Pickett House was the personal residence of Captain George E. Pickett while he oversaw the establishment of Fort Bellingham, the northernmost frontier outpost of the US Army. Pickett and 68 men of the Ninth Infantry, Company D, were transferred to Whatcom in the summer of 1856. While there, they were under orders to build a fort on Bellingham Bay and protect American frontier settlers while establishing a significant presence in the region. Prior to his time serving in the Pacific Northwest, Pickett distinguished himself in the Mexican War and served in the Southwest. He would go on to become a famous historical figure for his role in the American Civil War.
Captain Pickett and his men arrived in Bellingham Bay on August 26, 1856 and began constructing the fort on the Charles F. Roberts donation claim. The prairie land was seized and the homestead family forcibly removed by the military as a “necessity” because the site afforded the only open land in the area and was situated about 3 miles northwest of the mouth of Whatcom Creek. Pickett also ordered that land be cleared for his personal home. The two-story frame house was made from cedar plank lumber supplied by the Roeder Mill and was located on northwestern edge of the settlement with a view of Bellingham Bay. The main section of the house was made up of a study, first floor master bedroom, and two bedrooms on the second floor. The kitchen and dining room were located in the lean-to at the side of the house which also contained a fireplace made of mud and sticks. The property included a pear tree planted by Captain Pickett in 1856 and a stable.
The oldest house in Bellingham, Pickett’s home was dubbed the “head house” and he conducted official business in the front room. Pickett shared the house with his second wife, a Native woman whose name is unknown. While living in the house Pickett’s son, James Tipton Pickett, was born in December 1857 and his wife died several months after his birth. Pickett lived in the house until 1859, when he was removed to San Juan Island to establish an American camp in an effort to prevent the British from occupying the island. Pickett’s move to San Juan Island was the beginning of a 13-year standoff between Great Britain and the United States over ownership rights of the San Juan Islands, dubbed the Pig War. In 1941 the house was converted into a museum and it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.