Well, almost. The insides are lovely and the brick, drainage, roof, and windows done. We can’t wait to open it for events and other public happenings. Only we need one more thing: A wheelchair lift. Such a lift is essential for being approved by the city of Bellingham and final permitting.
The picture below is similar to what we have in mind, a lift that a disabled guest could enter and be lowered down to the main floor. (The building is kind of quirky. Built on a beach in 1858, the street was raised to its second floor around WW I.) One of the things we can’t change as it is a nationally registered historic place, is easy handicap access to this floor, where court was held. But the downstairs is where the jail was located and courtroom lobby and the lift would go to there.
Foundation in Place
The foundation for the lift is in place. The concrete was poured several months ago, but our funding has been short. In order to finish the project we need to raise a minimum of $10,000. Without the lift, we can’t go forward with plans for interpreting early Bellingham history upstairs or holding public events. The future also includes school tours. We are applying for grants, but that will take a while.
Why Should You Care?
Bellingham is fortunate to have two rare structures that date from the 1850s Washington Territorial days –the Pickett House and the T.G. Richards. The Richards building was built during the Fraser River Gold Rush (1858), introducing Bellingham Bay and infant Whatcom County to the center of 19th century West Coast enterprise, San Francisco. Known only for the coal in Bellingham Bay Coal Mine, the gold rush brought thousands to the bay. Though it was short-lived and many miners left discouraged, others stayed to homestead. During this time, Captain George E. Pickett of Gettysburg fame and James W. Forsyth of Wounded Knee massacre, both were frequent visitors while stationed at Fort Bellingham. Pickett’s house was just up the hill.
The T.G. Richards building became a territorial courthouse in 1863, hearing probate and other civil cases until 1889. It was a GAR meeting place, housed a pharmacy and printing press as well as contain a treasure room and jail. During the 20th century, a church and Akers Taxidermy occupied the building.
How You Can Help
From now until our open house August 25th, we hope to reach our goal. We know times are tough, but a donation of $10.00 or more to our restoration fund can really benefit the project. If 1000 people donate just that amount, we can reach our goal. To participate, send money to:
Attn: Rick Tremaine
Whatcom County Historical Society Restoration Fund
PO Box 2116
Bellingham, WA 98227
Make checks out to: Whatcom County Historical Society.
Thanks so much!! Be sure to join August 25th to celebrate.