Scope and Content
Restrictions on Access
Bert Huntoon was born in Sacramento, California, on February 6, 1869, and at the age of 14 moved with his family to Seattle. After completing a course in civil engineering at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York, he came back to Washington to begin his engineering career. He served as an assistant engineer to J.J. Donovan and in 1896 was elected Whatcom County civil engineer, a position in which he served for two terms in Bellingham, Washington. He then became an engineer for the Pacific American Fisheries in south Bellingham in 1899.
In 1923, Huntoon established the Mount Baker Development Company, an organization formed with nine Whatcom County developers for the purpose of constructing a luxury lodge at Austin Pass Meadows. Huntoon served as general manager of the company. He also played an integral role in the building of Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham, but he is perhaps most recognized for his role in the development of the Mount Baker Highway. In 1926, Huntoon and local legislators successfully lobbied for the Mount Baker Highway to be part of the Pacific Highway which was being built along the west coast. Huntoon was also instrumental in creating Sehome Park, overlooking the Western Washington College of Education (now Western Washington University) in Bellingham. As an amateur photographer, Huntoon took numerous pictures of Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, Chuckanut Drive, and other areas of western Washington State. He died on January 2, 1947, in Bellingham.
Scope and Content
The collection consists of photographs taken by Huntoon during the period in which he oversaw the building of the Mount Baker Highway and the construction of the Mount Baker Lodge. The major portion of the collection is centered around the evolution of the sixty-mile Mount Baker Highway. One particular photo shows Huntoon's automobile with the caption "First auto thru to end of Highway, Oct. 14th, 1925." A few photos show Chuckanut Drive in Bellingham, in whose construction Huntoon played a chief role.
Another part consists of photos that document the development of the Mount Baker Lodge and includes a number of "recreational" scenes in and around the lodge. The fourth component of the collection contains photographs of the San Juan Islands, some showing Mount Baker in the distance; these photos were taken from Horseshoe Highway on Orcas Island from the top of Mount Constitution. All photos are by Bert Huntoon unless otherwise noted in the inventory.
Restrictions on Access
Collection is open to the public.
The notion of constructing a road from Bellingham Bay to the Ruby Creek Mines on the southern slope of Mount Baker first emerged in 1879, a time when there was no road beyond the Nooksack River west of the town of Everson. In 1886, surveyor Banning Austin led a delegation up the North Fork of the Nooksack River to map out a northerly route for a proposed road to Mount Baker. Although the mission ended in failure, the idea of a road to the mountain continued to gain momentum. The county wagon road was extended to the town of Maple Falls by 1893 and in the same year Whatcom County politicians lobbied the Washington State Legislature to construct a state road across the Cascades, north of Mount Baker, which would serve to connect western and eastern Washington.
A second survey was proposed in 1893 and Austin was again hired as surveyor. This time he found a possible route but one which would require that a 2,000-foot railroad tunnel be dynamited through the mountains. The pass (formerly Wild Goose Pass) was called Austin Pass in his honor. The road was extended as far as the town of Shuksan, six miles above Nooksack Falls, but lack of funds soon halted the construction. The lack of money, combined with political complications and increasing evidence that Austin's route would be impossible, further impeded progress. Engineer Bert Huntoon and draftsman H.M. Wellman were appointed by the commission to find a more feasible course in July of 1894. Although they found no possible route over the Cascades, miners, settlers, and the county continued to improve the road in order to reach mines and logging camps, paving the way for the 1923 plan to extend the road from Shuksan to the Mount Baker Development Company's proposed luxury lodge.
In 1925, forest rangers completed the trail to Table Mountain, which overlooked Austin Pass Meadow (the proposed hotel site) and in 1926 the site was renamed Heather Meadows. On October 14, 1925, Huntoon's automobile was the first through to the end of the highway. The road to Heather Meadows was completed by autumn of the same year. On July 14, 1927, the Mount Baker Lodge was officially open for business. By 1929, the highway department extended the road three miles beyond Heather Meadows to Artist Point and the 58-mile Mount Baker Highway was finally completed.
Processed by Rebekah Dalby, 2002.
|Last modified: August 1, 2011|