Helen Logie Museum of Art: The Hidden Gem of Old Town Bellingham’s Architectural and Art History

In the heart of Old Town, Bellingham’s oldest brick building stands out against the industrial waterfront. The TG Richards Building has found new life as the Helen Logie Museum of Art.

Helen Logie (1895-1976) was a New Whatcom and Orcas Island artist of international acclaim. She created pencil drawings, oil paintings, and the most famous engravings of Pacific Northwest landscapes. Trees were her favorite subject, as visitors to the museum’s restored hall will discover.

The TG Richards and Company Store originated in 1858, housing and supplying prospectors during the Fraser Gold Rush. It became the Washington Territorial Courthouse in 1863, seeing various uses in private hands before being listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

“Helen Logie’s collection is connected to this building because her father was one of the principal owners of the Whatcom Creek Lumber Mill just a few blocks away,” says collection archivist and associate professor Heidi Vasan. “The owner of the collection also has a tie because his family has been active businessmen from this area in Bellingham for a long time.”

The Helen Logie Art Museum is housed in the TG Richards Building, which Brad Parbury and the Whatcom County Historical Society restored to its original interior. The current basement was once the ground floor and the current ground floor the second floor before the tidal flats in the area were filled. Photo courtesy of Heidi Vasan

Northwest Recycling President Brad Parberry restored the building in 2019. Combining architecture and art history, the museum creates new memories of the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest.

Etchings in Art History

Helen Logie studied art at Smith College in Massachusetts in 1914, then at the Art Students League in New York from 1916 to 1924.

“She had some really excellent teachers and developed her skills in drawing, and she also met John Taylor Arms, who was a famous engraver at the time,” Wasson says. “She spent some time traveling around Europe painting…she loved to paint. When she returned to Bellingham, she realized that the trees, the nature, the life in that part of the world were really what she wanted to focus on.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Wassan

Unimpressed by the modern avant-garde, Logie studied Renaissance art in Italy and France. Her etching process uses copper plates to print duplicates of the original drawing.

“Helen Logie produced about 100 different engraving plates,” says Vasan. “And from some of them she can make about 20 different copies of the same item.”

As Vasan describes it, Logie “wanted to make his prints available for people to buy at a reasonable price. She felt that even students should be able to decorate their walls with her artwork.” Loggie distributed prints internationally while painting and engraving locally.

“At an early age, Helen took art lessons from Elizabeth Colborne, who was also a well-known Bellingham artist at the time, just before her,” Wasson says. “So I think her art really reflects her Northwest heritage.”

Logie’s legacy

Indeed, Helen Logie’s art represents the identity of the Pacific Northwest to a wide audience.

“When she came back to Bellingham, it became clear to her that she really wanted to shoot nature,” Wasson says. “And when you look at her art, the lines, the technique is so fine and precise… and unlike a lot of people who have used pencil as a medium, she doesn’t use shading. She just uses different pressure, different lead size to draw precisely. Some of her drawings would take months to complete.

In addition to etchings, Helen Logie also depicted natural landscapes in oil paintings and pastels. Photo: Anna Diehl

Logie has exhibited his art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Library of Congress.

“She had a sister who she was very close to and who really wanted to promote and preserve her work,” Vasan says. “I think there are probably more extant examples of her art than some other artists.”

Loggie’s Orcas Island and Bellingham homes still stand, and Western Washington University and the Whatcom Museum exhibit her art. The new museum stems from art that Brad Parbury has collected for 50 years, even acquiring the collection of the Lambiel Museum on Orcas Island.

The Helen Logie Museum has a central section of tools using the etching process that Logie used to create his most famous prints by copying original drawings onto copper plates. Photo courtesy of Heidi Wassan

“When I see people walk through the door — it’s quiet, no music, no background noise, maybe a little rain — and [they] spending hours absorbing details, feeling the emotion she put into the drawings. How can you replace it?” Vasan asks. “How can you compare that to anything? It’s an emotional experience to look at art, and we need more of that.”

New museum in the Old Town

The Loggie opened quietly in 2020. The basement was renovated after a flood and now houses a collection of historic newspapers and ephemera, such as the family Loggie stove.

In addition to assembling the collection and restoring the building with the Whatcom County Historical Society, Brad Parberry operates Northwest Recycling and Parberry Iron and Metal, adjacent to the museum. Photo courtesy of Heidi Wassan

“Brad Parbury searched for and acquired previous archived editions of Bellingham Herald and other local newspapers from libraries, from museums, from private collections,” Vasan says. “They range in date from about 1890 to 1990. And they’re certainly historical artifacts — to be able to look back and see what was going on in Bellingham, day by day 100 years ago, is pretty interesting.”

The basement is undergoing reorganization, while the exhibits upstairs will remain fixed – except for possible new additions.

“So far, visitors who have contacted us have had a particular interest or connection to Helen Logie or her art,” Wasson says.

The Helen Logie Museum is currently open by appointment, but may eventually include select hours each month. Visitors can see the website for more information.

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