a history of the waterfront
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.
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.
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.
the waterfront today
In 2013, the Port entered into an agreement with Harcourt Bellingham LLC. to develop the Downtown Waterfront area,
As of 2018, Harcourt has completed the restoration of the historic Granary Building, waterfront walkway and children’s playground
Additional projects proposed over the coming years include a hotel, apartments and additional public parks and greenways.
To download Harcourt’s Vision Plan for Bellingham’s Waterfront click here