40 for 40: Whatcom County
Bellingham National Guard Armory

By Katie Franksprevious story | next story | all stories

Ten years after being added to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation's Most Endangered list, the Bellingham National Guard Armory is undergoing a feasibility study for adaptive reuse by Dawson Construction, one of Bellingham's most respected developers.
The grand sandstone 1910 Armory building was a popular venue and hosted military and fundraising balls, baseball games. Later, when the United States entered World War I in April 1917, two Bellingham National Guard companies kept it busy with drills, rifle practice, and supply and troop coordination.
In the early 1950s the National Guard was dropped from the federal reserves and reorganized. Because of reduced training schedules, the Armory was used less frequently by the Bellingham Guard. The drill hall was leased in 1953 as a public roller skating rink, and the venue attracted some of the most famous roller skaters of the day. During the 1950s and 60s, the Armory was a popular place for Girl and Boy Scout gatherings, fundraising dances, dog shows, home shows, basketball games, and professional wrestling. It was also considered one of the best places in town to see live music.
In 1972 the National Guard sold the Armory to Western Washington University for $1.00. The university used the upper and lower floors for storage, and continued leasing the main drill hall as a roller rink. This lease ended in 1989 after water damage to the oak flooring became a cost issue for the university. For years to come, the university would feel the burden of maintaining the building that needed repair, and upgrades costing millions of dollars.
The 2006 addition of the Armory to the Washington Trust's Most Endangered list was instrumental in raising awareness and interest amongst the university's Board of Trustees, who were resolved to see the Amory preserved. In 2009, in part through advocacy and assistance provided by the Washington Trust, Director of Facilities Management Tim Wynn, a long-time advocate for the building, was successful in obtaining funding for stabilization, roof repair, and completion of hazardous material abatement. The Armory continues to be a property with which the Washington Trust is involved and it remains on the Most Endangered Watch List.

Today, the community is optimistic that Dawson Construction will be successful in finding an adaptive new use for the iconic Bellingham Armory.

To read more about the Armory, download A History of the Bellingham National Guard Armory.


This story is part of a series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation. This story highlights many of our programs and shows just how much need there is for strong preservation connections across the state. If you would like to support our work and spur more positive outcomes for Washington's historic resources, please consider making a special gift to the Washington Trust to support the advocacy work we do. Continuous stewardship is needed to protect that irreplaceable legacy for future generations – we appreciate and look forward to your ongoing participation and support.

The Washington Trust it current accepting submissions for its 2017 Most Endangered Historic Properties List. Please contact Jennifer Mortensen at jmortensen@preservewa.org with any questions!

Here's to 40 more years of saving places that matter across Washington! Please sign up for our special weekly e-newsletter to recieve stories like this in your inbox all year long.

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