Fearing raids from the British Columbia First Nations people, early Bellingham settlers
would crowd together into the stockade house on Peabody hill at night.
Company D of the Ninth Infantry was dispatched to offer security and
protection. They were led by Captain George E. Pickett, a graduate of The
United States Military Academy at West Point in New York and
a veteran of the
Mexican War. Fort Bellingham, where the stockade was erected, was three
miles west of Whatcom Creek. Soon after his arrival Captain Pickett began
building his house on the bluff above Henry Roeder's lumber mill using
planks from the mill. Pickett's house has the distinction of being the
oldest building in Bellingham.
Pickett's house (1856) was a simple two-story building composed of undressed
planks. The main section of the house measured only 15 feet wide and 25 feet
deep. The first floor was composed of two rooms and the second floor,
reached by ladder, had two bedrooms. A lean-to on the west side of the house
contained the kitchen and dining room. A fireplace made of stick and mud
heated the house. The first room in the house became Pickett's study, where
he conducted much of his official business.
During his stay, Pickett married a First Nations woman
named Morning Mist. In 1857, she gave birth to a son, James Tilton Pickett,
but sadly passed away from birthing complications only days after his birth
causing him to be sent away to live with friends in Mason County. Since Captain
Pickett's duties often took him away from Bellingham, his house was left
vacant most of the time. Pickett left Bellingham in 1861, returning to
Virginia to be a successful Confederate General in the Civil War.
The Pickett house has changed ownership many times. Hattie Strothers, who
lived there from 1889 until her death in 1939, deeded the house and property
to the Washington State Historical Society in 1936. After her death the
Pickett House became a historical monument and was later placed on the
National Register of Historic Places.
Although numerous changes have been made to the Pickett house, it
remains the oldest wooden builidng on its own foundation in Washington State. Most of the improvements have made the house
more livable, including the rear addition of a new kitchen. The lean-to was
converted into a dining room, the front study is now a living
room, and a narrow stairway has replaced the ladder to the second floor.
Other modifications are the glassed-in front porch and shingled exterior.
The Pickett House still serves as an excellent example of Bellingham's
earliest style. To further preserve the structure, the Pickett house was
designated as a museum in 1941, and in 1956, it became home to the Daughters
of Pioneers. The Pickett house still serves both of these activities today.
For more information see the
Pickett House National Register of Historic Places Nomination.