The Immanuel School was built in 1906. It is a two-story building with 14′ ceilings, a raised basement, a hip roof, clapboard siding, paired 1:1 windows, and two porches. According to Michael Sullivan, “What makes this site historic is largely in it’s immaterial sense, not in a physical sense.”
This building was built as a “School of Industries”, where children could go to learn life skills such as woodcarving, drawing, embroidery, and nursing. This concept was a significant social innovation and was characterized by the belief that school should prepare a child to survive in the real world, not just learn Latin and History. It was also believed that although not every child’s family had money or connections, every child deserved to have a chance for gainful employment.
The School of Industries closed it’s doors in 1916; however, the building continued to be used in some complex and fascinating ways.
- From 1916 to 1947: Many social service agencies, such as the Bellingham City Mission, The City Mission Day Nursery, and the Whatcom County Federation of Social Welfare Workers occupied this building. During the Depression, it held offices for Social Security, the Department of Public Welfare, and the Works Progress Administration.
- From 1947 to 1962: The building became the Church of God.
- From 1969 to the late 1990’s: Carl Aker, a taxidermist, occupied this building and became one of the few taxidermists in the State of Washington allowed to repair and create Native American sacred artifacts using endangered species.
- From the late 1990’s to the present: This building has been rehabilitated into four live / work condominiums.
For more information see the Immanuel School of Industries National Register of Historic Places Nomination.