Selection of the Month

James W. Macy Photographs

Month: 
November, 2018
Location: 
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies

James W. Macy was a local construction contractor associated with several early concrete and masonry projects in Whatcom and Skagit Counties in Washington State. Included in the James W. Macy photographs are a variety of images which document various projects around the Bellingham area and record the many changes which the city has undergone in the past 100+ years. Several images in this collection show a heavily-industrialized Bellingham waterfront belching black smoke from smokestacks and city streets which are, in some photographs, predominantly dirt and grass. While the photographs are mostly project-specific in their intent, it is the incidental background elements of a younger Bellingham that are intriguing and provide a glimpse into Bellingham’s past.

This collection contains photographs taken and/or collected by James W. Macy documenting various construction projects throughout Bellingham and Whatcom County, as well as a small number from Mt. Vernon, Washington. Subjects include the former Bellingham City Hall, South Hill and York neighborhoods, the Cyrus Gates Reservoir in the Chuckanut Hills, Little Squalicum Bridge, C.H. Barlow Leather Goods (until a few years ago ‘Film is Truth’ and now ‘Goat Mountain Pizza’), the Olympic Portland Cement Plant, Whatcom Falls Park, Fragrance Lake, Whatcom Falls at the Prospect Street Bridge, and Chuckanut Drive. About half of the images have accompanying captions provided by Donna Sand, the collection donor and daughter of James W. Macy.

Interestingly, a few of the collections at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies have cross-connections with one another. A photograph from one collection may show a similar subject or a person from another collection, but from a different angle or perspective. One example is a reservoir constructed up on Chuckanut Mountain by James W. Macy for Cyrus Gates: there are photographs of this reservoir in both the Macy collection as well as the Gates Family papers.

Several of the buildings in the James W. Macy photograph collection are still present in Bellingham today. Although many sidewalk corners have recently been rebuilt for disability accessibility, there are still a number of sidewalks in Bellingham which bear the imprint of Macy in their surfaces.

All images are courtesy of the James W. Macy photographs at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Western Libraries Heritage Resources.