(Average Daily Trips in 1997: 6,700-13,800)
In 1935, a few years after Highway 99 was completed, there was nothing listed along this street. Ten years later it is referred to as Samish Highway and along with some new residential housing there is the Knox Cedar Chest Inn and the Spanish Village Auto Camp. By 1955 the business Highway 99 brought to Bellingham resulted in a surge of new motels, gas stations and other automobile oriented business along Samish Way. A short list includes the Lakeside Motor Motel, the Evergreen Court Motel, Park Motel, Mastin’s Drive-In Restaurant, and Johnson’s Motor Service.
The businesses along Samish Way west of I-5 have stayed travel and auto oriented through today largely due to the location of one I-5's interchanges for on and off service. The Evergreen Motel, east of I-5 on Samish Way, was built in the 1950's on Highway 99 ’s approach into Bellingham’s core area. Now, it seems a little unusual to have a small motel along a street used mainly by local residents who live in the area or by citizens traveling to Lake Padden Park. To the west of I-5, the Aloha Motel (built in the 1960’s) seems out of place among the larger motels with more recent designs.
Doris Pilkey has lived in Bellingham her entire life. When she and her husband began to build their home just off of Samish Way in 1954 they were the only house along their street and one of the few residents in the Samish neighborhood. Highway 99 was just a block uphill from the Pilkey residence but Doris does not remember much traffic noise or other related problems, however she remarked that "the noise from the freeway (now a couple blocks downhill from her home) is much worse."
Doris Pilkey primarily used Highway 99 to travel to work at the Georgia Pacific paper plant in Bellingham. As she recalls, Bellingham’s downtown businesses have changed significantly since 1954. The Comb ice cream parlor is gone and so is The White House Market, a precursor to Haggen grocery stores formerly located on the corner of Railroad and Magnolia, whose slogan was "You may never be the president, but we’ll see you in the White House."
When the construction of Interstate 5 began Doris Pilkey was excited that Bellingham was building a "better road that was faster and would bring more business." Donovan rock, a glacial deposit after the last ice age, was a local attraction in the Samish neighborhood and was also in the impending path of Interstate 5. After they blew up Donovan rock to clear the way Doris Pilkey gathered a couple pieces of the boulder that now decorate her yard. Today, thirty years after the freeway’s construction, she believes that even I-5 is not big enough to meet the traffic needs of Bellingham and worries about the unsafe interchanges.
Doris Pilkey has seen the entire Samish neighborhood blossom "it's changed so much that where there was nothing there’s something." She believes that the pace of life in 1954 was slower than it is today, and that Highway 99 fit in real well. These old photos show how Samish Way must have looked in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Taken in 1954, the photograph of Lake Padden shows a serene, snowy background for the highway driver. A little further to the north the postcard for the Lakeside Motor Hotel, converted to apartments and still used today, advertises "Three miles south of business center on U.S. 99." The postcard is of Lake Samish, just south of Bellingham, along Highway 99.
Copyright © 2000. City of Bellingham