Morgan Block:  Tenants through the Years


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The Morgan Block consisted of two retail spaces at street level; the corner 1000 Harris address and the up-hill space at 1002 Harris.  In the middle was the door and stairway to the upper residential rooms of the Morgan House.
Originally the corner was occupied by J.W. Hanson's clothing store known as a "gent's furnishing company".  Hanson was soon replaced by The Morgan House Bar which was operated by a guy who kept trying out new first names. Using the names Ludwig, Levi and Louis, "Triple L” Swanson and his wife Hilda emigrated from Sweden in the mid 1880s. He worked as a bartender in Spokane in 1887 before arriving in Fairhaven to work at the Morgan House Bar. Swanson and his brothers Edward and Charles ran the saloon. Ten years later, in 1900, Louis and Hilda were able to purchase the Morgan Block for $6500.
The Morgan House Saloon was one of five bars left on the Southside when Bellingham citizens voted to ban alcohol in public places in 1910. The Morgan House continued as a hotel until 1931 with Louis operating a pool hall downstairs for several years. Charles Swanson lived upstairs through the 1950s.
1890s Photo
 Whatcom Museum Photo Archives

The Baltimore Oyster House occupied retail space next door at 1002 Harris. Advertising on the window "private rooms for ladies” is curious as supposedly a "proper lady” never ventured below 11th Street. When asked to speculate if there was a brothel in the Morgan Building during Fairhaven’s early history, local historian Gordon Tweit replied, "It had a bar with rooms upstairs, didn’t it?” The Morgan Block did indeed have furnished rooms on the upper floors. The house rules can still be seen on the walls in some of the rooms.
1905 Photo by Rembrandt Studio
Whatcom Museum Photo Archive #1960 37.155

Harold Moir’s Equipment Sales and Service and Moir’s Straw and Hay Wholesale businesses occupied the Morgan Block for part of the 1950s and 60s. Harold worked on trucks and turned the corner into a garage. The garage door can be seen in the 1970s photo left, then and now occupied by Good Earth Pottery.
Beginning of the Community Co-Op. 
When Bill Hyde purchased the Morgan Block as part of the People’s Land Trust in 1969, the building was falling down. John Blethen , who operated Toad Hall in the Nelson Block at that time remembers getting beach logs to jack up the center of the building and piece together plumbing and new electrical. In 1970 he helped to open the Community Food Co-Op, acting as its first Chairperson.  The Food Co-op was very different than it is today; offering less than 10 items, primarily grains. It was a working cooperative where members had an active role in acquiring food. One south side resident from those "hippie years” remembers that corn from the Food Co-Op made particularly good moonshine.

 Community Co-Op on Left, Good Earth Pottery Right
1970s Photo by Ken Imus

 In 1972, Good Earth Pottery, a cooperative of 30 artists moved in to the corner space at 10th and Harris originally occupied by the Saloon. Still in business today, Good Earth pottery has been at this original location for over 40 years. A record for Fairhaven. (Although Fairhaven Pharmacy been at 12th and Harris for over 80 years, it previously occupied four different locations in from 1889 to 1929 before settling into its current space.)
Good Earth Pottery early 1970s
Photo courtesy Ken Imus


Community Co-Op early 1970s
When Community Food-Co-op moved to a larger building in Bellingham in 1981, the space next to Good Earth Pottery sat vacant for many years, continuing to deteriorate.  Fortunately, in 1987, the Artwood Cooperative, located Downtown, needed to find a new home. The group of 25 woodworking artists struck a deal with the People’s Land Trust whereby the artists would pay for the materials and make the necessary repairs. Erika Hume, who has for many years at Artwood, remembers the tremendous effort involved. Fortunately a few of the members had construction experience, and beginning October 1987, artists and their families were busy each weekend renovating the building. They reached their goal of finishing on May 29, 1988 just in time to open for Ski to Sea. Originally there was a doorway that linked the two retails spaces together which was removed during that 1988 renovation. Artwood Cooperative continues to showcase the talents of its woodworking members at this location today.            
 Up the Stairway

Upstairs tenants in the 1970s included the alternative newspaper, the Northwest Passage, a yarn shop, Telegraph Music Works instrument repair and Outrageous Audio speakers and records. City Planner Jackie Lynch remembers a community "Mathom” being at the top of the stairs on the 2nd Floor in the mid-1970s. "It was a room where you dropped off what you didn't want, and others came by and picked up what they needed. It was always piled, literally, with junk up to the ceiling.” (Trivia: The idea came from author J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings who described mathom as anything that Hobbits had no immediate use for, but were unwilling to throw away.)

The interior of the upper floors looks very much as it did in 1890 and is used as art studios for craftspeople and artists, including Bellingham native, Ben Mann who graciously let us use his painting  "Up Harris" painting on our homepage!  A venture up the stairway of this historic building should not be missed on Open Studio when artists open up their studios to the public.  


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