Bellingham's own architecture legend, George Bartholick

You may have heard me say that my work in real estate has been peppered with rather coincidental, if not inspired, experiences. (If not, I’d be happy to talk your ear off about all the strange and incredible situations that I’ve had in the last year.) So, here’s another one.

While antique shopping at one of my favorite PNW stores, Urban Marketplace, in the Manette neighborhood of Bremerton, I started chatting with one of the sales associates. I mentioned that I lived in Bellingham, and she said that she went to college there. She happened to mention the name of her college roommate…because, that’s normally what you bring up in a 30-second conversation with a stranger, right?

“I still keep in touch with my college roommate, Andrea Bartholick Pace, who’s now interior designer in the Bay area,” she said.

Bartholick. The name stuck. I said, “This is a long shot but…did her dad happen to be an architect?”

“Yes, he was!” she replied.

My eyes widened. I just put one of the late George Bartholick’s homes under contract: a beautiful 1960s home in the Edgemoor neighborhood of Bellingham. My clients and I had been researching him and his work. What are the odds?

Days later I had the opportunity to speak with his daughter Andrea about his life and his work, and I’m excited to be able to share a bit about it here.

A true creative

Born in 1921, George Bartholick grew up in Bellingham, where his family owned a shoe repair shop. He came from a creative family, as evidenced by this custom car his father had created by Ford for his personal use. 

 George Bartholick, age 4, (to the right of the steering wheel) in a Bellingham parade.

George Bartholick, age 4, (to the right of the steering wheel) in a Bellingham parade.

He was an adventurous spirit and he lived all over the world.

He was best friends with prominent PNW architects Fred Bassetti and Ibsen Nelson. "They ruled the Seattle art scene in the 70s and 80s," Andrea said. "They were all tall, dressed beautifully, and supported the arts and changes in Seattle's development."

He was crazy, wild and mischievous. She told me a hilarious story about how he designed a contemporary house called the “House of the Future” for the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962, and then got arrested for sleeping in it before opening day.

After traveling Europe, and living in Finland and France, Bartholick came home in 1956 to Bellingham.

“He loved Bellingham, especially Lake Whatcom."

Andrea grew up with her two siblings in a one-bedroom log cabin with an outhouse at the end of Northshore Dr, until she was 11 years old when the family moved into the home that he was slowly building on the property.

"The lake reminded him of the fiords of Norway,” she said.

Bartholick designed much of Western Washington University’s campus. He also restored the old city hall (for the former town, New Whatcom) after a fire, which today houses the Whatcom Museum. His work laid the groundwork for what is now the Woodland Park Zoo. But he was most known for his work restoring Pike Place Market, which earned him an American Institute of Architects award in 1985.

Bartholick only designed a handful of residential projects in his lifetime, but the homes that he did design were special for all of those who got to live in them.

“He was always very close with his clients, and they typically kept the homes for the rest of their lives.”
 

 A portrait of George Bartholick during the 1990s when he was living and teaching architecture in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Andrea Bartholick Pace.

A portrait of George Bartholick during the 1990s when he was living and teaching architecture in Guanajuato, Mexico. Photo courtesy of Andrea Bartholick Pace.

615 Bayside, Edgemoor

My lucky clients are design enthusiasts, and they immediately fell in love with this home, which features floor to ceiling windows and the unique floor plan that playfully winds around a courtyard and pool, with walls of sliding doors creating natural indoor-outdoor living spaces.

“He hated cutting down trees to make room for a home, so would design around them," Andrea noted.

Bartholick’s influences were Japanese architecture, nature, and natural light.

When we walked into this home, it immediately felt cultured and inspired, much like its creator.

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Bartholick died in 1998 at the age of 77.

In his Seattle Times obituary, a fellow architect Jim Leong, said "He was one of the characters of Seattle, a living legend. He could be a cantankerous reprobate on one hand, and a gentle, guiding soul on the other. He definitely designed some marvelous buildings."

And we are fortunate to have a bit of his legacy here in Bellingham.

 

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