Great Big Garage Sale

Support the Whatcom County Historical Society & Come join us for our Annual Garage Sale

T.G. Richards & Co built a “brick house” for the Frazer River Gold Rush in 1858. We’re having a gold rush of sorts with great items for sale. All sales go to support the courthouse restoration and maintenance, in particular the purchase of a wheelchair lift in the back. Once that is installed, the building can be opened to the public on a regular basis.

Why should you care? This is the first and oldest brick building in the state of Washington. History was made here.


When: Saturday and Sunday Sept 29th & 30th

Where: 1308 E Street

Time: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM


One More Thing…

Oldest Brick Building in Washington State is Restored

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.

We’re Getting There!

We’re all pretty excited around here. The work on courthouse has progressed to the point that all the bricks are stabilized, there is a new roof on the building, and many parts of the interior are reaching completion.  But there is still work to do.

The back of the courthouse August 8, 2010

Help Us Match a $10,000 Donation

According to Rick Tremaine, restoration committee chair, the total project cost is estimated to be about $520,000.  He estimates that the project needs about $100,000 more in order to finish and pay for the work.

A donor has offered to match the next $10,000 in donations.  If you care about this important piece of local and Washington State history, please  consider a donation to this important project. Donations of any size would be appreciated, are tax deductible, and would be matched (up to the first $10,000). In addition, if you donate at least $50 to the project, we will put your name on one of the paver bricks to be installed at the side of the building leading to the back. If you donate at least $1,000, your name will be permanently placed on the building as a major donor.

Courthouse on E Street July 7,2010

To find out more, there is more information on the building available at the Historical Society’s website at Just click on Territorial County Courthouse Restoration in the upper right corner, then click on “details on the restoration project” on that page.

Send donations to:

Whatcom County Historical Society
P.O. Box 2116
Bellingham, WA 98227
Don’t Forget the Ann Parry
In additon, Steve Mayo, a well known local artist has done a painting of the ship Ann Parry in Bellingham Bay in 1858. The painting is historically very accurate and shows the brick for the building being unloaded. Steve has donated all of the prints to the Historical Society, so 

Ann Parry July 1858 unloading bricks

proceeds from all sales go to the project. Therefore, if you don’t want to donate, but want to buy a Steve Mayo print, this is another way to support the restoration. Lithographic prints are $175 plus sales tax and Giclee prints (limited to 40 copies) are $275 plus sales tax. The original is also available.

A recent trip to Salem, MA this summer produced more information on her life as whaler in the 1840s.

Territorial Courthouse Gets Spruced Up

Things are starting to really happen at the old Whatcom Territorial Courthouse on E Street.  After years of work on the outside, the ditching and  brickwork are done and lower level open for the public to see the original placement of the building on what was the beach in Old Whatcom.

Floors and Plumbing

On the upper level, where court was once held, the old maple floor was removed.  It took four volunteers, including Rick Tremaine, Glenn Eastwood and Rick Kiene, about 6 hours to take up all the flooring and expose the fir boards beneath.  The excess was hauled away a few days later. The downstairs floor was fired up from the cement to allow for the fir flooring to be layed.

Upstairs and downstairs, the walls have been framed. New plumbing and lighting will provide an atmosphere of comfort the building hasn’t seen in years.  The building is now nearly 152 years old, the oldest brick building in the state. Its restoration is an important effort to promote our area’s history and preserve a special time in it.


On the outside, plans are for a brick pathway on the Holly Street side of the building 60 feet long by 4 feet wide. Interested people can purchase a brick for $50.00 from the Whatcom Historical Society. All monies go for the restoration.

Tune in for more updates on the building’s progress.