The Fairhaven Hotel 1890-1956
by Rosamonde Van Miert
The Fairhaven Hotel took over five years of local historian, Rosamonde’s Van Miert's life as she researched and wrote "The Fairhaven Hotel Journal”, 507 pages long, published in 1993.
"The Fairhaven Hotel, symbol of the Imperial City of Fairhaven, was built for $150,000 by entrepreneurs Nelson Bennett and C.X. Larrabee. Its imperial grandeur may have been inspired by John Ruskin’s Seven Lamps of Architecture, interpreted by architects Longstaff and Black.
Their design, with seven decorative rosettes, Flemish gables, classical arches and the harmonious use of red brick and gray Chuckanut sandstone, was further enhanced by the elegant white verandas from which guests could view Bellingham Bay. The hotel boasted every modern convenience, a hydraulic elevator, gas and electric lights, golden oak furniture with carvings and fanciful brass hardware, carpeting of deep wine Brussels, scenic paintings in wide golden frames, marble-manteled fireplaces, and many rocking chairs and tête-à-têtes for private conversations. The dining room featured a grand sideboard, elegant dinnerware and serving pieces in silver, inscribed The Fairhaven. At each place setting menu cards were displayed with designs for the occasion: for Thanksgiving, golden sheaves of wheat; for Christmas, snowy mountain scenes.
The great structure, 100 feet by 100 feet, with one hundred rooms, rose like a phoenix from the Fairhaven wilderness being tamed for the arrival of the Great Northern Railroad with Fairhaven as Terminus.
Alas, the trains never came. The hotel struggled through the economic depression of 1893, rejoiced in Mark Twain’s visit in 1895, but closed in 1899. Long for sale, it opened briefly as the Yogurt Sanitarium in 1922 and as the Hotel Victoria in 1923, when Bellingham played host to visitors from Canada coming to enjoy the Tulip Festival.
But in 1928, the tower of the hotel was removed, the first step in its ultimate destruction. As the property of Whatcom County in 1937, all decorative elements—gables, rough Chuckanut Sandstone, and rosettes—were removed. The red brick was stuccoed gray to create a modern business block. Its last years, however, were happy as the home of the Boys’ and Girl’s Club, but an electrical fire in 1953 signaled the end.
Demolition began in 1953 and was completed in 1956 when the great entrance arch fell. Although the idea of Imperial Fairhaven died in the 19th Century, the image of the grand hotel still lingers."
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While writing the Fairhaven Hotel Journal, Rosamonde lived and breathed The Fairhaven Hotel. She often dreamed about it, walking up the steps to the grand entrance but stopping at the door. Years passed, Rosamonde went on to write other books, and the hold that the Hotel had on her lessened. In August 2008, Rosamonde once again dreamed walking up the steps to The Fairhaven Hotel, but this time she opened the door and for the first time she entered the interior of its magnificent lobby—in glorious detail. Two days later the headline of the Bellingham Herald newspaper read "Developers Propose New Incarnation of Fairhaven Hotel”.
Rosamonde, a history AND Shakespeare fan, moved to Ashland, Oregon in 2014. Fortunately she can still be seen in Fairhaven, on the Fairhaven Village Green Mural.
Rosamonde, along with fellow historians Brian Griffin (playing ukelele) and Galen Biery