Downtown Waterfront Bellingham

a history of the waterfront

Bellingham Waterfront 1902

For over 100 years, Bellingham’s waterfront has served the regional economy as a thriving industrial area, transportation gateway and home to many maritime activities. In 1891, the Great Northern Railroad finished an overwater rail trestle across the mud flats on Bellingham’s central waterfront allowing the distribution of goods across a new, nationwide rail network. In the early 1900s, the Whatcom Creek federal waterway was established and silt from the dredged waterway was used as fill along parts of the waterfront.

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a century of commerce

In 1926, Ossian Anderson opened Bellingham’s first pulp mill on the south side of the Whatcom Waterway creating a new economic opportunity for Whatcom County’s extensive timber resources. In the years after, Pacific Coast Paper Mills and Puget Sound Pulp were founded and operated as major employers on the waterfront.

Through the 1930s and ‘40s, the Bellingham waterfront saw major commercial activity and in 1963 one of the world’s largest paper companies, Georgia-Pacific, took over the pulp and tissue mills on the Whatcom Waterway.

Puget Sound Pulp Mill 1926

In its heyday, Georgia-Pacific’s Bellingham operation included the state’s largest ethanol distillery, a research lab and a chlorine plant. Bellingham also held the title as the country’s biggest producer of lignin, a product used for hundreds of industrial applications.

At one time, 1,200 local people were employed by Georgia-Pacific, but times change, and the industry slowly went into decline, finally closing its doors in the 2000s.

After the closure of the pulp mill, the Port of Bellingham purchased the site and began an extensive environmental cleanup. The City committed to long-term investment and agreed to build new streets and services to the site, dedicating land for public parks, waterfront trails and ecological restoration.

The Port and City have partnered to develop a Heritage Trail Concept which includes recommendations on how to showcase historic icons remaining from Georgia-Pacific's pulp and tissue mill.


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the waterfront today


In 2013, the Port entered into an agreement with Harcourt Bellingham LLC. to develop the Downtown Waterfront area,

As of 2019 completed projects include the restoration of the historic Granary Building and Waypoint Park.

Additional projects proposed over the coming years include a hotel, condominiums, commercial retail space, offices, more public parks and greenways.