Monday, January 5th, 2015
Walking through historic Old Town Bellingham
Todd Elsworth

I enjoy reading about the history of Bellingham to have an understanding of what I’m looking at as I tromp through town. My reading is complemented by an even more hands-on (or should I say feet?) approach to learning- actually getting out and exploring the historical trails that are easily accessible for walkers, runners and bikers alike. Click on Trail Map for PDF.

The City of Bellingham offers multiple historical routes for you to make your way through old neighborhoods, along with the waterfront or through the Fairhaven District. We chose The Old Village Trail as a brief introduction to the foundation of Bellingham’s history. The historic trail connects downtown’s Maritime Heritage Park with Elizabeth Park.

We started at the “trailhead” next to the Perry Center for Fisheries and Aquaculture Sciences at Maritime Heritage Park to begin our journey. The trail leads up the hill as you are guided by the signature brown posts with yellow stripes.


The path leads you to where George Pickett (of later Confederate Civil War fame) had lived before his famous failed charge at Gettysburg seven years later. The house sits atop what was then called Peabody Hill. As you walk up the path, look to the south for peekaboo views of the waterfront and Sehome Hill in the distance.


“The Pickett House is the oldest house in the city of Bellingham, Washington, located at 910 Bancroft Street. Built in 1856 by United States Army Captain George Pickett, who later became a prominent general in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.” – Wikipedia, The Pickett House.


From the Pickett House, you can continue your journey to Elizabeth Park– the gateway to the popular Columbia Neighborhood and the adjacent architecturally rich homes on Eldridge Drive. With our appetite whetted for historical buildings, we made the loop and set our eyes on the next historical landmark. The Washington Territorial Court House was built just two years after Pickett’s House up the hill.

Located amidst an active industrial area, the sign at 1308 E Street reads, “Washington State’s oldest brick building, built in 1858 with bricks made in Philadelphia and shipped around Cape Horn. Erected as a combination store, Commission House and Bank during the Frasier River Gold Rush…Served as Whatcom County Court House until 1891.” It sits tucked in between the hustle and bustle of local recycling companies busy operations.


These landmarks are great conduits for further exploration of the history of Bellingham and the Old Village Trail is a theme that ties them together.

Content from City of Bellingham:
OLD VILLAGE TRAIL TRAIL DESCRIPTION: “This urban trail through the Lettered Streets neighborhood is sometimes shared with traffic entering driveways and private property. The trail connects Old Town with Elizabeth Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Please keep your dogs on a leash along this busy, urban trail.

TRAILHEADS: North access at Broadway St. South access and parking lot at
Maritime Heritage Park.

MILEAGE: 0.5 miles from Broadway St. to Maritime Heritage Park

For the bigger picture print the Trail Map- PDF and use the legend below to guide yourself and your learning as you get out there and explore Bellingham’s history.

Several historical landmarks located in Downtown Bellingham are shown on this

Map Legend
1. Territorial Courthouse (a.k.a. Richards Building) (1858, NRHP)
2. Pickett House (1856, NRHP)
3. First Congregational Church (c. 1902)
4. Immanuel School of Industries (1906, NRHP)
5. Lottie Roth Block (1890, NRHP)
6. Great Northern Freight Depot (1905)
7. Great Northern Passenger Depot (1927, NRHP)
8. Andall Building (1913)
9. Waterfront Tavern (c. 1910)
10. New Whatcom City Hall (1892-93, NRHP)
11. Salmon Woman Totem Pole (2000)
12. Bellingham City Hall (1939)
13. Whatcom County Railway & Light Power Station (1908-1912)
14. Elizabeth Park (1906)
15. Aftermath Club (1904, NRHP)

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About the Author:

As the co-Executive Director of Recreation Northwest and the founder of the Bellingham Traverse, Todd promotes outdoor recreation and brings people together to enjoy, preserve and improve the places where we play. He enjoys biking, hiking, paddling, skiing and will try anything twice. Get connected at

1 Comment »

  1. great article coming up in march to visit and possibly move will take some of the walks melody

    Comment by melody butcher — January 11, 2015 @ 12:47 pm

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