By Steve Guntli
Beatrice Ball considers herself the unofficial historian of Birch Bay, so it’s only fitting that she should be the one to spearhead a museum documenting the seaside community.
Ball is rounding up information and artifacts she hopes will fill a Birch Bay museum. The museum will tell the history of Birch Bay, from the early settlers and the voyage of George Vancouver up to modern times.
“It’s all in the planning stages right now, but you have to start somewhere,” she said.
Ball, a former Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce president, is the “self-appointed historian of Birch Bay.” She and her husband, Earl, lived in the area for several years, but relocated to Mesa, Arizona after their daughter graduated from Blaine High School in 1995. She and Earl return to Birch Bay each summer. Ball said she has been pushing for a museum since her time on the chamber, but this year she’s getting serious about it.
“This is my summer project,” she said. “I’m going back to Arizona in October, so I want to get moving on this and see how much I can get done.”
Ball was inspired to start the museum after people approached her with questions about Birch Bay’s annual Discovery Days Festival.
“People thought it was celebrating the year Birch Bay was discovered,” she said. “I explained the festival is actually named after Vancouver’s ship, the Discovery. It was one of his crewmates who named Birch Bay when they were passing through here, but people were already living here. That’s when I realized we needed a way to clear up a lot of our history.”
Ball feels the area has a rich enough history to make for an interesting museum.
“There are books and museums for Ferndale and Blaine and Bellingham, but we have our own identity here in Birch Bay, and I want to tell that story,” she said.
Ball, who once attempted to write a book about Birch Bay, has accumulated hundreds of articles, photos and rare items from Birch Bay’s history over the years.“I know there are people who have lived here far longer than I have,” she said. “I’m reaching out to a lot of the families that have been in the area for generations. Whether they want to give the items to the museum or just loan them out for an exhibit, it’s all the same to me.”
Ideally, Ball said, the museum would fill a small room, and feature replicas of the Discovery, photos of Vancouver and models of the Birch Bay shoreline from different points in history.
Once the artifacts are collected, her next challenge will be finding the space to display them. Ball said she’s spoken to the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce about installing her museum in the facility at the new beach park on Birch Bay Drive, which will be built within the next few years. Ball said chamber members were receptive and supportive, but there are no guarantees. Still, Ball is optimistic she can finish the museum in one form or another.
“I’m a woman of prayer, and I believe that if I can’t get the museum in that building, I’ll find room for it somewhere else,” she said.
Anyone willing to donate or loan out artifacts for the museum can contact Ball at 206/660-7161.