Onthe Waterfront

Published on Thu, Aug 12, 2004 by an Hrutfiord

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On the Waterfront

By Jan Hrutfiord

One of the popular places for locals and tourists to visit in Blaine is the Semiahmoo Museum, located in the Semiahmoo County Park. This museum, which is open through the cooperation of the Whatcom County parks system and the Drayton Harbor Maritime Association, is staffed by volunteers, and open between Memorial Day and the end of September. Currently, the hours are 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays.

This museum is housed in an old bunkhouse from the Alaska Packers Association (APA) salmon cannery, which was started in 1894 and is now where the Semiahmoo Resort is located. There are three old cannery buildings which have been moved from the end of the spit near the resort, to their current location. Besides the museum building, one houses a children’s day camp, and the third is used by the day camp for art activities.

The museum’s displays include old machinery from the APA cannery, a Bristol Bay gillnet fishing boat from the era of sailing for salmon harvest in Alaskan waters, two models of fish traps which are replicas of those used in and near Blaine and Point Roberts up to 1934, when fish traps were banned in Washington State, several collections of photographs from the APA fishing fleet and of the workers at APA, as well as pictures of local history, waterfowl, and ferry boats from Blaine to Semiahmoo.

A mural of Alaska Packers as it was in the early days was painted by local artist Kathy Graves, and is surrounded by early fishing equipment. Another mural of the sailing ships at the APA dock and the old Semiahmoo lighthouse was painted by James Williamson.

Videos of early fishing days both in Whatcom County and Alaska, produced by Bob Thorstenson and featuring many local fishermen and cannery workers are available to see at the museum, and also are for sale there.

A fun way to get to the museum is to ride the Plover from Blaine Harbor to Semiahmoo. The Plover was the last of the ferry boats used to take cannery workers to and from Semiahmoo to Blaine. If you aren’t up to the half-mile walk to the museum from the ferry dock, take a bike on the ferry and then ride to the museum.

Volunteers are always welcome. If you are interested and have four hours to spare some week-end, call Sunny Brown, museum co-ordinator, at 371-3558, or Richard Sturgill at 332-5742. They will be happy to accept your time, and are able to provide training if you need it. This museum would not be here without the help of local volunteers. The County Parks system provides heat and maintenance, it is up to us as local volunteers to provide the manpower to keep this important local history preservation open for all to enjoy. The goal of the Drayton Harbor Maritime Association is to preserve and protect the history of Drayton Harbor - “Fish and Feathers”. This museum strives to do that.
Sunny Brown said that the museum can be opened for groups during the week, if you call her and make arrangements ahead of time.