Local neighborhoods have it all

By Stacee Sledge, for The Bellingham Herald

Just look around and you can see that Bellingham is an exquisite place. Made up of nearly two dozen distinct neighborhoods, our city offers an idyllic locale for every first-time homebuyer, no matter what their wants and needs.

Bellingham proper dates back to 1903, when four separate settlements - Whatcom, New Whatcom, Sehome and Fairhaven - merged to form one city. The area is now made up of a variety of neighborhoods offering everything from historic ambience to an urban atmosphere.

Alabama Hill
Named for the steep rise on which the majority of it resides, the Alabama Hill neighborhood is predominantly residential with single-family, detached houses built during the 1960s and 1970s.

The neighborhood offers expansive views of the bay and city, with houses of predominantly contemporary design (think split-level, circa 1973) settled on broad, curved streets and cul-de-sacs.

Care is taken to make sure homes are well-maintained and have attractive landscaping.

Highland Heights, St. Clair and Whatcom Falls Parks are all located within the boundaries of Alabama Hill.

Bordered by Squalicum Parkway, Meridian, Interstate-5, Greenwood Avenue and Eldridge, Birchwood is an older north-side neighborhood that boasts some of the largest lots within Bellingham city limits - some as much as 400 feet deep.

The neighborhood is a dichotomy of sorts. Historically it has consisted of older single-family homes with enough open space to lend a feeling of rural privacy. But the area has also seen a sprouting of numerous apartment complexes in the area near the bustling retail district at the intersection of Northwest, W. Maplewood and Birchwood Avenue.

Birchwood also boasts the Squalicum Creek greenbelt and private Golf and Country Club.

The Columbia area, contained by Eldridge Avenue, Squalicum Parkway, Meridian and Broadway is home to the second oldest neighborhood in Bellingham. This charming section of town is dominated by single-family homes - the vast majority of which are between 50 and 100 years old. Houses are well-maintained and enjoy mature, attractive landscaping, with trees lining many of the sidewalk-lined streets.

Development in the Columbia neighborhood began in the 1880s, and many of the larger homes near Elizabeth Park bear historical plaques that display the name of the original homeowner and the year the structure was built. Many of the smaller houses in the northern part of the neighborhood were built for coal miners who moved to the area to work in a mine just north of Squalicum Creek in the neighboring Birchwood district.

There are some commercial segments in the Columbia area, including the Fountain District and some areas of retail and restaurants in strip mall-like structures.

Cornwall Park
The Cornwall Park neighborhood derives its name and much of its charm from the rambling, tree-filled city park snuggled along the shores of Squalicum Creek.

The district draws much of its character from a plethora of parks, open spaces and well-maintained, architecturally interesting homes, including the magnificent Roeder home, built in 1903 by the grandson of Henry Roeder, one of the city's founders.

The neighborhood is quiet, but enjoys easy access to the freeway, downtown and other commercial areas.

Other major landmarks include St. Joseph Hospital and spacious Broadway Park to the south.

Perched above Bellingham Bay just south of Fairhaven, Edgemoor is made up of contemporary homes - some of the most luxurious and expensive to be found in Bellingham.

The entire area is made up of single-family dwellings. The majority of these on the western half of the neighborhood enjoy large lots and breath-taking views of the bay and San Juan Islands.

The northern area of Edgemoor has more recently been developed with smaller lots.

Clark's Point inhabits the southern section of the district, a steep forested peninsula that, although it is privately owned, is maintained as open space. Make the short trip down its foot path to take in magnificent views of Chuckanut Bay.

Now thought of as a bustling, popular retail district with historic flair, Fairhaven has seen bad times and good throughout its long history. Once a thriving fishing, lumber and coal mining community, this south-side area suffered a downturn after it failed to become the western end of the line for the Great Northern Railroad.

Fairhaven is more than just charming shops. Modest older houses and some new residences surround Donovan Avenue to the south, while newer condos have cropped up among the commercial district. There are many rental units within this neighborhood as well.

The ferry terminal and its neighboring Marine Park offer captivating water views while the industrial uses along the waterfront add to the neighborhood's whimsy.

Guide Meridian
The Guide Meridian neighborhood - not to be confused with the adjacent Meridian area just to its south and east - has seen more change in recent years than perhaps any other district in Bellingham.

Uses within much of the neighborhood have changed from rural residential to more manufacturing and warehousing uses. There has been a growth in mobile home parks, sales outlets, and retail commercial and office spaces. Many homes have been demolished or moved, to be replaced by commercial development.

The areas that are not adjacent to busy Meridian Street - such as McLeod Road, Bakerview Road and Kellogg Road - remain primarily low-density rural and undeveloped areas.

Happy Valley
Bordered by I-5 to the east, Old Fairhaven Parkway to the west, an irregular line from 14th to 20th streets to the west, and Bill McDonald Parkway to the north, Happy Valley is made up of a mixture of single-family homes and apartment complexes. Its close proximity to Western Washington University has made it a popular locale for student-occupied housing.

Many early residents of the neighborhood worked in the Fairhaven Cedar Mill and Salmon Cannery, traveling to their jobs via a streetcar that connected Happy Valley to Fairhaven's waterfront.

Today, areas of quiet, undeveloped land remain. Wildlife can still be seen while strolling through areas of Happy Valley and views of the Chuckanut Mountains add character to the area. Joe's Garden is a popular spot for buying fresh produce.

Lettered Streets
The Lettered Streets mark the oldest neighborhood in Bellingham, constructed mostly in the 1890s and early 1900s and established as a middle-class neighborhood. Its Whatcom Creek waterfall supplied energy for the sawmills that attracted the first settlers to the area in the 1850s.

This neighborhood is, naturally, designated by street names made up of letters of the alphabet and is netted by Holly Street, Broadway, North Street, Cornwall and Whatcom Creek.

In general, the homes in the Lettered Streets are not as striking as those in the neighboring Columbia area to the west, but many of them retain a historical charm.

The Meridian neighborhood, formerly part of the Guide Meridian district, is bounded by Kellogg Road on the north, Cordata Parkway, Eliza Road, and the eastern edge of Bellis Fair on the west, I-5 on the south and the city limits on the east.

The area is characterized by an abundance of commercial development, with Bellis Fair mall as its centerpiece. Guide Meridian Street sees some of the slowest-moving traffic in Bellingham.

Multi-family residential development is at the periphery of the neighborhood, with new homes sprouting up in developments such as Orchard Estates. Continued growth is expected in the Meridian neighborhood for the foreseeable future, with more annexations and increased development and redevelopment opportunities.

Mount Baker
The Mount Baker neighborhood spans the busy Sunset Drive, which has seen expansive growth in recent years both commercially and residentially.

Single-family homes, apartment complexes, offices, shopping centers, and industrial undertakings have filled in much of the open space that marked this part of town since its adoption in 1980.

The once semi-rural neighborhood is now bustling with traffic as consumers are drawn to the commercial areas of Sunset Drive and nearby Barkley Village.

Puget neighborhood is a large single-family neighborhood that radiates out from Lakeway Drive just east of I-5. It includes a large mobile home park, busy commercial district at Lakeway Center and considerable industrial development along Whatcom Creek at the north end of the region.

Puget and Toledo Hills inhabit the southern and eastern parts of the neighborhood, developed with single-family homes on medium-sized lots. Houses are well-maintained and many have excellent Bellingham Bay or Canadian Cascade views.

The Puget neighborhood is home to Civic Field, the most active park and recreation complex in Bellingham, which includes a public indoor swimming pool, skating rink, small football stadium, softball fields and playgrounds.

Just south of the Mount Baker neighborhood and due west from Alabama Hill area, the Roosevelt neighborhood is one of the most diverse in the city. Land use ranges from single-family residential to industrial, with concentrations of old and new housing units whose styles vary from 100-year-old architecturally interesting structures to modern apartment complexes.

The land in the Roosevelt area began being subdivided and developed as early as 1889, when the western area was platted.

Construction of multi-family units almost doubled between 1987 and 1995.

The neighborhood is home to Roosevelt Park and Pacific Trails Park, while Whatcom Falls Park borders its southeast corner.

The Samish neighborhood, beginning on the east side of I-5 across from Happy Valley, and continuing west and south to encompass Lake Padden, is less developed than most areas within the city limits, although new developments have begun to crop up in recent years.

Samish Way has historically been a main entrance into the city and much of its residential area occupies high ground east of the freeway.

The mix includes a sprinkling of older dwellings from a more rural past, the Ridgemont subdivision of contemporary middle-income homes in a suburban setting; and some larger, recently constructed homes with views on high ground east of 40th Street.

An abundance of recreational outdoor space including popular Lake Padden Park, make the Samish neighborhood a pleasant, relaxed place to live.

Sehome is another of Bellingham's oldest neighborhoods, clinging to the side of majestic Sehome Hill, visible from most other areas in the city.

The top of the hill is owned by WWU and is largely undeveloped. It is also home to an arboretum for native plants.

Much of the area is within what was formerly known as Sehome, before it became part of Bellingham proper.

The neighborhood boasts mostly older homes, many of them large and architecturally impressive. Mature landscaping decorates the area. Many of the homes closest to the university have been converted into student rental housing.

Silver Beach
The Silver Beach neighborhood is notable for its wide variety of ages and styles of housing.

Much of the area, nestled around the northern end of Lake Whatcom, was divided into small lots long before the suburban lifestyle was established. Well-landscaped yards and maintained homes dot the neighborhood. A backdrop of lush green hills overlook the area.

The lake is Bellingham's source for drinking water and a popular recreation destination. Bloedel-Donovan Park was once the site of a lumber mill.

The streets vary greatly in different sections of the neighborhood, with recent developments enjoying standard streets with curbs and gutters, while streets in the older residential areas are narrower and lack improvements.

South Hill
South Hill is thought to be one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Bellingham. Tucked between the University and Bellingham Bay, the homes are varied in architectural style and often enjoy stunning views of the bay, San Juan Islands and Canadian coastal range.

The Ridgeway area, south of the University on the highest elevations of the hill, has been developed since World War II. Lots are larger and there are fewer sidewalks in this section of the neighborhood. New homes continue to be built in this area.

Many of the homes below 17th Street were built in the early 1900s. Nearly each house on South Hill is well-kept and coveted by professionals who move to the area and are looking for upscale housing.

Boulevard Park is a popular destination for South Hill residents, coupled with the walking trails that emanate from it.

The Sunnyland neighborhood is marked by Cornwall Avenue on the west, I-5 on the east, North Street and Ellis Street on the northwest and the commercial and industrial area adjacent to Whatcom Creek on the south.

Residential portions of the Sunnyland neighborhood consist of mostly older two-story homes, with larger lots to the north and smaller ones to the west. Many homes have been well-maintained, while others show signs of aging and disrepair. The majority were built in the 1920s.

Sunnyland residents enjoy Sunnyland Park, the second oldest park in the city.

The southern portion of the neighborhood is zoned for light industry, and there has been extensive commercial development along James Street in recent years.

Whatcom Falls
The Whatcom Falls neighborhood, named for its proximity to the Whatcom Creek, cascades within wooded Whatcom Falls Park, is a residential area with suburban character.

The park and sprawling Bayview Cemetery take up much of the neighborhood real estate north of busy Lakeway Drive. South of Lakeway is nearly all residential, with mostly newer homes on large lots.

Surrounding undeveloped hillside gives the neighborhood some of its charm, serving as a wooded backdrop. The area also enjoys views of the surrounding mountains.

The York neighborhood is one of the city's older areas, with the majority of homes built between 1890 and 1910. Many of the houses are on the small side and built on lots that are just slight enough to create a rather high population density. The neighborhood contains several examples of fine, middle-class Victorian architecture.

The area is bordered on the north by Whatcom Creek and Meador Street and on the south by the commercial area along Samish Way. Ellis, Holly and State Streets mark the western boundary, while I-5 extends the length of the eastern edge.

Enjoying a close proximity to downtown, the neighborhood is a convenient and popular place to live for families and university students.

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