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."
Here is a walking tour of several blocks of downtown Bellingham. First go to Old Town Cafe on Holly for breakfast. When you're done, step outside and peruse the aisles of assorted vintage items at nearby Antique shops. Then head to Mindport, also on Holly, for a fun gallery experience. Other shops on Holly that you can wander to are Blue Moon - vintage clothing, Paris Texas - a small unique boutique, Hemp Emporium - yup, hemp products. Further up there's Green House, an upscale home decor shop with furniture, kitchen items, and more. For lunch, go to Mallard's and get some tasty affordable soup,, and then a scoop of delicious ice cream. Now head down Railroad to visit some of the interesting shops. Buy some tasty handmade chocolates at the cosy little Sweetart candy shop. Turn down Magnolia Street. There are a few shops here as well, including Zephyr for hippyish gifts, Downtown Emporium for imported clothes and gifts, and a little shop across the street that also sells imported items. Keep going until you hit Bay Street, and there you'll find the American Museum of Radio and Electricity. After learning about Tesla and other geniuses, head down Prospect Street and visit the Whatcom Museum, lots to look at there, as well as at their ARCO Exhibits Building, Syre Education Center, and Children's Museum. Once you've had your fill of learning, take a walk through Maritime Heritage Park, and you'll most likely wind up back at your car. For dinner, walk or drive over to La Fiamma on Railroad for some wood fired pizza and rosemary sweetened lemonade. If you still want more activity, try Mount Baker Theater, Pickford Cinema, Idiom Theater, or Upfront Theater for local entertainment. And for a classy end to it, go to Nimbus in Bellingham Tower for dessert and a panoramic view of the city.
Fondest memory: Remember this is just one small area of town you've just explored, there are many more things to do on other days if you've got the time.
Saunter along the waterfront from downtown's industrial playgrounds into gentrified Fairhaven to watch the sun melt into the bay while throwing rocks into the periwinkle waters.
An empty fifth of whiskey makes a good target for you and your good friend.
Fondest memory: Youth. Give me youth.