Photo:  Whatcom Museum
Cyrus L. Gates
Civic Benefactor
"It is only now and then that a man of unusual character and personality comes into the life of any community, and, in a quiet, modest manner, becomes a great living force for the upbuilding of civic life and public welfare.  Such a man was Cyrus Gates to a marked degree.”  (Board of Park Commissioners Resolution, February 4, 1927).


Cyrus Lester Gates was born on April 21, 1858 in Castleton, Vermont.  He was working at Moseley & Stoddard, a manufacturer of dairy goods, in Rutland, Vermont when C. X. Larrabee persuaded him to move to Fairhaven, Washington to work as his private secretary for $150 per month.  Gates and Larrabee had met when Larrabee was teaching school in Vermont. Gates had impressed Larrabee as smart, conscientious, and hardworking; Larrabee received an unsolicited letter from Gates’ employer, M. Stoddard, giving him a glowing recommendation and lamenting losing him. 

Gates moved to Fairhaven in November 1890. He was Larrabee’s private secretary until Larrabee’s death in 1914 and was professionally and personally involved with the Larrabee family for the rest of his life. Gates became vice-president of American National Bank; organizer and secretary/treasurer of Pacific Realty Company, MacKay Realty Co., and the Roslyn Cascade Coal Company.  He was also director and treasurer of the Mount Baker Development Company, and transferred 160 acres to it that became the site of the Mount Baker Lodge in 1927. 

On September 12, 1899, Gates married Mabel Huntoon at her family’s home on 14th Street. She was a schoolteacher who had graduated from the Annie Wright School in Tacoma. She was the sister of engineer/photographer Bert Huntoon, who among other positions was general manager of the Mount Baker Development Company, assistant engineer for J.J. Donovan’s railroad activities, and engineer for Pacific American Fisheries. Mabel and Cyrus had 3 children: Frances Ellen, Cyrus Kingsley, and Katherine Elizabeth.  
Left to right Cyrus Kingsley, Katherine Elizabeth, Frances Ellen

The family originally lived at 1700 Larrabee Avenue (renovated in 2014). They next moved to what is now 1800 Knox Avenue (previously 1503 and 1103 18th Street and 1802 Knox).  In 1905, Gates purchased the land on Chuckanut Drive that became his beloved Woodstock Farm, named for the town of Woodstock, Vermont.  Gates built a Craftsman style house and outbuildings on the property and, according to the 1915  Bellingham City Directory, the family had moved in. In the early 1920’s, a large addition was built on the house creating the footprint the house has today. The City of Bellingham acquired Woodstock Farm in June 2004 for use as a public park. 
Cyrus, Mabel and Frances at Woodstock.

Gates died at Woodstock Farm on January 13, 1927 after a paralytic stroke. According to the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce resolution of February 7, 1927, "He has been closely associated with every civic and commercial development of this city. No man has contributed more than he to this community.”   He gave the land for Arroyo Park, was instrumental in the creation of Larrabee State Park and Fairhaven Park and the construction of Chuckanut Drive and Mt. Baker Highway; he loaned the City of Bellingham funds to purchase the first part of the Sehome Arboretum.  He donated the 60 acres for plant experimentation that became the State Bulb Farm (now Bellis Fair Mall) and land at 14th and Harris for the Fire Station. He also bred Jersey cattle. He was a community-minded visionary but also a modest man who shunned publicity. No streets or buildings were named for him; no book has been written about him. Nevertheless, we continue today to enjoy his many contributions to this community. 

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