Depression & Expansion

Economic Lull

In 1929, the Great Depression unfortunately came with a profound economic lull that influenced the Bellingham waterfront from 1930 through the early 1960s. As the local timber supply dwindled and the demand for coal died, numerous Bellingham businesses closed, including most of the major mills in Bellingham. Docks and warehouses went into disrepair.

Land Acquisition

During this period, the port began to acquire significant waterfront parcels as mills closed in Fairhaven, including the former property of the Puget Sound Sawmill and Shingle Company on Padden Creek Lagoon. With this land, the port built a small harbor for the local fishing fleet. With these acquisitions, the port found itself with footholds in what would become the three major centers of trade on Bellingham Bay - the Bellingham Shipping Terminal, Squalicum Harbor, and Fairhaven Harbor, each with a unique history.

Bellingham Bay Shipyards

​​​​Bellingham Bay was home to two large shipyards during World War II – the Northwest Shipbuilding Company and Bellingham Shipyards. The Northwest Shipbuilding Company’s facility was one of Bellingham’s largest employers with as many as 1,000 employees working around the clock, seven days a week. By the end of the war, the shipyard here had built at least 25 ships. Bellingham Shipyards also produced wooden-hulled minesweepers and was the largest privately owned shipyard in the US during the war. Together, these shipyards helped the region garner a national reputation for quality shipbuilding.

Next: Bellingham Shipping Terminal