Visual

Museum Meander

Behind the scenes at Old City Hall

See

What: Private, self-guided tours for each household of up to six people

Where: Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall and Lightcatcher Building

More:

WHEN: 12pm, 1:30pm, and 3pm Feb. 25-28; the museum opens at 25 percent capacity Thurs., March 4

Cost: $25 per building; COVID-19 protocols are in place

Info: http://www.whatcommuseum.org

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

On the Thursday before Valentine’s Day, my sweetheart surprised me by ordering a drive-thru fried chicken meal that we ate overlooking a scenic lake near Lynden. On Friday, I one-upped him by renting the entirety of Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall for a self-guided tour.

“You really went all out,” he commented as we climbed the stairs to the former government headquarters, where visitor services staffer Todd Warger welcomed us into the stately 129-year-old building, which was all ours for the next 75 minutes. Later, I’d admit to my date that it only cost $25 to rent the space for the private tour—a little more than he’d paid for our feast the prior afternoon.

We’ve been in and out of Old City Hall countless times, but typically it’s to check out temporary exhibits in the galleries on the main level, attend events up the stairs in the Rotunda Room, or peruse the John M. Edson Hall of Birds on the top floor. On this go-round, we took our time and paid closer attention to the permanent exhibits that tell the tales of the building’s architecture, Bellingham’s early days, and logging and waterfront history.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’d never stepped foot into the Orientation Theater, a small room near the entrance that started its life in the late 1890s as the first mayor of Bellingham’s office. In addition to watching most of an audio-visual recording focusing on how Old City Hall got its start, we gleaned a variety of historical tidbits and trivia—including an interesting note about the “one hundred pounds of cats” that had been ordered by the city clerk soon after a fire station opened next door and mice had started moving into City Hall, drawn by the oats fed to the station’s horses. It was a typo, but there really were a number of felines who had been brought in to keep rodents away.

Since we were mostly alone, nobody gave me a funny look when I cackled at the contents of the cat poster or spent an inordinate amount of time in front of a black-and-white photograph titled “Arnold’s Big Cat Act, 1910” next door in the “Vintage Vaudevillians” exhibit curated by superstar historian and archivist Jeff Jewell. The collection showing through May highlights a dozen vaudeville acts that performed in Bellingham in the early 20th century and is comprised of publicity photos saved and collected by James “Jim” Warwick, a stage manager at a number of downtown theaters during vaudeville’s heyday.

In addition to being entranced by the leopards and cougars who seemed to be more interested in pleasing their keeper than tearing open his throat, we also learned more about a mysterious mechanical doll named Phroso, Australian rifle shot and sword combat artists Lillie Mantle and Rosy Tell, the “modern athletes” known as the Carson Brothers, and Parisian illusionists Fern & Harris (among others).

Next, we took a slow stroll through “Green Gold: Logging the Pacific Northwest,” where we discovered what a “river rat” was and spotted Sasquatch and a stealthy shark fin among the detailed dioramas depicting the loggers who made their living felling enormous trees in the mid-to-late 19th century. From there, we followed the signs to “1968: The Year That Rocked Washington,” where we were greeted by a cardboard replica of Seattle-born musician Jimi Hendrix.

The Legacy Washington exhibit explores the lives of Washingtonians caught up in one of the most tumultuous years in world history, and the section on Hendrix features a photo of the world-famous guitarist with legendary DJ and concert promoter Pat O’Day. Hendrix had returned to Garfield High School—which he had dropped out of to seek stardom—and O’Day was there with him for a special pep assembly at his alma mater.

Among the other notable names on display were civil rights activists Nat and Thelma Jackson, Larry Gossett, Lem Howell, and Maxine Mimms, canny conservationist Polly Dyer, football player turned affirmative action defender Arthur Fletcher, and many other notable Washingtonians who helped shape the history of the state.

It was while I was reliving the late 1960s that I realized my date had gone missing. When I queried Warger, he pointed to the stairwell, which I followed until I came to the Maritime History Gallery on the second floor. My fella was standing in front of a large window overlooking Bellingham Bay with a dreamy look on his face.

“I can almost picture what it was like when steam ships and schooners plied these storied waters,” he said wistfully. “It’s so great to be able to be here to reimagine history in so many different ways.”

Photo of “Arnold’s Big Cat Act, 1910” by Frank T. Dunlap, from the James Warwick Collection.

More ...
Creative Coupling
Al and Anne’s uplifting balance

Alfred Currier and Anne Schreivogl of Anacortes are among Skagit Valley’s cultural treasures. The creative pair work in similar media, although Anne prefers acrylic and Al, oil paint. Both work in bright colors, creating cheerful compositions and natural scenes, and each keeps to a…

more »
Containment
Margy Lavelle’s quarantine scene

“A Straw in the Wind” is Margy Lavelle’s title for the exhibit of her most recent paintings on display at i.e. gallery, the Edison-based creative space she opened with fellow artist David C. Kane in June of 2015 before becoming the sole proprietor in February of 2016.

The solo show is…

more »
Origins and Evolutions
Family ties at Gallery Syre

“She loved her paintings to sparkle,” David Syre says about his grandmother, one of the artists highlighted in the “Origins and Evolutions: 5 Generations” exhibit that recently opened at Bellingham’s Gallery Syre. Sometimes, he adds, she’d attach bits of foil to her landscapes in order to…

more »
Monday
Riding the Wind

11:00am

Michael Dickter’s “Riding the Wind” exhibit can be seen from 11am-6pm daily through Feb. 28 in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Face masks are required, and a…

Virtual Wild Womxn Week

9:00am

Whether alone or with a friend in your bubble, join Shifting Gears for its Virtual Wild Womxn Week by hiking, biking, strolling, running, kayaking—or whatever gets you pumped and feeling…

Bellingham to the Border and Back Virtual Challenge

9:00am

Fairhaven Runners & Walkers will partner with Altra Running for a “Bellingham to the Border and Back” Virtual Challenge through March 15. Participants will be challenged to log 60 miles—the…

La Conner Daffodil Festival

12:00pm

Celebrate the “golden trumpets of spring” at the seventh annual La Conner Daffodil Festival taking place through March in the Skagit Valley. Special events include a Springtime Chalk Art…

Elevation

11:00am

“Elevation,” an exhibit celebrating Pacific Northwest clay artists of color, will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday (closed Tuesday), and 12pm-4pm Sunday through March at Good…

Anacortes Arts Festival Virtual Art Auction

10:00am

Bid on more than 120 art pieces through March 20 as part of the Anacortes Arts Festival’s inaugural Virtual Art Auction. Works will include paintings, sculpture, photography, sculptures,…

Art-iversary Exhibit

5:30pm

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Tuesday
Riding the Wind

11:00am

Michael Dickter’s “Riding the Wind” exhibit can be seen from 11am-6pm daily through Feb. 28 in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St. Face masks are required, and a…

Virtual Wild Womxn Week

9:00am

Whether alone or with a friend in your bubble, join Shifting Gears for its Virtual Wild Womxn Week by hiking, biking, strolling, running, kayaking—or whatever gets you pumped and feeling…

Bellingham to the Border and Back Virtual Challenge

9:00am

Fairhaven Runners & Walkers will partner with Altra Running for a “Bellingham to the Border and Back” Virtual Challenge through March 15. Participants will be challenged to log 60 miles—the…

La Conner Daffodil Festival

12:00pm

Celebrate the “golden trumpets of spring” at the seventh annual La Conner Daffodil Festival taking place through March in the Skagit Valley. Special events include a Springtime Chalk Art…

Elevation

11:00am

“Elevation,” an exhibit celebrating Pacific Northwest clay artists of color, will be featured from 11am-5pm daily through Saturday (closed Tuesday), and 12pm-4pm Sunday through March at Good…

Anacortes Arts Festival Virtual Art Auction

10:00am

Bid on more than 120 art pieces through March 20 as part of the Anacortes Arts Festival’s inaugural Virtual Art Auction. Works will include paintings, sculpture, photography, sculptures,…

Art-iversary Exhibit

5:30pm

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…