Squalicum Harbor

Dredging Projects
The federal government did the first surveys of the Bellingham Bay waterfront in the 1890s, assessing the prospect of deep-water docks to house the ever-increasing ship traffic to the tiny town. Dredging to create more easily accessible dock space in Squalicum Harbor went on until the late 1920s, improving the harbor with a breakwater, a web house, and moorage for fishing boats.

Logging & Mill Interests
In 1934, the port and Works Progress Administration (WPA) deepened the waters of Squalicum Harbor once again and constructed a 1,400-foot protective rock breakwater. But growing industry proved that Squalicum Creek Waterway was much more than just a fishing and commercial marina. In the vicinity were a variety of logging and mill interests that would continue to expand for years to come, setting the stage for a shipping economy.

Logging and mill interests on the Squalicum Creek Waterway included the Whatcom Falls (Loggie) Mill, established in 1895. In fact, Whatcom Falls Mill was once the world’s largest producer of cedar shingles. Moreover, the 1940s saw a variety of new industries move into the Squalicum Harbor vicinity, including Bornstein Seafoods’ move to port property on the east side of I and J street in 1949, and Archibald (Archie) W. Talbot’s purchase of Bellingham Marine Railways in 1941. Talbot’s Shipyards came to employ 1,500 people, working 24 hours a day and building a total of 110 ships for the navy during the second world war. Before ending operations in 1963, the shipyard also produced minesweepers during the Korean War and a 1961 fishing boat for Pete Zuanich, port commissioner and fisherman by trade.

Bellingham Cold Storage
In 1946, Bellingham Cold Storage expanded their warehouses into Squalicum Harbor following voter approval of a plan to add extra moorage and cold-service facilities to the area. Early customers of the business included Stokely Van Camp (carrots, peas, and berries), Wakefield Seafoods (crab and fish), and other local fisheries and Whatcom County farmers.

Following the legendary January 30, 1947, storm that destroyed the marina at Fairhaven, Squalicum Harbor ascended to become the main marina for the City of Bellingham. Even after the storm, however, fishing remained a major trade in Bellingham and Whatcom County. According to estimates of the 1953-1954 fishing season, Bellingham fishermen caught around 13,500 tons of fish; in fact, when combined with the fish caught at Blaine, more fish were landed in Whatcom County ports than in all of Seattle.

From 1950 to 1958, the port undertook a number of expansion projects altering the layout of the harbor. Changes included moving the 1934 harbor breakwater south and constructing a larger breakwater, deepening the harbor’s waters. The alterations also increased the amount of available slips to around 600. By 1958, the port had spent a total of $1.2 million on marina expansions at Squalicum Creek.

Next: Remaining a Boat Haven