The Croatian Community in South Bellingham
The Slav community from Croatia was an important part of history of the Southside area, which included the town of Fairhaven. (Fairhaven would become part of Bellingham in 1904.)
The Croatians who settled between 11th and 15th streets on the Southside of Bellingham were involved in commercial fishing. Many came from the Town of Komiza on the Isle of Vis and they referred to themselves as "Slavs"
The Croatian Fraternal Hall occupied the large upper floor of the Charles Schering Block on 10th and Harris Avenue. Over 1,500 members of the Croatian community in Washington traveled for the grand opening in 1931. The Hall, was famous for the performances of the White Flour Sack Tamboritza band. (See Stories in the Fairhaven Historic District below).
Some of the family names in the Slav Community were: Kink, Elich, Evich, Karusa, Kuljus, Muljat, Radesich, Tomich, and Zuanich, Those names are still familiar with Bellingham residents today. Mayor Kelli Linville grandparents were the Kuljus family. Troy Muljat is successful realtor. Zuanich Point Park is named after Former Port of Bellingham Commissioner Peter Zuanich Sr.
Perhaps the best way to understand the important history of the Croatian community in Bellingham is to read a first person account of Steve Kink, who grew up in Fairhaven's fishing community. His reminiscences, published on HistoryLink.org (see FIRST PERSON link below) is an important part of recording this history. Steve's grandparents Paul Kink (originally Kinkusich) and Maria (Evich) Kink emigrated to Bellingham from Croatia in the early 1900s.
Brian Griffin's book "Boulevard Park and Taylor Avenue Dock on the Old Bellingham Waterfront" recounts some wonderful stories of life in the Croatian community.
includes the E.M. Day Building (now Dirty Dan's Restaurant) and The Schering Block (Renaissance Glass),
(10th through 13th Streets)
FIRST PERSON STORIES
HistoryLink.org Essay 8384 by Steve Kink Posted 12/07/2007
HistoryLink.org Essay 9696 by Steve Kink Posted 1/25/2011
(with the valued assistance of Mitch Kink)
The Pacific Northwest Croatian, a monthly newsletter written by Margaret Radish Sleasman, documented the lives of the early Croatians and their families. These newsletters can be found in the Washington State Archives at Western Washington University and the Bellingham Public Library.