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Bellingham, Wa: A Belle By Any Name
“We,” proclaimed the local residents, “are Fairhaven.” “No, we’re not,” argued their cross-town rivals. “We are Whatcom.” Whathaven? Faircom? The two groups knew they wanted to merge but couldn’t agree on what they would be called, so in 1890 they created a new name for their town, Bellingham, and it stuck.
Gold, coal, and railroads made Bellingham happen, and an earthquake helped it grow. In 1906, with San Francisco more or less burnt to the ground, the woods around Bellingham served up the lumber that helped the big city rebuild. The area’s closeness to Vancouver, BC on the one hand and Seattle on the other kept Bellingham in the loop of growth and development throughout the twentieth century. As recreation and leisure activities grew in scope in recent years, Bellingham became a watchword for skiing, fishing, boating on natural lakes, and hiking in the Chuckanut Mountains.
Today at over 80,000 residents Bellingham is a thriving small city with an outstanding quality of life. With a violent crime rate almost 14% lower than the national average, Bellingham presents a safe alternative to Seattle, ...
... where the same kinds of crimes occur 40% over the average. The presence of Western Washington State University lends Bellingham that sought-after college-town atmosphere, meaning lively bookshops, cafes, theatres, and musical venues all occur here in abundance. A seaside atmosphere and a mild, rainy climate attract snow-weary residents from landlocked states, some of whom come to retire and others to raise families.
When it comes to public education, Bellingham is a smart place to be. Five elementary and middle schools earned the coveted “9” rating from greatschools.org, based on state-sponsored test performance. Bellingham High School wins high marks for its band and debate teams, while Options High School offers a non-traditional path for students who may not fit into traditional classroom molds. Bellingham Christian School and St. Paul’s Academy are just two of the schools that furnish faith-based education to students at all levels.
It's not all big-box stores out here. Bellingham boasts quaint village centers and homegrown businesses with old-fashioned personal service. Sehome Village, says one local, “has everything you need.” Barkley Village includes cinemas, high-tech companies and loft residences for those desiring to dump the commute. Residents cite careful planning and community feedback as two factors keeping urban sprawl at bay in Bellingham.
At a median price of just $277,000 for a single-family home, it’s no wonder Bellingham is booming. Swank new townhouses and condos can be had for under $150,000, while family homes that would fetch over half a million elsewhere are going in the low $300,000s. The high end is alive and well in Bellingham, with ocean-view estates and acreages representing some of the last best bargains in coastal real estate. Many upscale Bellingham homes are state-of-the-art, with sophisticated media rooms, open floor plans, lush master suites and floor-to-ceiling windows facing open water.
Access to Bellingham is easy. A bustling local airport serves the West Coast and the mountain states. Interstate 5, just a few minutes away, runs to the Canadian border and southward all the way to Mexico. Savvy investors and home buyers alike are bullish on this vibrant, young, forward-thinking community in the Pacific Northwest.
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