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Free walking tours to explore the history of downtown Bellingham

Founders of the Bureau of Historical Investigation, Marris McGrath, left, and Sara Holodnick, right, also known as The Good Time Girls, at their storefront at 217 W. Holly St. The Bureau will be hosting free history tours of downtown Bellingham on Saturdays from July 11 through Sept. 26.
Founders of the Bureau of Historical Investigation, Marris McGrath, left, and Sara Holodnick, right, also known as The Good Time Girls, at their storefront at 217 W. Holly St. The Bureau will be hosting free history tours of downtown Bellingham on Saturdays from July 11 through Sept. 26. The Bellingham Herald

What do you get when you mix fire hoses, liquor and one very important train in 1891?

A piece of Bellingham history.

Precisely that kind of history is what Bellingham’s Bureau of Historical Investigation hopes to highlight during its free summer tours of downtown.

The Holly Street History Tours will be offered at 1 p.m. on Saturdays from July 11 through Sept. 26. The half-mile walking tours will begin in front of the Chuckanut sandstone building at 311 W. Holly St. and will take guests on an approximately hour-long stroll through the streets of downtown to Maritime Heritage Park.

Bureau co-founder Sara Holodnick said the tours are meant to be upbeat but move at a comfortable pace for all attendees.

“We wanted it to be fun,” Holodnick said. “It’s not going to be too crazy-fast.”

The family-friendly tour will not deviate from the sidewalks of Holly Street and will include some uphill and downhill terrain, Holodnick said. Anyone with particular mobility needs can ask tour guides ahead of time for special accommodations.

Guests will learn about growth, social reform, the arts, women’s history and racial tensions, among other topics.

Groups also will be treated to some of the city’s more comical past, including the historic 1891 water fight that left the first transcontinental train from Canada — and cars full of British and Canadian officials — drenched in Bellingham charm.

Tours will be limited to about 30 people at a time, Holodnick said. There are no reservations. It’s first-come, first-served.

The Bureau, also known as the Good Time Girls, originally became known for its Sin & Gin tours, which feature guides dressed in corsets highlighting the history of Bellingham’s adult districts and come with 18- or 21-year age requirements.

Regular Sin & Gin tours still will be running Friday and Saturday nights at 7. The regular season of Gore & More tours starts in October, but private tours are available by reservation.

The Bureau of Historical Investigation also will be hosting two mini Sin & Gin-style tours during the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival at 1 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25.

For more information on the Sin & Gin or Gore & More tours or to make reservations for those, call the Bureau at 360- 305-3172 or visit its storefront at 217 W. Holly St.

Information about attending the tour was corrected July 9, 2015.

Libby Keller can be reached at 360-715-2242 or libby.keller@bellinghamherald.com.

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