News Columns & Blogs

Historic Bellingham church up for sale; Herald's Margaret Bikman wins arts award

One of the oldest religious buildings in Bellingham - the original First Presbyterian Church at 519 E. Maple St. - is for sale and a potential buyer might keep the 125-year-old structure intact, said Steve Huizenga of Pacific Continental Realty, which is handling the deal.

"It's going to take a little bit of rehab work," Huizenga said, "but it's got a lot of character."

Most people know the steepled white building as the home to Bellingham Academy of Self Defense, a karate dojo started by insurance businessman Duane Sammons in 1973. Whatcom County resident Patrick Scroggin bought the property in 2011.

Asking price for the church and its corner lot is $398,000.

Under city zoning, the property, whether with the church or a new building, could provide a maximum of six residential units. A business also could be located there, but issues of neighborhood impact - such as parking, lights and noise - would have to be addressed, said Jackie Lynch, a city planner.

Back in the late 1800s, First Presbyterian in Bellingham initially attracted people of Scottish and Welsh descent, reflecting the legacy of John Knox, the 16th century Scottish clergyman who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation.

By 1889, the congregation, although small, was ready for its own church instead of meeting in a schoolhouse. Their new church at High and East Maple streets cost about $5,000 to build, a goodly sum for the 20 or so members.

Just two decades later, they decided they needed a larger building and paid $4,600 for a corner lot one block west at North Garden and East Maple streets. They came up with $67,000 to build and equip their new church and moved to their new location at 1031 N. Garden St. That church, which still houses First Presbyterian, along with the bell from the old church, was dedicated in 1912.


My desk in the Herald newsroom has suddenly become a more prestigious neighborhood. That's because I sit next to Margaret Bikman, who recently learned she is one of this year's recipients of a Mayor's Arts Award.

Margaret calls herself the Herald's "entertainment news coordinator." Among her many duties, she pulls together content for the Herald's Take 5 weekly entertainment section, including its calendars, her "behind the scenes" column and her "artist profile."

She also generates numerous arts and entertainment stories and briefs for the daily paper and other Herald publications, including Whatcom Magazine and Prime Time. She's prolific, and approaches her work with a deep-seated affection for the arts.

Margaret is the sixth winner with ties to the newspaper. Preceding her were arts editor Joan Connell, in 1983; Gannett Corp., the paper's owner at the time, for its financial support of cultural programs, in 1984; Jack Carver, longtime Herald photographer, in 1989 and again in 2011; Herald columnist George Hunsby, in 1992; and Carole Teshima, former Herald librarian, for her longtime support of local history, in 2005.

This year's awards ceremony will start at 5:30 p.m. April 30 in the Walton Theatre at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.