The Census Bureau estimate placed Bellingham's 2003 population at 71,289, and a recent calculation pushes it to 74,770. Residents of Bellingham are often referred to as "Bellinghamsters". The boundaries of the city encompass the former towns of Fairhaven (now home to the southern ferry terminus of the Alaska Marine Highway System), New Whatcom, and others.
The first white settlers reached the area in 1854. In 1858, the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush caused thousands of miners, storekeepers, and scalawags to head north from California. Whatcom grew overnight from a small northwest mill town to a bustling seaport, the basetown for the Whatcom Trail, which led to the Fraser Canyon goldfields, used in open defiance of colonial Governor James Douglas's edict that all entry to the gold colony be made via Victoria, British Columbia.
Coal mining was commonplace near town from the mid 19th–mid 20th centuries. Coal was originally discovered by Henry Roeder off the northeastern shore of Bellingham Bay. In 1854, a group of San Francisco investors established Bellingham Bay Coal Company. The mine extended to hundreds of miles of tunnels as deep as 1200'. It ran southwest to Bellingham Bay, on both sides of Squalicum Creek, an area of about one squre mile. It employed some 250 miners digging over 200,000 tons of coal annually, at its peak in the 1920s. It was closed in 1955.
In the early 1890s, three railroad lines arrived, connecting the bay cities to a nationwide market of builders. The foothills around Bellingham were clearcut after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to help provide the lumber for the rebuilding of San Francisco. In time, lumber and shingle mills sprang up all over the county to accommodate the byproduct of their work.
In 1889, Cornwall and an association of investors formed the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company (BBIC). The BBIC invested in several diverse enterprises such as shipping, coal, mining, railroad construction, real estate sales and utilities. Even though their dreams of turning Bellingham into a Pacific Northwest metropolis never came to fruition, the BBIC made an immense contribution to the economic development of Bellingham..
BBIC was not the only outside firm with an interest in Bellingham utilities. The General Electric Company of New York purchased Bellingham's Fairhaven Line and New Whatcom street rail line in 1897. In 1898 the utility merged into the Northern Railway and Improvement Company which prompted the Electric Corporation of Boston to purchase a large block of shares. Bellingham was officially incorporated on November 4 1903. It was the result of the consolidation of four towns initially situated around Bellingham Bay: Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham, and Fairhaven.
Bellingham's proximity to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and to the Inside Passage to Alaska helped keep some cannery operations here. P.A.F., for example, shipped empty cans to Alaska, where they were packed with fish and shipped back for storage.
The mean annual salary of a wage earner in Bellingham is $37,990, which is below the Washington State average of $44,710.
Adjusted for inflation, wages in Bellingham and Whatcom County have been declining for more than 30 years as service-oriented jobs gain prominence in the local economy, and goods production (mining, construction and manufacturing) decline as a share of total employment. Service oriented jobs now constitute at least 77% of all non-agricultural employment in Whatcom County.
Between 1989 and 1999 median household income grew 41% in Whatcom County while housing costs grew 108% over the same period. In each year 1998-2000 the average wage in Whatcom County was not enough to afford a two-bedroom rental unit.
For the year 2005, the median price of all homes sold in Whatcom County was $259,000 while the median price of homes sold in the Bellingham area was $269,000. This compares with a statewide median home price of $260,900.
There were 27,999 households out of which 23.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.5% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 50.0% were non-families. 33.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the city the population was spread out with 17.7% under the age of 18, 23.8% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 92.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $32,530, and the median income for a family was $47,196. Males had a median income of $35,288 versus $25,971 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,483. About 9.4% of families and 20.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.2% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.
Bellingham's climate is generally mild. The average yearly high and low temperatures are 57 and 41 degrees Fahrenheit (14 and 5 °C), respectively. Although the rainy season can last as long as eight months or more, it is usually about six months long, leaving Bellingham with a picturesque late spring and mild, pleasant summer. Although Bellingham receives an average annual rainfall of 34.8 inches (884 mm), many long weeks of short and cloudy days are commonplace in Winter.
Bellingham's location and geography occasionally subject it to an unusual and harsh weather pattern known locally as a "Nor'Easter." Effectively, an 'inverted' jet stream can drive down cold sub-Arctic air from the Canadian interior, usually through the Fraser River Canyon. This cold air mass can collide with a Gulf of Alaska cold front and create high winds, road ice, snow, or heavy rains. A "Silver Thaw" can result and wind chill equivalents can slide well under . Such an event was recorded on November 28 2006. Outside air temperatures of 12 °F (−11 °C) were accompanied by 30 to 48 mph (48 to 77 km/h) winds with humidity as high as 61%. Wind chill equivalents reached −10 °F (−23 °C) according to NOAA.
Another weather phenomenon, known as the "Chinook wind," happens in the autumn. For most of a day an unusually warm and steady wind comes out of the south. It is essentially a reverse "Nor'Easter." Some film of a "Nor'Easter and a "Chinook" can be seen at this link:
The Bellingham International Airport offers regularly scheduled commuter flights to and from Seattle and Friday Harbor, Washington, and regularly scheduled jet service to Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Reno, Nevada and seasonal service to Palm Springs, California. The airport is home of the first Air and Marine Operations Center, to assist the US Department of Homeland Security with border surveillance.
Bellingham is home to the longest-running Peace vigil in the US. Started by Howard and Rosemary Harris more than 46 years ago, it has seen more than 4 generations. On the corner of Magnolia Street and Cornwall, in front of the Federal Building, every Friday starting at 4pm and lasting until usually about 5pm.
International Day of Peace has been observed for the last four years by hundreds of participants. The event commemorates the United Nations' observance of September 21st as a day for international peace and cease-fire. Participants hold a rally at Maritime Heritage Park, and then marched to an event at First Congregational Church.
The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center was founded in 2002 by local activists, and has been one of the most active such centers in the nation.
City Councilman Terry Bornemann has been a staple of the local activist community, and sponsored the October, 2006 Troops Home! resolution, making Bellingham the first city in the state of Washington to pass the resolution.
Bellingham has seen a resurgence of real-estate development as house prices climb, caused in part by new residents moving in to the community. In order to accommodate this growth, new properties have sprung up all over the city, including the Downtown, Fairhaven, Happy Valley, Cordata, and Barkley neighborhoods. The city has reiterated their commitment to developing a wide range of housing options for all income categories, while retaining the integrity of existing communities. Annexation of surrounding farmland and county wilderness has been kept to a minimum due to public concern for environmental preservation, but several controversies have risen over the city's decisions to counteract the loss of land by allowing taller buildings in the city core, major new development on previously undeveloped land, and a lack of parks and open spaces in some of the more recently developed areas.
The City and Port have entered into a partnership to redevelop the property, which has been unofficially renamed New Whatcom after the township of which the area was originally a part. A general plan for the city's waterfront was developed by the Waterfront Futures Group, and the new Waterfront Advisory Group has been convening to develop a more detailed plan focused on this particular site. The draft plan includes "a new city neighborhood with homes, shops, offices and light industry, as well as parks and promenades, a healthy shoreline habitat along Bellingham Bay..."
Some citizen groups have opposed the Port's plan, most notably the Bellingham Bay Foundation (formed in 2005). During the summer of 2006, the Bellingham Bay Foundation formed People for a Healthy Bay over a concern that many of the areas slated for development contained high mercury levels (as high as 12,500ppm in the soil under the former Chlor-Alkali facility). People for a Healthy Bay launched an initiative that would have required the City of Bellingham to advocate for removal of mercury to the highest practical level. The City successfully sued to keep the initiative off the ballot.
The Washington State Department of Ecology is currently reviewing public comment for the Port's cleanup documents of the Whatcom Waterway.
Ecology will host a second public comment period for the Cleanup Action Plan, at which time the specifics of the cleanup will be discussed and decided. The City of Bellingham and the Port of Bellingham will develop a Master Plan and implement tax-increment financing for the City's portion of funding of infrastructure. Infrastructure alone is expected to cost roughly $200 million. Whatcom County has declined participation in the financing, citing unmet gaps in funding, a lack of benefit to the County, and the need for County taxes to go toward emergency, jail, and mental health services.
|Bellingham Bells||Baseball||West Coast Collegiate Baseball League||Joe Martin Field|
|Bellingham Slam||Basketball||International Basketball League, West Conference||Whatcom Pavilion|
|Bellingham Roller Betties||Roller derby||Independent circuit||Bellingham Sportsplex|
|Bellingham Bulldogs||Football||Evergreen Football League (EFL)||Civic Field|
The people of Bellingham pursue a diverse range of amateur sports, with skiing and snowboarding at the Mount Baker Ski Area popular in the winter and kayaking and cycling in the summer. Mt. Baker claims an unofficial world record for seasonal snowfall, with recorded in the 1998-1999 season.
Western Washington University, located in Bellingham, is home to NCAA Division II National Women's Rowing Champions. Although always nationally ranked, the Lady Vikings, in 2005, became Western's very first NCAA champion team and won again in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Western Washington University also operates a successful collegiate road cycling program that took top-5 positions nationwide at the 2006 nationals.
|Frequency (kHz)||Call Sign||kW (day)||kW (night)||Owner|
|Frequency (mHz)||Call Sign||kW||Owner|
|89.3||KUGS||0.1||Western Washington University|
|91.7||KZAZ||0.12||Washington State University|
|102.3||KMRE-LP||0.1||American Museum of Radio and Electricity|
Bellingham Sister Cities Association is very active in promoting Bellingham's sister city relationships and is very well supported by the community. The relationship with Tateyama, the oldest relationship celebrating it's 50th year in 2008, is the most active and includes regular events such as an annual city hall staff exchange and community cultural visits. Tateyama frequently fields a team for the Ski to Sea race, or at minimum has representation in the Ski to Sea parade.
Bellingham's charter fleet bustling: city increasingly seen as premier starting site for charters into the San Juans, Gulf Islands and Alaska.(Bellingham exploring options for boat slips)
Apr 01, 2005; The economic tides continue to change at Squalicum Harbor. Faced in recent years with a dwindling fishing fleet, Port of...