Wahl's department store, located in downtown Bellingham, Washington, was owned and operated by the Wahl family from 1913 to 1972. Constructed by J.J. Donovan in 1913, Wahl's department store building was bought by J.B. Wahl that year and used as a dry goods store. After J.B. Wahl died in 1937, his son Ralph E. Wahl assumed management until his retirement in 1971. Ralph E. Wahl considered himself more of a fisherman/photographer than a businessman, and is known for his photography of the Bellingham area.
In addition to owning the department store, the Wahl family also owned the Grand Theatre housed in the same building complex. Purchased by the National Bank of Commerce in 1972, the department store and Grand Theatre were demolished two years later to be remodeled into a new National Bank of Commerce office.
The Wahl's Department Store records span the years 1900 to 1982. The bulk of the collection consists of twelve bound volumes of department store advertisements from the Bellingham Herald dating from September 1944 to August 1969. The Wahl's Department Store collection also includes administrative, financial, and real estate records as well as clippings and other printed matter. Real estate records document the acquisition and ownership of the department store and Grand Theatre by lot number. The real estate records also include hand-drawn floor plans and demolition photos of the store and the Grand Theatre.
The collection's administrative records consist of incoming and outgoing correspondence to and from customers, associates, and Wahl family members. Included in the correspondence materials is a letter from A Mother’s Club of Bellingham to the Wahl Department Store about a Japanese man in their employ, written in 1942.
Financial records contain invoices, company day books, bills of sale, and inventories of damage costs due to a fire that occurred in the department store in 1910.
Restrictions on Access :
This collection is open to the public.Preferred Citation :
Wahl's Department Store Records, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The Wahl's Department Store records are organized according to the following series arrangement:
Custodial History :
Edward J. Wahl, Terence R. Wahl, and Richard E. Wahl donated the Wahl's Department Store records to the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies in 1997.Processing Note :
Collection processed by Caitlan Maxwell.Related Materials :
The Ralph E. Wahl Photographs and Papers are also housed at the Center for Pacific Northwest Studies at Western Washington University.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Administrative correspondence includes a 1942 letter from A Mother’s Club to Wahl's department store concerning a Japanese employee.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.