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Once-majestic Fairhaven Hotel was
doomed to finally end up in rubble,
and other historical memories of Fairhaven

By Marles Larson, Bellingham Herald, March 26, 1965

(Fairhaven Hotel 1891)
Caption from story: "Testing fire equipment — This photo made in 1891 shows Fairhaven firefighters testing fire equipment which was presented to the city by Nelson Bennett. The view is looking north up 12th Street t is intersection with Harris Avenue. The Mason Block and the grand Fairhaven Hotel are on the right. At left is the present location of the Fairhaven Pharmacy. Note plank streets and sidewalks. The pumper was used by the City of Bellingham until 1953."

      From grand spectacular in 1890 to old and dilapidated in 1953 the Fairhaven Hotel stood for 63 years as residents of Fairhaven saw it as a plush edifice, late the Larrabee family home and at the end the Fairhaven boys and girls club.
      Built in 1890 by the Fairhaven Land Company at a cost of $150,000, plus another $150,000 for furnishings, the hotel was ranked as one of the swankiest place on Puget Sound, if not the Pacific coast. It stood majestic on the northeast corner of Harris and 12th streets.
      The Fairhaven City Directory of the years 1890-91 described materials used in the construction:

      The material used in the construction (of the Fairhaven Hotel) is produced right her; the stone from the Chuckanut and Fairhaven quarries, the brick from the Fairhaven Brick and Pottery Company's Yards, the lumber from her own vast forest, and cut by her own mills. It is furnished with all the modern conveniences — water, electric lights, elevators and steam heaters.

Center of the boom
      Back in the 1890s the Fairhaven Hotel was the center of the frantic business boom revolving amid the town of Fairhaven. The original owners, James J. Hill and C.X. Larrabee, built the hotel because Hill eyed the new bay town of Fairhaven as a Northwest terminal for his interests.
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      Not uncommon were 14-course dinners for the astounding price of $10 being served by tuxedoed Negro waiters. For the opening of the hotel it is reported that local women traveled to Seattle to select ball gowns for the gala affair.
      At the entrance to the building on "opening night" the Negro workers stood by white-loved and all to assist the patrons. The local sheriff affably greeted his friends as he removed their firearms.
      Containing over 100 rooms the hotel featured grandiose oak stairways, a plush, carpeted lobby and huge hanging candelabras of gas lights that were embellished with Victorian shades.

Social attraction
      That high society liked the hotel is an understatement. The greeted vice-president and Mrs. Adlai E. Stevenson [father of the Democratic nominee for president in the 1950s] at a gala ball there and even more fame was added to the building when in 1895 Mark Twain graced the premise as his residence in a few days.
      When the depression hit the bay towns in the mid-'90s and when Hill decided to swing his interests to the Seattle area, the hotel was just one of many Fairhaven buildings built on paper values with projected development plans that was destined to suffer.
      Seeing the struggle was fruitless, Larrabee gave up and moved his family into the massive building where they resided until 1918 when his home at what is now Edgemoor was completed.

Other uses
      Two successive uses of the building, as the Victoria Hotel and the yoghurt Sanitarium, were near failures in the 1920s. In 1925 a fierce wind blew the shingles off the bell-tower and this was more or less the beginning of the end of the historic outer appearance of the building.
      On March 2, 1937, it was reported in The Bellingham Herald that Mrs. C.X. Larrabee, wife of [the Larrabee son] Charles who had grown up in the hotel, deed the property to Whatcom county. The gift included the building and the 12 lots to be used by the county as a recreation center.
      During the depression years the structure was turned into a business building and was leased from the county by the Works Project Administration. It was used for a women's sewing center.
      At the time other ideas for the building included using for a city-county health building with plans to convert the building into a hospital and clinic. At the time of the deeding, extensive repairs were being discussed. It ended up that everything above the third floor of the five-story structure was torn down.

Floors removed
      Penthouse suites, towers, the peaked roof and high chimney all came tumbling down. The trumpeted red brick the city directory had talked about in 1890 was covered with cement surfacing had beautifully draped bay windows faded from the face of the street.
      Returned to the county by the WPA, in its waning years the old hotel became a meeting place for the Fairhaven Boys and Girls Club. Frank Zurline, local merchant, was in charge of the activities for several years. Quite frequently wedding receptions were held there but where lavish receptions with beautifully dressed ladies cascading the large oak staircases had been the vogue all were a thing of the past.

(Fairhaven Hotel)
    Fairhaven Hotel from the 1890 Fairhaven Illustrated magazine. Click on the photo to see the splendid interior of Wardner's Cascade Club, in the Mason Block, across the street from the hotel. The club was where Samuel Clemons was feted in 1895 after his appearance as Mark Twain in a Whatcom theater.
    The crown project of the Fairhaven Land Co. was the five-story Fairhaven Hotel, built in the Jacobethan Revival style by noted architects Frank Longstaff and H. N. Black in the tradition of grand railroad hotels. Wardner decided that one of his banks should be in the lobby; Waldron built his Bank of Fairhaven a block south on 12th street. Charles X. Larrabee bought the hotel and other Bennett properties just before the nationwide Depression plunged the whole area into financial turmoil in 1893. The hotel was torn down in 1953-55 as Washington celebrated the centennial of the territory. The Waldron building still stands.

      Gutted by a fire in 1953 after a dance, the hotel was condemned and sold by the county to the highest bidder willing to the highest bidder willing to clear the property. The property was bought for $1,200 and in less than six months the once stately showpiece was demolished to rubble.
      Area residents, such as Mrs. LaVern Freimann, gained possession of lavish furnishings including 200-pound rose stones sculptured in brick that had once graced the exterior of the hotel.
      On Sept. 18, 1955, children curiously stopped on their way home from school as blocks of the old structure came falling down. The cleared corner property sold for $20,000 s the site for a modern service station. where majestic carriages of the 1890s once brought the social elite to dine, the new mode of transportation has taken ever and drivers whizzing past probably don't remember that once one of the state's "finest hotels" graced the site.

Two other history stories on the same page
Fairhaven area Apple Cannery didn't last
      An apple cannery at Dead Man's Point. That statement probably sparks but few memories as being about Bellingham, but there was such a place on the South Side in the late Thirties.
      It was in 1937 that the old loft building on the southwest corner of the Commercial Point shipyard was converted into an apple cannery. The area was also called Dead Man's Point because a cemetery was located there at one time.
      But the cannery was subscribed to by E.B. Deming, Thad McGlinn and Adolph Malmquist and his son, Emil. The Malmquists had worked out a new theory in the processing of fruits — the vacuumizing of the fruit prior to adding syrup. This process removed the air from the cells of the fruit, enabling the syrup to penetrate more readily.
      Equipment fo the cannery consisted of a six-foot vacuum machine with 40 individual vacuum boxes, a syrup machine, seamers, apple peelers, slicers, mixers, presses and retorts.

The Apple Ring
      The principal product was apple ring (pineapple style). The waste products were turned into canned apple chunks and juice. The syrup was mixed on the second floor and flowed to the syrup machines below.
      A [rail-] carload of apples was used per day at the maximum production, with Rome Beauty, Spitzenberg and yellow Newton varieties used.
      But the venture failed because the cannery was too far from the supply of ruit, and after operating until the spring of 1938 the plant was closed.
      Personnel at the plant included Adolph Malmquist and sons Emil and Bill, Thad McGlinn Jr., Lew English, Eric Larson, Chester Spearin, David Jenkins, Soren Thiel and Erwin Hub.
      The special canning equipment was built at the Pacific American Fisheries machine shop on 5th Street. Frank Johnson was in charge of the shop.

Prelude disaster remains a riddle
      What has been called the area's most tragic yachting disaster occurred on Sunday afternoon nearly 13 years ago. The 36-foot sloop Prelude, with six adults and a 12-year-old boy aboard, was returning from weekend visit to the San Juan islands it was sighted off Clark and Barnes islands, between Lummi Island the north shore of Orcas island about 5:30 p.m., May 18, 1952, and was never seen again.
      A sailer with auxiliary motor, it disappeared in the waters of the Strait of Georgia. Only loose pieces of gear were found, nothing of the the wreckage of the boat itself, despite a search by up to 100 vessels.
      Aboard the Prelude were Mr. and Mrs. Paul Fordyce, the owners, and their son Kenneth; Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Jukes and Mr. and Mrs. Donald Card Jr. Four bodies were found off the west shore of Lummi island the Tuesday after the disappearance of the boat. Mr. Car's body was recovered on the shore of Blakely island, south of Orcas, on May 30.
      Never found were Mrs. Patricia Jukes and Paul Fordyce. Also never determined was a definite clue as to what happened to the Prelude that Sunday afternoon. The coroner determined that death of those who were found was due to drowning. The search for clues and the Prelude itself continued actively for several weeks. The story was Page 1 news in The Herald through the end of May.
      Speculation on the boat's fate was advanced by many sources acquainted with boating on area waters. Some thought the auxiliary motor might have exploded But there were apparently no indications of blows or burns on those whose bodies were found. Some said the rig may have nosed or heeled under in a sudden rising of the wind or waves. It was apparently under full sail when last spotted.
      A brief story some time after the tragedy told of man reporting having seen smoke that afternoon in the area between Orcas and Lummi. But nobody on Orcas or Lummi, or in other boats plying that stretch of water, noticed any smoke or fire. The unpredictable waters and the beautiful but silent shoals and islands hold the answer to the Prelude Mystery.

Advertisements on the pages
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(Rain Forest)
      Western Washington State College education for the future. Progress in educational opportunities for Summer Session (June 21-August 20). Lecture series in history: Dr. page Smith, Distinguished American historian . . . Workshop for Teachers of Indian Children and Youth, Dr. Thomas Billings . . .
      Town & County Casuals located in Town & Country Shoping Center . . .
      Clark Feed & Seed Inc. Bellingham's complete Garden Store & Pet Shop. [This is where the editor bought his most beloved dog, Maggie the Cockapoo, in 1970, after the death of Le Caricature).
      Georgia-Pacific, the growth company, Progress '64/Bellingham. One look around Bellingham is all that is needed to prove that Georgia Pacific progress is progress you can see with the eye and feel in the economy . . .
      The luxurious Bellingham Residential Hotel. Now enjoying its 35th year of business and service to Bellingham. 14 floors of beautiful view apartments . . . Half of these are furnished and for rent on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. The fabulous Florentine Room, along with five other banquet rooms, are available for meetings, banquets, receptions, etc. The San Juan Room is open daily except Sunday for enjoyment of your favorite beverages and foods. Mr. John O'Rourke, manager. [In 1968 the Florentine Room was closed by the IRS in the middle of lunch and was padlocked until the new KBFW radio (formerly KENY of Ferndale) rented the space for its headquarters, and the padlocks were removed to reveal all the wine and spirits stored by the former owners. Your editor was there for our most spirituous grand opening, courtesy of the legacy from the Florentine Room].

Read about the Larrabee Home, Lairmont, on Hawthorn Road, now Fieldston road. In 1914, Larrabee began overseeing the construction of the family's first private home in what would become the exclusive residential district of Edgemoor. Photo courtesy of Al Currier.

      Journal ed. note: I owe so many wonderful people who have helped me learn about those very early days of Fairhaven, many details of which have become lost over time. Brian Griffin is writing his own book and we have been swapping information for going on a decade now. Joel Douglas, who owns the Larrabee Edgemoor property, Lairmont, and is a descendant of a family headed by Joseph F. Dwelley and his wife, Angeline Wells, 1870 pioneers to Puget sound. Donna Sand can literally find anything in historical records, as she has for the Journal many times, for the many genealogical patrons of the public library and for all the people who read the cemetery statistics that she and her husband, Bob, complied over the years. John Servais has been a very helpful guide through his website. Ken and Brad Imus have provided both perspective of old Fairhaven as it was when they began restoring buildings there in the 1970s, and how Southside Bellingham could be reborn out of the fading old buildings of the boom. And Gordy Tweit is once again a repository of knowledge. If you are a serious student of Whatcom history, stop by the Fairhaven Pharmacy someday — directly across the street from the Fairhaven Hotel site — and ask if Gordy is downstairs in the basement in his unique museum to all things pharmaceutical and Fairhaven. We have idled away hours there and always leave with a smile.


James J. Hill and the terminus
      Actually, subsequent research of newspapers of the era and books about the Great Northern Railway have revealed that Hill likely never planned a terminus at Fairhaven. Instead, he whipped the townsfolk into a frenzy with hints about the same, and even traveled up here from Seattle in his private rail car. But as with Everett and Port Gardner and other railroad-boom towns, Hill planned all along to place his terminus on Seattle's Elliott Bay, where a deep-water harbor was perfect for the ships that Hill planned to fill with grain and products and send them to Asia, which would be one of his main profit centers. Fairhaven was used as a hedge and a subtle threat, if the promises from Seattle did not come through. [Return]

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens
      In August 1895 Samuel Clemens did indeed present a sold-out show at the Lighthouse Theater in Whatcom. He then retired to the Fairhaven Hotel, which, he soon discovered, was a temperance hotel because C.X. Larrabee was a tea-totaler, in reaction to his father, who drank heavily and effectively abandoned the family. The rampant forest fires that summer laid a pall of cinders and small material that people breathed in and when Clemens did so, he aggravated his already sore throat. He called for a "toddy" of liquor and hot water to soothe his throat, but had to be taken across the street to the Mason Block. There, in the Cascade Club, members kept their own bottles of spirits. Clemens did not have a lovely trip to Fairhaven, and he left the next day on his world lecture and fundraising tour, never looking back. We will profile this amusing week with Twain next year. [Return]

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Story posted on Dec. 29, 2911
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