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Only a few of the buildings in downtown Bellingham still bear historic business’ names. However, as National Register of Historic Places nominations show, most buildings have proper names waiting to be discovered.

Bellingham’s National Register includes locations covered in WhatcomTalk articles on our block buildings, historic homes, and clubhouses. But even unpreserved buildings that are still in use have storied pasts.

Residential

The John Trede Home (111 Central Ave.) is named for its first owner, the contractor who built Fairhaven Carnegie Library in 1904.

Gilbert Flats (201-03 N. Commercial St.) was named for its first owner in 1906, dentist Dr. O.C. Gilbert. Before becoming Avalon Apartments, it included modern features such as door-opening buttons and speaking tubes.

The S. Edgar Booker House (210 N. Commercial St.) was named for its contractor-owner in 1900, and the Arthur F. Fuller House (214 N. Commercial St.) for the Bellingham Hardware treasurer in 1902. Both became boarding houses in the 1930s and escaped the demolition of many other area Victorian-style houses to accommodate Mount Baker Theatre and the Bellingham Hotel.

Commercial

The 1909 Northwest Hardware Company building (215 W. Holly St.) is also called Knight Block for original proprietor Frank H. Knight. It still bears the “Bellingham Hardware” ghost sign.

Bellingham’s oldest buildings have multiple businesses operating throughout their different storefronts as before, but many of them opt to keep historic features. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

The 1902 Clover Block (201-07 W. Holly St.) gets its name (and clover-shaped aerial view) from Washington’s Poet Laureate Ella Higginson, who wrote “Four-Leaf Clover” and married the building’s investor, R.C. Higginson.

The Kirkpatrick or Douglas Building (1401-15 Commercial St.), named for previous owners, hosted American Reveille and became the Bellingham Herald’s original home before construction of the Herald Building in 1926.

The 1959 Woolworths and J.C. Penney Company building (1304-20 Cornwall Ave.) merged with the 1911 Ford’s Retail Butter Store (1309-11 Cornwall Ave.) to form a department store nostalgic among locals for its escalator.

The Horseshoe Café (111 E. Holly St.) has operated since 1886 and moved to its present location — formerly the Bell Theater movie house from 1908 to 1922) — in 1958.

The 1907 Dahlquist Building (1311-13 N. State St.) started with Thomas S. Dahlquist’s Bellingham Bay Grocery Company. Later tenants included the Mullin Hotel and Antler Apartments, whose names are still visible on the second-floor façade, even after a 1976 fire.

Many of Bellingham’s oldest buildings were residences or hotels in addition to other businesses on the first floor. Dahlquist Building’s Hotel Mullin and Antler Apartments became Antlers Hotel in 1926. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

The Beschart Building (1315 N. State St.) started with father and son Joseph and Herman Beschart, who operated the William Tell Bar from 1902 until Bellingham’s 1910 Local Option on Prohibition. The family lived above, turning it into a billiards room.

Bellingham Auditorium and Roller Skating Rink (1411 N. State St.) opened in 1930 and housed Fentron Steel Works through World War II.

Organizations

Whatcom Family YMCA has had two historic locations: the 1906 building (311 E. Holly St.), which later hosted the International Order of Odd Fellows, and the Exchange Building (1248-60 N. State St.). The latter, named for the New York Stock Exchange, hosted numerous businesses before the YMCA moved there in 1942.

The former YMCA building stands just across the street from the current one, which served businesses such as butchers and Henry Hotel before the YMCA moved in. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Bingham Service Parlors (120 Prospect St.) started as a mortuary in 1919 until the Bellingham Theatre Guild occupied it from 1936 to 1942. Today it’s an apartment building.

Whatcom Museum acquired the 1909 Diehl & Simpson Ford (206 Prospect St.) and 1927 Engine House No. 1 (201 Prospect St.) buildings, originally an auto dealership and Fire Department respectively.

The Masonic Temple or Scottish Rites Hall (1101 N. State St.) has hosted Freemason gatherings since 1905. It is Bellingham’s only building constructed in the Egyptian Revival style.

“Tulip City” Bellingham

The 1928 Public Comfort Station (109 W. Champion St.) was among several developments built during Bellingham’s Tulip Festival to serve as public restrooms.

The Zobrist Building (1415-17 Cornwall Ave.) gets its name from Peter Zobrist’s Van Wyck Dairy, the original business that opened there in 1915. By the 1920s, numerous fraternal organizations meeting there dubbed it “Tulip Hall” for Bellingham’s “Tulip City” reputation.

The 1912 Holly-Bay-Prospect Building (1300-04 Bay St.) — alternatively called the Breier Building — is named for its streets and the C.J. Breier Company. It had many early tenants, but none as infamous as the Bellingham Ku Klux Klan — which the J.J. Donovan-led cabinet had barred from entering the Tulip Festival parade in 1926.

Some historic buildings downtown, and many houses in the Eldridge District, bear modern signage with their names and years of origin. Photo credit: Anna Diehl

Transit

Bellingham Public Market (1400 Cornwall Ave.) operated from 1916 to 1957, conveniently located for the streetcar but not for the parking meters that were added in 1948 after supermarkets replaced it.

The Milwaukee Road Depot (200 E. Chestnut St.) and 1911 Northern Pacific Depot (205 E. Magnolia St.) previously served the railways. The latter is now Bellingham Station and still has railroad spur tracks behind it.

Puget Sound Power operated Bellingham’s streetcar via many buildings under its name, including the 1922 Union Depot (1322-24 N. State St.) and today’s Construction Supply Company buildings.

Lodging

The 1903 Windsor Hotel (1212-22 N. State St.), 1905 Helena Hotel (1313-15 Railroad Ave.), and 1907 Cottage Hotel (201 E. Chestnut St.) helped cement Bellingham’s reputation as a “hotel city” for traveling salesmen. They saw off its “wild west” era: the Cottage Hotel owner was arrested for violating a construction ordinance, and the Helena building saw a gunfight between police and robbers in 1920 after becoming Charles Stanbra’s Gun Store.

The 1929 Cissna Apartment Hotel (300-08 W. Champion St.) and 1930 Bellingham Hotel (119 N. Commercial St.) were considered the first “modern” hotels, each holding nearly 100 rooms by the start of the Depression. The latter is Bellingham’s tallest building at 157 feet.

Some of these buildings will be protected and others will disappear, but all currently stand in testament to downtown Bellingham’s living history.

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