As you drive up Holly Street, past Old Town you meet the grand steeple and slate roof of St. Paul’s, and enter one of the most sought after neighborhoods in Bellingham, the Columbia Neighborhood. Columbia is one of Bellingham’s oldest neighborhoods just up the hill from where the first town on Bellingham Bay had its start. Many of the homes here are Victorian in design but there are also a few Craftsman styles to be found. They range from large mansions overlooking the bay to small, elegant homes on narrow tree lined streets. On the northern end of the neighborhood can also be found good selection of well built mid-century homes and in amongst the neighborhood are a few apartment buildings and duplexes. What tends to make Columbia a great neighborhood is not just the classic, well maintained homes and tree lined streets, nor its close location to downtown Bellingham or its neighborhood school, it’s the people that live there that really makes the Columbia a great neighborhood. The residents of the Columbia Neighborhood are active in social and community activites and issues. Many families with school age children call Colombia home and this results in a closely connected neighborhood where the kids and parents know each other and cross paths throughout the week.
At the heart of Columbia’s old neighborhood is Elizabeth Park, one of Bellingham’s oldest parks. Though only two neighborhood blocks in size, Elizabeth Park is the signature landmark for the entire neighborhood. Tennis courts, children’s playground and basket ball courts are a few of the amenities of the park, but it’s the wide variety and species of trees that give this park much of its uniqueness. Much care was taken 100 years ago to have a wide collection of trees planted in the park, and today they have grown into grand specimens. Under their sheltering limbs, is the parks gazebo where every Thursday evening in the summer, music enthusiasts from all over Bellingham come to listen to the Concerts in the Park. This is the place to throw down a blanket, let the kids dance to the music, catch up with old friends and eat Mallard’s Ice Cream. If you’re from out of town and visiting Bellingham on a Thursday evening in the summer, come to Elizabeth Park and experience the neighborhood.
Columbia School is the neighborhood elementary school, and has been since 1925. It’s one of the old neighborhood schools left in Bellingham and has the smallest population of students in the district. Columbia School is what draws many to living in the neighborhood and has a very active group of parents.
Eldridge Avenue runs along the south end of the neighborhood and many of Bellingham’s classic old homes are found here. The Eldridge Society is a collection of old home enthusiasts who are active in the preservation of the homes in this area. They organize a biannual house tour where several of the classic homes in the neighborhood are on display in public tours. They also are involved with many community projects that improve the neighborhood and promote and preserve its history.
Within the boundaries of the Columbia Neighborhood is the Fountain District where a variety of shops, restaurants and Businesses are located. Also on the edge of the neighborhood is the local neighborhood grocery store, Haggens. This is one of those well stocked, medium sized grocery stores that you really don’t find much anymore. Serving the immediate neighborhood, Haggen is another place to catch up with the neighbors and friends and pick up a fresh baked loaf of bread and some good advice on what wine to bring to the night’s dinner party.