Whatcom Middle School students will be living the city's centennial history this school year.
Built in 1903, the three-story Halleck Street school whose motto above the main entryway exhorts students to "Waste Not Thy Hour," is the oldest existing school building in Bellingham School District.
Today's Whatcom Middle School students wouldn't recognize their campus in 1903. First of all, the building itself was about a third the size, and as Whatcom High School, the students themselves were bigger.
An extensive addition tripled the school's size in 1916, and in 1937, the students got smaller when the school became Whatcom Junior High School. It's been Whatcom Middle School since 1967.
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By the time Whatcom High School moved to its current location, it was already 13 years old. The first Whatcom High was a wood-frame building on Dupont Street, where the school district's administration building now sits.
Today's students would probably recognize the names of several of today's Bellingham schools that were in existence 100 years ago:
- The first Silver Beach School was built in the early 1890s, but was consumed in a forest fire in 1894. Today's Silver Beach was built in 1954, 1978 and 1994.
Witnesses to the fire told stories of people in their New Year's Eve finery standing in a foot of running water, weeping at the site of the burning school.
Many current Bellingham School District administrators know how those spectators felt — they watched the same thing happen to Kulshan Middle School on July 25, 1993, when the school burned just weeks before it was to open. It was rebuilt and opened in time for the first day of school in August 1994.