At the turn of the 20th century, Bellingham was a new city bustling with gold prospectors, immigrants, coal miners, and investors seeking opportunity in shipping, mining, railroad construction, and real estate. Architecture blossomed with buildings and houses mostly fashioned in the distinctly ornate and innovative style of the Victorian Era.
While craft beer is now more of a commercial commodity than gold in Bellingham, grand antique homes still stand as nostalgic relics of an era long-gone and a history founded on adventure-seekers.
Below are a few of Bellingham’s most notable historic homes—
“The most famous house in Bellingham”, as dubbed by many locals, Eldridge Chateau is a 3,700-square-foot house on 2.2 acres, with four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a panoramic view of Bellingham Bay and islands.
Some of the original founders of Bellingham, Edward and Teresa Eldridge, purchased the site as part of the 320-acre pioneer land claim that once covered much of north Bellingham. Originally from Scotland, Edward Eldridge came to Bellingham from San Francisco in 1853 with the enterprise of opening a lumber mill to aid in supplying San Francisco with much of the wood needed to rebuild the city after the city’s great fire in 1906, sparked by an earthquake.
Much later, it was their son, Hugh Eldridge, who had the mansion built on the bluff in 1926. He hired Bellingham architect F. Stanley Piper, who’s other landmarks of note included The Herald building, the Bellingham National Bank building, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and St. Luke’s Hospital.
The mansion is in a style known as French Chateauesque and features a long driveway winding to the front entrance.
The property is currently up for sale, and could be yours for $2.2 million. Speculation of the future of the property includes the addition of townhouses and the conversion of the mansion into a sort of venue, such as a bed and breakfast.
Roland G. Gamwell House
The Gamwell house is one of the grandest illustrations of Victorian architecture in the Pacific Northwest with a spacious porch trimmed by intricate woodwork and a three-story oak stairway hand-carved by Italian artisans from Seattle.
Roland Gamwell graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1886 and moved to Seattle to begin working in insurance. Gamwell later moved North to Fairhaven to take advantage of the Fairhaven real estate boom and quickly make a small fortune.
As a Boston native, Gamwell solicited help from Boston architects Longstaff and Black to design and construct what would be one of the most elegant homes on Bellingham Bay.
Gamwell insisted on only the finest materials for his home and intricate details, including a variety of hardwoods to panel the home’s nine spacious rooms. Plumbing, gas, heating, and electric facilities were the most up-to-date technology for 1890.
The Gamwell family occupied the house until 1956. Today, it remains a private residence.
Robert I. Morse House
Robert I. Morse arrived at Bellingham Bay in 1884 to start the Morse Hardware Company. Business was soon thriving as the Alaska trade during the 1890s boomed and Morse Hardware Company became a leading provider in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1895, Morse began construction of his new home two blocks up from his hardware store. The house was designed by local architect Alfred Lee in the “Queen Anne style” that was popular of the Victorian Era, with fine architectural detail such as an octagonal turret, a steeply pitched roof, stained glass windows, decorative latticework, spindles and cutout trim work. The characteristic Chuckanut sandstone of the Pacific Norwest laid the foundation for the Morse house and the stairway leading from the street to the house.
The spacious first floor includes two parlors with fireplaces, a dining room with a butler’s pantry, a kitchen and rear hall, and an elegantly carved maple staircase. In 1914, a two-story glass-enclosed sleeping porch was added to the south side of the house.
With twelve original rooms and five finished rooms in the basement, the Morse house was used for apartments until 1985 and was converted in 1986 to its present use as the North Garden Inn Bed and Breakfast, which now dawns a pale blue exterior.