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Bellingham Motto "Ye Olde City Of Subdued Excitement" A Refreshing Change

If you're a Bellinghamster (Bellingham Resident) you have no doubt heard of the city of Bellingham referred to as "The City Of Subdued Excitement" but did you know where it originated and what it really means? 

With the phrase so often tossed around and repeated  on the internet and in local print you may be surprised to know that Bellingham's official motto is actually something else...

"A Refreshing Change".

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Bellingham WA Motto Or Slogans

Bellingham is known for its hiking trails, interurban pathways, bike lanes, lakes and rivers earning it names like Outdoorsman's Paradise and Hiking Town U.S.A. and the city often finds itself on national "Best Of" lists for outdoor activities.

Bellingham's official motto "A Refreshing Change" seems to fit pretty well but almost nobody you talk to seems to know about it.

The City Of Subdued Excitement motto, it is said originated at perhaps the most recognizable symbols of Bellingham--the old red-bricked City Hall building at 121 Prospect street in downtown Bellingham, now the Whatcom Museum.

Located right next to the Museum you will find a mural painted on the side of the old brick Lone Wolf Antiques building that declares Bellingham as "Ye Old City Of Subdued Excitement".

Weather-beaten, faded and bearing the marks of creative vandals the sign itself has also become a kind of icon for the city of Bellingham. As the story goes, the antique store owner's mother suggest her son utilize the store's blank wall facing the old city hall to paint a sign welcoming visitors to Bellingham and since 1994 the City Of Subdued Excitement sign has been welcoming and perplexing passers by ever since. 

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"City Of Subdued Excitement" Exciting Old City Hall

Whether you are a visitor to the Bellingham area or a long time Bellinghamster resident, a visit to the old red-brick "New Whatcom" city hall Whatcom Museum is certainly worthwhile. After the Washington legislature passed a law forbidding the naming of any city with the word "New" in it and the merger of Whatcom with Fairhaven and other smaller cities the building became the city hall for the new city of Bellingham Washington. The building itself built in 1892 has an unmistakable charm and grandeur that seems to welcome you inside. Much like the central Fairy Tale Castle standing at the center of Disneyland and Disney World's Magic Kingdom, this unique French-Victorian inspired structure was intentionally designed to be a city icon and stand tall to be the first thing people see when entering the city from land or by ship when entering Bellingham Bay.

Perched high on a bluff that was originally at the edge of Bellingham Bay, its easy to lose sight of the old city hall's once prominence on the waterfront. The shoreline in front of the building has been repeatedly filled in and expanded over the years to make way for various industries and commerce making the Old City Hall appear to stand much further inland.

 Bellingham City Of Subdued Excitement Mural

Fairhaven Cruise Terminal On Beautiful Bellingham Bay

Save The "City Of Subdued Excitement" Sign?

As an important part of Bellingham's heritage the City of Subdued Excitement mural should be preserved in its original form for future generations. There are a number of options to preserve this grand old sign.

  • Spray the sign with a protective clear coat with UV protection and allow easy graffiti removal.

  • Enclose the sign with a climate controlled glass structure to protect it from vandalism and further deterioration

  • Relocate the sign to an indoor viewing pavilion by removing the wall brick by brick and reassembling it at its new location.

Funding sources for the preservation of this important piece of Bellingham's past, estimated to be between $150,00 - $450,000 would need to come from both the public and private sector and permission would need to be gotten from the sign's current owners. One option could be a temporary increase in the city's sales tax as well as well as charging admission to see the sign in its new home. Of course the sign's owner could choose to just paint it over and paint a new mural?


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