Before the names Roeder, Larrabee, Bloedel, and Harris were parks, and streets in Bellingham, they were Bellingham’s founding families. Here’s a crash course on five of the men who forged the city we love.
Captain Henry Roeder—A San Francisco shopkeeper saw opportunity when demand for lumber drove up prices after much of the city burned in a series of fires throughout the 1850’s. He and his partner, Russell Peabody, set out to establish a lumber mill on Puget Sound to meet the demand. He found the perfect spot just below the waterfalls of Whatcom Creek. The mill produced lumber until 1873 when ironically it was also destroyed by fire. Roeder participated in a number of other business ventures in the area, including the construction of a schooner, the first maritime vessel built on Bellingham Bay. His son, Victor Roeder, founded Bellingham National Bank and built the house at 2600 Sunset Drive.
Charles Larrabee—Born in New York, Larrabee made his way gradually across the mountains, starting businesses and banks along the way. He arrived in Bellingham in 1890, where he was involved in coal, railroad, and real estate ventures. His most lasting contribution is probably Citizen’s Bank which he founded. He commissioned the building of a huge home in the Edgemoor neighborhood, but died before construction began. His wife saw the project to its completion, and it stands today. You probably know it as Lairmont Manor. His family donated 20 acres to the state in 1915 for Washington to establish its first state park.
Julius Bloedel—moved to Fairhaven from Wisconsin in 1890 where he co-founded the Whatcom Logging Company with John Joseph Donovan and Peter Larson. The company would later be known as the Bloedel-Donovan Lumber Mills. The first of their mills was constructed on the shore of Lake Whatcom. Though most of the logging business and the business they founded is long gone, the site—Bloedel-Donovan Park—still carries their names.
“Dirty” Dan Harris—One of the more colorful characters to shape early Bellingham, Dan Harris first set foot in the place he called Fairhaven in 1854. He was at the end of a long whaling expedition that included a stop in Hawaii and the Arctic. But he found his home in Washington, on the shores of Bellingham Bay. He built the first road that connected Sehome hill to Lake Whatcom singled-handedly.
George Pickett—The Army officer of Civil War infamy was stationed in Bellingham, and led the US forces in the Pig War—a bloodless comedy of errors that nearly led to war between the United States and Canada. His house is the oldest still standing in Bellingham.