ve all seen come and go?

For this article, I surveyed WhatcomTalk readers on former Bellingham spots they remember with nostalgia. Their anecdotes ranged from the 1950s to the present, revealing an impressive picture of “Subdued Excitement” over decades of collective memory.


Bellingham’s landmark rocket at 306 West Holly Street survives the popular Rocket Donuts (2019). They offered retro sci-fi décor, coffee and Acme Ice Cream, and legendary maple bacon donuts. Those of us who attended Bellingham High anytime between 2011 and 2018 remember the sugar high of visiting Johnny’s Donuts before class.

Soon after Rocket Donuts closed, the Lanny Little mural of Old Town Bellingham had to be replaced due to damage. The landmark rocket was refurbished in 2021 with a new mural by artists Bobbie Torres and Ivan Collin. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

One of my earliest childhood memories of a restaurant was having fish and chips with Jell-O at Skippers (1825 Grant Street). Skippers Seafood & Chowder continues throughout Washington, and the building hosted Stampadoodle Paper Café from 2007 to 2019 — when it became CorePhysio.

I also fondly remember Memphis Style Barbeque at 2400 Meridian Street (now Diamond Jim’s Grill). Since its 2011 closure, few other restaurants have offered Southern-style favorites like barbeque meatballs, hushpuppies, and fried okra.

Popular restaurants such as Homeskillet on Kentucky Street and Fat Pie and Zane Burger in Fairhaven have closed, though landmarks — Homeskillet’s “Velveeta Jones” chicken statue and Zane’s car — survive. Casa Que Pasa, Diego’s, and Bandito’s Burritos were among popular Mexican restaurants that have closed.

“Velveeta Jones,” has outlived the Homeskillet restaurant, which closed in 2019. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Readers also reminisce about older fast food such as Herfy’s Burger, Shakey’s Pizza, Winn Drive-In, Morrie’s Drive-In, Barter’s Drive-In, and Billy McHale’s.

And Sadighi’s on Lakeway closed in 2020, leaving no answers to the amusing conspiracy theories that cropped up around the eatery for many years.


For “2000s kids,” Tube Time (1522 Cornwall Avenue) was the place to be. This play-place featured tube mazes, ball pits, pizza, arcade games, and a frog jester mascot. (And all the associated hygiene issues, to hear my parents tell it.) From 2005 to 2018, grocery store Terra Organica operated in the block (now an emergency homeless shelter) — installing a Pike Place-inspired “Public Market” sign.

Many readers wrote in about Bellingham’s drive-in movie theaters. One recalls “sneaking friends in the trunk!” at the 1972 Samish Twin Drive-In as a high schooler in the 1980s. The 1948 Motor-Vu Theatre, 1953 Moonlite Drive-In, and 1961 Holiday Drive-In Theatre have also vanished. More recently, Regal Barkley Village has replaced theaters at Bellis Fair Mall and Sunset Square.

The Samish Twin Drive-In lot has been a Western Washington University park-and-ride since 2006. Photo credit: Wes Gannaway

As the age of VHS declined, Crazy Mike’s Video (1066 Lakeway Drive) remarkably survived the local Blockbuster and Hollywood Video until closing in 2018.

Readers also recall Mead’s Rolladium (1953-1972) in the 1910 Bellingham Armory building, where national roller hockey champions the Bellingham Bruins practiced. Since writing my feature on the Armory’s history, it’s become Armory Pickleball.

Former museums include Gordy Tweit’s Fairhaven Pharmacy, Whatcom Children’s Museum, and Bellingham Railway Museum (covered in another of my articles).

Art and Architecture

Bellingham’s art enthusiasts fondly remember the 2010s “Alley District”: several bohemian businesses between State Street and Railroad Avenue. The Hub, Plantas Nativa, Positive Negative Photography Center, The Green Frog tavern, and art galleries featured vibrant murals and folk art. These businesses moved or closed during apartment developments in 2018.

Bellingham’s Alley District started at Depot Market Square (where artisans and makers still present their wares at Bellingham Farmers Market) and ended at South Bay Trail. It was a creative hotspot between Downtown and Fairhaven. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Another art district, “Bird Alley,” tragically went up in flames with two historic pet stores and several animals inside. Hohl’s Feed and Seed (1911) and Clark’s Feed and Seed (1908) featured murals of over 80 birds by Shawn Cass (“Ruckas”) and one by Ryan “Henry” Ward. Hohl’s burned in February 2019, Clark’s that July alongside Avalon Records.

Bird Alley and the historic Feed and Seed buildings were a major loss to the community, and the lots still await new uses. I remember the smoke from the second fire turning the sky orange around town. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

As one reader writes, “Artist Lanny Little had painted a number of detailed murals in Bellingham’s downtown and only a handful survive.” The Rocket Donuts, Parkade, Henderson’s Books, and Crown Plaza murals have disappeared.

Bellingham’s parks have gained and lost iconic features over the years. Bloedel-Donovan Park’s 1918 H.K. Porter steam locomotive moved to Snoqualmie’s Northwest Railway Museum in 2019. Fairhaven Park’s 92-year-old archway was demolished in 2017.

When Bloedel-Donovan Park’s train moved to Northwest Railway Museum in 2017, it had incurred damage from lichen growth and vandalism that the museum worked to restore. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

One reader recalls Citizens Dock on Roeder Avenue: a 1913 maritime terminal slated for a heritage site before its 1986 collapse.

Schools such as Sehome High, Shuksan Middle, and Sunnyland Elementary have been remodeled in recent decades. Whatcom Middle School’s “Waste Not Thy Hour” façade survived the 2009 fire, but I’ll never forget our “Too Hot to Handle” T-shirts and the top-floor graffiti wall a staff member let us sign.

Whatcom Middle School’s “Waste Not Thy Hour” façade survived a 2009 fire. Photo credit: Stacee Sledge


Many readers felt nostalgic for department stores of the ’60s and ’70s, particularly the escalator at JC Penney’s and Woolworths. Bon Marche famously featured “Mile High Strawberry Pie.”

“I remember school shopping as a child — late 1950s, early 60s,” one reader wrote. “My dad would be sitting in a comfortable chair in The Bon, smoking a cigarette and reading the Herald. My mom would endlessly search for what she thought I needed. If I was good, we’d stop in their little cafeteria and buy me ice cream. A great memory!”

Chain stores and restaurants that readers miss include Sears, Nordstrom, Denny’s, and Baskin-Robbins. In 2007, Trader Joe’s replaced local grocery Red Apple. Fountain Drugstore and Galleria hosted Fountain Bakery and my favorite toy store as a child.

While it’s sad to see cultural mainstays go, the reminder of good times past will carry us through good times to come.

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