Quirky Wall Art Reveals a Quirky Town
Bellingham has always been one of my favorite small cities in Washington State -- mainly because of its population of artists and university students, a century-old somewhat decadent downtown, and a gentrified historic district. Some of this quirkiness is seen in its public wall art -- and here are a few examples from the downtown area, which reflect this town' s history, its symbolic heritage, and its laid-back attitude.
To welcome you to downtown, there's nothing like an old-fashioned Coke (photo #1). This mural is plastered across the side-facade of the 1890's Lottie Roth Apartment Building, 1100 West Holly Street. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a fascinating history. It was built by local sandstone quarry owner Charles Roth in 1890, while he was supplying his suddenly-valuable sandstone to rebuild Seattle, which had burned to the ground. The new Seattle Pioneer Square was being built in a Romanesque style from his sandstone, a style which he now replicated in this Bellingham building.
For a more symbolic interpretation of the Pacific Northwest (photo #2), here's a mural near the Whatcom Historical Museum on Prospect Steet, which contains nearly all the iconic images of the Northwest. A large salmon of mythical proportions is surrounded by Native Americans, canoes, Wild West settlers shown logging, fishing, and displaying a musket, and in the far background, the dramatic snow-covered silhouette of Mt. Baker. This one bears study up-close for the fineness of its detail. It was painted by East Los Streetscapers, a collaborative studio for public art that designs "culturally relevant and architecturally compatible" street art.
The true laid-back attitude of contemporary Bellingham is best shown in this street-motto near the museum (photo #3): "Bellingham, Washington -- The City of Subdued Excitement."