Fairhaven Carnegie Library (1904)
1117 12th Street
 
 Photo Whatcom Museum

Prior to the building’s construction, a free reading room was opened in February, 1892, on the second floor of the First National Bank of Fairhaven building at 1108 Harris Avenue. It was the hope of the town’s leaders to lure its male citizens out of the saloons to occupy their time in a more socially acceptable manner. The saloons, however, continued to flourish.

Even though the grant for construction of the library and the donation of the property were in place in 1903, progress on this new facility was delayed by several months. During this period the towns of Whatcom and Fairhaven began the process of consolidation, bringing more pressing issues to the leaders of the newly-formed City of Bellingham.


Finally, in the summer of 1904, a contract was awarded to J.H. Trede to begin construction on a plan designed by Elliot and West of Seattle with some local modifications. The three floors of the library included a basement, with separate entrance under the stairs that housed a reading room for men "in their working clothes” (so as not to offend the sensitivities of the ladies), a juvenile division, rest rooms and heating plant. The main portion of the library was on the first floor, and a large meeting room occupied the top floor.

By 1910, the original brick exterior proved inadequate in keeping out moisture and was coated on three sides with stucco. In following years, further deterioration and lack of maintenance forced the closure of both the basement and top floor for public use.

A bond measure in 1970 to demolish this historic structure and replace the building with a modern library failed at the polls but was followed soon after by a remodel of the first floor that eliminated the original woodwork and decorative glass partitions. After the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, a subsequent renovation in the mid-1980’s resulted in a more sensitive remodel. The basement and top floor were restored as meeting rooms for community events. The first floor was still the focus of library service.

 
In 2009, restorative work to the exterior stucco, front stairs and landscape improvements has enhanced the structural integrity of this civic icon of the Fairhaven Historic District.
 

 

100 Years of History at the Fairhaven Carnegie Library

 


 
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