Special Reports

'Sanitary' Assumption still in use today

One of the oldest still-used school buildings in town is Assumption Catholic School, which opened Sept. 2, 1913, amid public fanfare and under the watchful eye of a faculty of 10 Dominican nuns who were just off the steamer from Tacoma.

At the time, the new three-story building was one of the finest in town, built with modern ideas in mind about the importance of ample sunlight and ventilation in classrooms.

"It is, beyond a doubt, one of the most sanitary school buildings in the city," a Bellingham Herald reporter wrote after touring the building after the opening ceremonies.

The school day began at 8:15 a.m., when one of the sisters rang the school bell and youngsters lined up, with boys on the south side and girls on the north side of the building. Then, an eighth-grade girl would play a march on a piano on the second floor and the students would walk upstairs and line the corridor on both sides. There, they'd sign a hymn.

Today at Assumption, the separate entrances and Dominican nuns are gone. Enrollment stands at about 400, the most ever, thanks in part to a $3 million church-and-school renovation in 2000. Today's students study in the same well-lit classrooms as kids 90 years ago, with the addition of a new classroom wing and computer and science laboratories.

The second-oldest private school in Bellingham is Bellingham Christian School, which began in 1958, at Immanuel Bible Church. The school that Bellingham Christian School students use today was actually built with a lot of help from families of the school's first students.

School families and supporters helped finance the building by purchasing $26,000 worth of bonds from the Church Loan Corp. of Salem, Ore. And volunteers - fathers, board members and others associated with Bellingham Christian - donated their time and muscles to build the school, hurrying to complete classrooms in time for opening day in 1963. Labor Day weekend of that year, 21 volunteers hammered on the school's roof, totaling 30,000 board feet of lumber.