Sehome Park and Arboretum
 
Sehome Hill was part of John Wilson Lysle’s donation land claim of 1854, and he built his cabin at the base of the hill on property now a part of Western Washington University.  A large American elm tree at the beginning of Arboretum Drive marks the spot where his cabin is thought to have stood. Lysle intended to mine coal on the hill but was discouraged by its steepness.  The hillside was subsequently logged in the 1880s, and a sandstone quarry established on its slope in the 1890s. 
 
The height of the hill (640 feet) discouraged further development, but recognizing its panoramic views of the bay and islands, the property’s largest landowner, C.X. Larrabee of the Fairhaven Land Company, was prompted to discuss the possibility of a park on this hill.  Larrabee and the other major landowner, P.B. Cornwall of the Bellingham Bay Improvement Company, approached the city with this proposal, offering attractive terms.  The Park Board accepted their offer and initiated plans for development.  The State Normal School (now Western Washington University) subsequently purchased the land from the city in 1915.  Today, the Sehome Arboretum is a joint venture of the school and the city.
 
 
 
 
Vista from Huntoon Drive in 1929 from the Sandison Collection of Whatcom Museum    



Bert Huntoon, civil engineer and park commissioner, was the architect of Huntoon Drive (today Arboretum Drive) which led to the top of Sehome Hill with its expansive views of Bellingham Bay and the city.  The road is best known for the tunnel at the top which was excavated by hand for fear of collapsing the outcropping overhead if dynamite was used.  The road was completed in 1923 and used for many years until further road improvements bypassed the tunnel. 
 

Huntoon Drive, October 30, 1925--showing the tunnel from the Sandison Collection of Whatcom Museum.



Today, the Sehome Arboretum boasts a lookout tower and 165 acres of hiking trails with interpretive signs depicting the many species of native plants and animal life.