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Bellingham

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New Whatcom City Hall, 121 Prospect Street, Bellingham, Whatcom County, WA



See 33 maps of this location


B&W Photos

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Data Pages


Photo Caption Pages


Item Title


Location
121 Prospect Street, Bellingham, WA

Find maps of Bellingham, WA


Created/Published
Documentation compiled after 1933.

Notes
Survey number HABS WA-22
Building/structure dates: 1892 initial construction
Building/structure dates: 1962 subsequent work
Significance: The New Whatcom City Hall building is historically significant as a symbol of its community's past and the ideas, actions and philosophies of its builders. It is architecturally significant as one of the few remaining examples of late Victorian public buildings that have been left in relatively original condition in its area. For these reasons the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 8, 1970. Built in 1892, during the last years of the Victorian era the building was the center of the boom and bust times often common to newly settled areas of the American west. The first settlers reached Bellingham Bay in 1852, and others followed soon after them, but when the New Whatcom City Hall was built, the area around the bay was still a cluster of little towns, all seeking to outdo each other in growth and economic expansion. The western terminus of several intercontinental railroads had bypassed them. Coal, timber and fishing were the remaining large industries in the area, and with the labor force this attracted, New Whatcom was a raw town, experiencing waves of boom and bust with every rumor of new industrial interest. The construction of the city hall was a major achievement during the "civilizing" of the area, and was the building where important plans were made concerning the future of this "fourth corner" of the State of Washington. The building was indeed more than an achievement, it was a symbol of the hoped for growth and prosperity of the town. New Whatcom's city council on January 15, 1892 stated of the location and building: "This is a beautiful central location, convenient and in full view of the entire city. This location with this building constructed thereon would be the first attraction of strangers coming into our harbor and a sure index to all newcommers, tourists and travellers of our taste, thrift, enterprise and intelligence." and that the building would be "elaborate, expensive and elegant in design." They further indicated that it "would be a great credit and ornament to the city." As such the building testifies to the expansion hopes of the young community. It was, and continues to be a manifestation of the ideas and ideals of western towns and their leaders during a period of competitive growth and development. As an architectural structure the building has retained or been restored near to its original 1892 external appearance. It continues active use as a well maintained, structurally sound building. Designed by a local, self-taught architect (as was typical of many smaller communities at the time) it reflects the eclectic Victorian style prominent in the West in the 1890's. It is a unique, yet fine example of small city late-Victorian public architecture and one of the few remaining examples in the area.

Subjects
Municipal Government
Brick Buildings
City & Town Halls


Related Names
Lee, Alfred


Collection
Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress)

Contents
Photograph caption(s): 
1. Elevated view from the east
2. Elevated view from the southeast
3. Elevated view from the south/southeast
4. Ground level view from the south
5. Front entrance detail from the northeast
6. Interior,first floor corridor looking towards entrance
7. Interior,newell post and balustrade,2nd floor
8. Interior,rotunda room (originally City Council Chamber)
9. Photocopy of 1964 restoration blueprint of street front elevation, from northeast,courtesy of Whatcom Museum of History and Art
10. Photocopy of c. 1893 photo, building just completed,view from south, photographer unknown,courtesy of Whatcom Museum of History and Art
11. Photocopy of c.1900 photo of interior,photographer unknown,courtesy of Whatcom Museum of History and Art


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