Walking along Harris Avenue in Bellingham, Washington, is like embarking upon a scavenger hunt into the city’s past. Inscribed stones speckle the walkway, tucked just out of sight and waiting for keen-eyed pedestrians to spot the nuggets of history they reveal.
The historic markers are the work of Tyrone Tillson, a local newspaper publisher and historian. In the late 1980s and again in the 1990s, he received a community grant to install the various markers and plaques that highlight pieces of Fairhaven’s past.
Fairhaven was originally founded in the late 19th century. It existed as its own little hub for only a couple of decades before being absorbed into Bellingham. Thanks to Tillson’s markers, the many events and structures—some sad, some mundane, some outright odd—that transpired within the community are cemented in the present.
You never know what tidbit of town history you’ll stumble across while searching for the scattered plaques. One marker denotes the prejudice Chinese miners faced (with a bonus line about a 21st-century mayor’s apology). Another macabre stone marks the spot of the city drowning pool, which was apparently for dogs only. Yet another stands gravely atop the place where some poor soul named Mathew was “cut in two by a streetcar.”