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See how Bellingham waterfront has changed since first European settlers

Anna Booker’s online project “Bellingham Working Waterfront” debuts this weekend at SeaFeast.
Anna Booker’s online project “Bellingham Working Waterfront” debuts this weekend at SeaFeast. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Among the events offered during this weekend’s inaugural SeaFeast festival is a chance to see the Bellingham waterfront as it appeared in the mid-1800s, when Henry Roeder and Russell Peabody arrived by canoe to establish a lumber mill.

It’s part of an online project by students under the direction of Whatcom Community College history instructor Anna Booker.

“We’ve established an overview of how the shoreline has transformed from a natural to an engineered shoreline, from the earliest European settlers to the present,” Booker said. “What they can see is how the tideflats were filled and the waterways dredged, wharves constructed and railroad trestles built along the waterfront.”

Anna Booker’s history presentation will be 2:30-3:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Squalicum Boathouse, 2600 N. Harbor Loop Drive.

Booker’s project, “Bellingham’s Working Waterfront,” will debut as a website after the presentation. She said she hopes that someday it will be part of an interactive museum display. All that’s missing are historical photographs, which Booker hopes to include as the project evolves.

In building the interactive display, Booker and her interns used ArcGIS software, scanning and digitizing maps and aerial photographs. Some maps are layered with the current shoreline so users can follow a chronological timeline. Original maps, dating to 1855, are from the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, and aerial shots are from the city of Bellingham.

Booker’s presentation will be from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Squalicum Boathouse, 2600 N. Harbor Loop Drive.

“This will be the first unveiling,” Booker said. “We’re developing a project that I hope is an ongoing research project.”

A URL for public use of the site will be announced soon, she said.

Western Washington University intern Lucas Robinson and WCC honors graduate Sarah Yates assisted on the project, which was funded in part with a $2,500 grant from the BNSF Railway Foundation.

A list of SeaFeast events and locations is at bellinghamseafeast.com

Booker, who’s from California, said the idea for the project gelled as she was conducting research for a company involved in an environmental lawsuit.

“That was the catalyst for me to think about what was going to happen here and how we are going to preserve that heritage,” Booker said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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