Port of Bellingham
Review and History

The Port of Bellingham is the seat of Whatcom County in northwestern Washington State in the United States. Located about 82 nautical miles north of the Port of Seattle, it is located on Bellingham Bay it the northern Puget Sound on the Whatcom Creek. To the east of the Port of Bellingham is Mount Baker, and to the south are the Chuckanut Mountains and Skagit Valley. In 2000, over 67 thousand people lived in the Port of Bellingham, and over 166 thousand called the metropolitan area home.

In the past, the local Port of Bellingham economy thrived on manufacturing, construction, and mining. However, over the past 30 years, the local economy has declined as it shifted to the service sector. The Port of Bellingham suffers a lower average annual wage than other cities in the State of Washington, and relatively higher prices.

Port History

The Port of Bellingham got its name from the bay upon which it rests. George Vancouver came to the area in 1792, naming the bay he found after Sir William Bellingham. White settlers did not reach the region until 1854.

In 1858, gold was discovered in Fraser Canyon near the Port of Bellingham, bringing thousands of people from California, and the town grew tremendously over a very short time. What had been a small mill town quickly became a busy seaport and the gateway to the Fraser Canyon gold fields.

In the latter 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Port of Bellingham became a coal mining center. The Bellingham Bay Coal Company was established by San Francisco investors in 1854. The mine eventually contained hundreds of deep tunnels running to the Bay of Bellingham. Peaking in the 1920s, the Port of Bellingham mines kept 250 miners busy producing 200 tons of coal a year until it closed in 1955.

The Port of Bellingham was incorporated in 1903 when four smaller towns on Bellingham Bay were consolidated. Whatcom, the Port of Bellingham's Old Town, was founded in 1852. In the downtown area was Sehome, which was founded in 1854. Fairhaven, a large commercial district and harbor, was founded in 1853. Bellingham, which was located further south, was incorporated in 1853.

Three railroads came to the Port of Bellingham in the early 1890s that connected the towns on the Bay to the national builders' market. The nearby foothills were for lumber to rebuild the city of San Francisco after the world famous 1906 earthquake, and many shingle and lumber sprang up to process the lumber.

Pierre Cornwall and investors created the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company in 1889 with the dream of making the Port of Bellingham a major metropolitan center. While their dreams were never realized, the company made significant contributions to the area's economic development. The Port of Bellingham's proximity to Alaskan ports stimulated the growth of some cannery operations in the area.

With modern rail connections and harbor infrastructure and facilities, the timber industry grew in the Port of Bellingham along with fish canneries and builders of pleasure boats. The Port of Bellingham a gateway to the nearby San Juan Islands in Bellingham Bay and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

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