Port Operations Begin

Critical Necessities & Locations
With the beginning of port operations in 1920, some of the port’s most urgent needs were purchasing, organizing, and consolidating waterfront properties and access. Consequently, the first decades of the port’s existence were marked by efforts to achieve some foothold in areas like Bellingham’s Squalicum Creek, the Whatcom Creek Waterway, and Fairhaven on the south end of the bay. The four towns that had sprung up around Bellingham Bay included Whatcom, Sehome, Bellingham, and Fairhaven. In 1903, all four were consolidated into the city of Bellingham.

1920 Expansions & Projects
The 1920s were a huge time of success and expansion for the port, with construction of a ferry landing, purchase of the Municipal Dock, and a large increase in cargo shipping.

Ferry Landing
The ferry landing was constructed for the Canadian Pacific automobile ferry, “The Motor Princess.” On May 21, 1923, hundreds of Bellingham residents came out to, as the Bellingham Herald put it, “[shriek] welcome” to the ferry. For the Bellingham Herald, the ferry was destined to connect “this city with the world’s greatest transportation system” and put Bellingham “on what is...to become one of the greatest tourist routes in America.” At a banquet to mark the occasion, Lieutenant Governor of Washington W.J. Coyle championed the ferry’s potential to bring the "right” kind of citizen to Bellingham. “Show me a tourist in the Northwest,” he exclaimed, “and I will show you a potential resident of the Northwest.”

Cargo Shipping
Cargo shipping from port docks grew from 11,640 tons in 1921 to an astounding 60,983 tons by the dawn of the Great Depression. Total shipping from private docks around the bay grew as well, from 534,014 tons in 1920 to 1.84 million tons by 1926.

Squalicum Creek Dredging
Voter approval in 1927 allowed the port to continue the Squalicum Creek dredging project begun by businessman Edward W. Purdy to expand shipping across the Bellingham Bay shoreline. The Bellingham waterfront had always been well known for its swaths of shallow tidelands. As such, dredging projects had been running almost continuously since the late 19th century; although Whatcom Creek Waterway was dredged in 1904 and 1912, the Squalicum Creek Waterway remained undeveloped. By 1931, the Squalicum Creek dredging project had created 22 acres of fill-land for industrial development, a breakwater, a web house, and moorage for fishing boats.

Next: Depression and Expansion