The evolution of the city's 'streetcar suburbs'

Broadway Park envisioned as upscale neighborhood by developers

Jeff Jewell
The 65-acre Broadway Park Plat was opened to residential development by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Co. in September 1906. Originally a “streetcar suburb,” the plat was created to coincide with a trolley-line extension, by Whatcom County Railway & Light, up Dock Street (Cornwall Avenue) from Kentucky Street to E. North Street.
Promoted as “designed by nature for homes,” Broadway Park was touted for being reliably free of “smoke, fog, cinders, hill-shadows and steep grades.” And to keep it a “high-class residence district,” construction of each new house was required to “cost $1,530 or more.”
The plat was bounded by Ellis Street on the east, North Street on the south, Illinois Street on the north and roughly the alley east of Grove Street on the west. A combination real estate office and trolley waiting station, in the form of a model bungalow, was built by the Bellingham Bay Improvement Co. (BBI) on the east corner of S. Park and Dock. By late fall of 1906, Broadway Park’s first houses began sprouting on lots near the trolley line.

Hampton Place as seen from E. North Street (with the trolley tracks) in the mid-1920s. The house at right is 2614 Hampton Place, built in 1922. The oldest house on the street is at 2631 Hampton Place, fourth from the left, constructed by David Lusk on speculation in 1906.

Among them was the two-story Victorian at 115 E. North built for shingle manufacturer Cicero Coffman and wife Dixie. The house had a large veranda and “an absence of square corners, which allows many large windows for lighting the interior.” It remains the only Victorian in Broadway Park, as new Craftsman designs would be the dominant inspiration for houses that followed.
Arthur Watts, the BBI real estate agent working in the company’s on-site office, sold all 30 lots of the initial offering by year’s end. In 1907, Watts had a house built for his family at 2530 Dock St. and while selling lots in the area pointed to his own home as proof of his faith in the neighborhood’s future.
Capt. Fred Llewellyn had the first house built on S. Park, but moved to Aberdeen before he could move in. Finished in time for the 1907 holiday season, the captain’s house at 2730 S. Park was advertised by the BBI as the ideal gift: “A Bungalow for Christmas!”
Unlike contemporary “tract housing” with lots occupied by near-identical houses constructed in quick succession, Broadway Park took decades to build up, giving it a variety of distinctive homes. Many lots were held onto as investments and changed hands two or three times over the years before a house was erected.
To encourage interest in the plat’s hinterland, the BBI built a model house at 2729 Sunset Drive in 1908. The two-story four-square was the first house on Sunset, but the block’s distance from a streetcar line kept it unpopular until the emergence of the automobile.
An exception was Mr. and Mrs. Heal’s Tudor-style house built out in the sticks at 2807 Sunset Drive in 1909. Costing $2,700, the home was designed by local architect T. F. Doan based on an “old English building built at Ipswich more than five centuries ago.” Construction was handled by carpenter Charles Linderman and crew. Henry Heal was working his way up at the First National Bank of Bellingham and his wife, Lottie, ran the Lace House, at 216 W. Holly, specializing in “Laces and Neckwear.”
Where earlier neighborhoods were laid-out in a routine grid, the Broadway Park Plat introduced Bellingham to winding sidewalks and streets. The plat was drawn by Everett C. Lyle, the BBI landscape engineer, around the topography of a wetland that had a “running stream” snaking through it. The 5-acre marsh between the two halves of Park Drive, unusable for building purposes, was donated by the BBI to the city as a park. E. C. Lyle had turned an obstacle into a selling point and, like an artist signing his work, he is the namesake of the plat’s Lyle Street.
For years, however, the park land was a muddy mess. Initial clearing and grubbing of the plat had taken it down to the soil. Park commissioner Roland Gamwell’s plans for ornamental flowers and shrubs, reliant on “getting good compost on the rough embankments of the stream,” faced constant erosion. The first improvements were simply “rustic bridges” spanning the soggy ravine to get one safely beyond “the park.”
In 1909, work began on the best-known Broadway Park residence, the home of Victor and Effie Roeder at 2600 Sunset Drive. Victor, president of Bellingham National Bank, enlisted architect Alfred Lee to design the “modern mansion” that, when completed in 1910, had cost an incredible $20,000.
Mr. and Mrs. Roeder, both from pioneer families, were at the pinnacle of Bellingham society and their home often accommodated upwards of 200 guests for one of Effie’s teas. Mr. Roeder, a country boy at heart, kept a milk cow and chickens on the property and donned overalls when he arrived home from the bank in his electric car. The large house next door to the Roeder’s, at 2727 Broadway, was built in 1925 for James Russell Bolster and his wife, Aryeness, the Roeder’s daughter.
In 1945, Dr. Donald and Mrs. Elizabeth Keyes bought the Roeder home and, in 1971, the widowed Mrs. Keyes gifted the house to the Whatcom County Park Board for the use and enjoyment of the public. It’s been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.
In 1911, two tennis courts were installed in the park’s “bowl” east of Cornwall Avenue. That same year the former real estate office, having been moved to 2620 S. Park, became the grand prize in a Bellingham Herald contest. Elizabeth Sanderson was the lucky winner of “a $3000 bungalow.”
Two landmark residences built in Broadway Park just before the First World War were the big Craftsman of lumberman George Shelton at 2636 Hampton Place, constructed in 1912, and the even larger 2701 N. Park built for Dr. Solon and Mrs. Sue Boynton in 1913.
Late in 1915, the Bellingham Civic Club started a street-beautification campaign centered on Broadway’s 20-foot wide dirt median that ran from W. Holly to N. Park Drive. Everett Lyle drew “a most delightful” landscaping plan and the Civic Club raised the necessary funds for its implementation by hosting a series of dances. Through the summer of 1916, the “Broadway Esplanade” was curbed and planted “luxuriously with many varieties of seasonal flowering shrubs and plants.”

The Broadway Park neighborhood reached maturity in the 1920s with the construction of many fine homes, as arrival of the Automobile Age opened the entire plat to development. Garages, small by today’s standards, came to line the alleys behind the new bungalows. In 1922, Mr. and Mrs. Issacs had the “well-arranged bungalow, with five large rooms” and “roomy closets and built-in conveniences,” constructed at 2614 Hampton Place. Sam and Jessie Holland had their new house, at 2600 Cornwall Ave., built in 1924. Sam owned the Holland Motor Co., at 306-308 Grand Ave., which dealt in Stephens and Dort automobiles.
Clarence and Elizabeth Keyes had a new home built at 2701 Cornwall in 1924. The house featured five bedrooms, downstairs library, upstairs sewing room and “hardwood floors throughout.” The Keyes didn’t have to move far, their former house was at 2667 N. Park, right behind their new one. Mr. Keyes was superintendent at the Morrison lumber mill. Albert English, of the Northwest Hardware Co., also built a new home in 1924, at 2816 Cornwall Ave. His “old house” was a bungalow at 2705 Sunset Drive that he had built only a year earlier.
The prominent stucco home on the corner of Broadway and N. Park was designed and built by local contractor A. G. Swanson for Mr. and Mrs. Norman Burns in 1926. Subsequent residents of 2601 N. Park Drive were John and Rena Mastor, managers of the Bellingham Public Market at Cornwall and Magnolia. Comly Clift, owner of Clift Motor Co., and wife, Laura, moved into their eclectic “fairy-tale cottage” at 2810 Cornwall upon its completion in 1928, though the house is better remembered as later being the home of Bob and Betty Clark. Mr. Clark was proprietor of Clark Feed & Seed on Railroad Avenue and a city councilman.
Not all the houses in Broadway Park are grandiose; many are middle-class bungalows, modest and charming. The small houses at 2800 Lyle and 2804 Lyle, both built by the Kulshan Investors’ Co. in early 1924, are of a humble size rarely considered profitable by builders today.
By 1926, the park was one of Bellingham’s “beauty spots” with “the most popular tennis courts of the city” and landscaped footpaths winding through a “veritable sunken garden.”
In 1928, a fenced-off and groomed lawn bowling green was established in the park to the west of Cornwall Avenue Arthur J. Blythe, owner of Blythe Plumbing & Heating, organized the lawn bowling club that held its meetings in his home at 2720 Cornwall Ave. E. C. Lyle, the plat designer, was a charter member of the lawn bowling club. He didn’t live on the street that bore his name, but close. In 1910, he’d built at 2801 Sunset Drive, across the alley from the Heals.
While an original BBI stipulation maintained that “every building constructed [in the Broadway Park Plat] must be for residence uses,” it didn’t keep small markets from emerging just outside the neighborhood’s boundary. The Broadway Park Grocery at 2707 G St. was started by Merry C. Thompson in 1923. Over the next three decades there were numerous proprietors, including Harriet Beecher, who last ran the store. It closed in 1953.
Another mom-and-pop was at 302 W. Illinois, which opened in 1931 as John “Lindquist’s Grocery and Meats.” It operated for 60 years under numerous names, including Harold “Johnson’s Grocery,” Sunrise Mart and the Handy Mart. Today the old store is Keyboard Kids.

Houses in the 2600 block of N. Park Drive had lake-front property before the Broadway Park lagoon was filled in, in the late 1940s.

At Broadway, the west end of the park culminated in a “lagoon.” It is described fondly, by those who remember it from their youth, as an idyllic summer swimming-hole and winter ice- skating pond. However, while it existed, homeowners regularly complained that it was a fetid swamp that bred mosquitoes and accumulated garbage. It was filled-in by general contractor C. V. Wilder in 1946. Mr. Wilder lived at 2727 Broadway, the former Bolster home, and vanquishing the lagoon must have come with some personal joy judging by how low his bid was for the job.
In 1948, E. C. Lyle’s ornamental “Broadway Esplanade” was taken out and paved over. Remarkably, the stretch from Peabody to N. Park was recreated in 2004. There was an initial street lighting fiasco, but neighbors convinced the city to tone down “the stadium lights.”
Broadway Park has long been admired for its antique streetlamps. Originally, they were part of 245 such lights installed throughout downtown in 1927-28. Their illumination made its official debut on Feb. 11, 1928, when Thomas Edison “pressed a button” in Fort Myers, Fla, to inaugurate Bellingham’s new $162,000 street lighting system. It was the light-bulb inventor’s 81st birthday.
When new streetlamps were installed along Magnolia and Commercial streets in 1958, sixteen of the ornamental poles were relocated to Park Drive. The Chamber of Commerce beamed that the lamps “were a much-needed betterment as there have never been street lights in this residential district.” More of the streetlamps were moved to Broadway Park in 1962-63, as all of downtown received “powerful new lighting.”
Landscape architect Everett Campbell Lyle died on Jan. 25, 1935. The centennial of the Broadway Park Plat, which began on his drafting table, is being celebrated by the neighborhood this month.

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