History of Blaine, Washington
Blaine was officially conceived on May 20, 1890, and was named after James G. Blaine (1830–1893), who was a U.S. senator from the state of Maine, Secretary of State, and, in 1884, the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate.
Blaine, Washington was first settled in the mid 1800's by pioneers who established the town as a seaport for the west coast logging and fishing industries, and as a jumping off point for prospectors heading to British Columbia's gold fields. In its heyday Blaine was home to over 10,000 people, twice today’s population. The World's largest salmon cannery was operated by the Alaska Packer's Association for decades in Blaine: the cannery site has been converted to a beautiful waterfront destination resort on Semiahmoo Spit. Several saw mills once operated on Blaine's waterfront, and much of the lumber was transported from its wharves and docks to help rebuild San Francisco following the 1906 fire there. The forests were soon logged, but Blaine's fishing industry remained strong and robust into the second half of the twentieth century. Into the 1970's Blaine was home to hundreds of commercial purse seiners and gill netters plying the waters between Washington State and southeast Alaska. Blaine's two large picturesque marinas are still home to hundreds of recreational sailboats and yachts, and a small fleet of determined local fishers provide visitors with dockside sale of delicious fresh salmon, crab and oysters. Nature lovers have always appreciated Blaine's coastal location, its accessible bike and walking trails, and beautiful view of mountains and water. Birdwatchers across the continent have discovered the area's treasure trove of migratory birds and waterfowl: Blaine's Drayton Harbor, Semiahmoo Spit and Boundary Bay are ranked as Important Birding Areas by the Audubon Society.
International border intrigue has always been a part of Blaine's ambiance. Smuggling became an underground industry there in 1919 with the passage of the Volstead Act banning liquor sale and use in the United States. Rum running and border jumping thrived along Blaine's shared coastline with British Columbia, and continued until Prohibition was repealed in 1933 (coincidentally the US Congressional law which re-legalized alcohol is named the Blaine Act). In the 1990’s smuggling again reached a zenith as criminals in neighboring British Columbia became major exporters of high grade marihuana. Much more lenient Canadian drug laws provided a rich haven to thousands of large and small cannabis 'grow operations'. As the production of the chemically powerful 'BC Bud' coalesced into competing groups of well networked criminal organizations across BC, a sometimes dangerous game of cat and mouse played out along Blaine's border with Canada. Smugglers used every technique from backpacks to helicopter aerial drops to push tons of the marihuana crop into the US, while a growing phalanx of local, state and federal law enforcement sought ways to stem the tide. Smuggling of drugs, weapons, and money, and unfortunately human trafficking continues in the area. However, following the terrorist attacks of 2001, the addition of hundreds of federal agents and millions of dollars in enforcement technology have pushed more of the smuggling activity away from Blaine and into the rugged interior of Washington.
With its location at the intersection of an international border, a major interstate freeway, and the Pacific Ocean, Blaine is frequently in the news. In 1970 Blaine became the site of the first hostile invasion of the contiguous United States since Canadian/British forces burned the White House to the ground in 1814 during the War of 1812. In May 9, 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, a group of people from Canada came to Peace Arch Park in Blaine to protest the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the National Guard's shooting of students at two US universities. A group of the protesters (size estimates vary between 50 and 600) swarmed from Canada past US Customs and Immigration officers across the border into downtown Blaine, vandalizing storefronts, cars and a local memorial dedicated to Blaine men who had fought and died in earlier wars. They retreated back to the border after burning a U.S. flag and fighting with Blaine residents. Once back at the Peace Arch, the protesters vandalized the monument. This low point in international and local relations between the friendly neighboring countries and communities has never been repeated. The Peace Arch is occasionally still used as a focal point for peaceful demonstrations and debate, but the very vast majority of the millions of people who visit or pass by the Park each year remember it for its beauty and peaceful shoreline setting. Currently, a group of Blaine community members are soliciting support to formalize a sister-city relationship with Pugwash, Nova Scotia.
Today Blaine is a thriving yet tranquil community. It has changed much from its beginnings as a wild border town, yet its residents remain blessed by and very cognizant of its unique and beautiful setting at the northwest corner of the contiguous United States. An award winning K-12 school district, active businesses, a diverse citizenry and a local government committed to service all network to protect and improve Blaine’s beauty and livability as the city grows and charts its path into the twenty first century.