Nelson Block (1900)

1100-1102 Harris Avenue / 1305-1307 11th Street
 
 


Courtesy Whatcom Museum Photo Archives
This building on the southeast corner of 11th and Harris was originally begun in 1891 with a design of three stories by architect, William Blackmore, under the ownership of Malcolm McKechnie. Soon after excavating the basement and laying the foundation of Chuckanut sandstone, McKechnie saw the waning of Fairhaven’s boom years and stopped construction, boarding over the foundation.

Ten years later, James Purdy Nelson purchased this prominent corner from McKechnie with money he made from selling a fish trap location to Roland Onffroy of Pacific American Fisheries. Nelson paid $9,000 which was reportedly what McKechnie had already spent on his aborted construction project.

Architect, William Cox, designed this attractive two-story structure in the High Victorian Italianate style adding a few up-to-date features in the Richardsonian Romanesque tradition. The first floor corner location with its huge round-arched portal was planned as a bank. The newly-organized Citizen’s National Bank opened in this location as Henry, Andrews & Company.

Two other commercial shops occupied this building—one at 1102 Harris and the other at 1305 11th Street. The earliest tenant at 1102 Harris was Ira Shey’s clothing store. The 11th Street location was the General Saloon.

There was a full basement under the building that housed the Sharpless Barber Shop and Baths and the Sharpless & O’Dell Billiard Parlor. By 1904, the Evening Herald was printed in the basement, and for a time, also contained the Fairhaven post office. The second floor of the Nelson Block housed various professional offices.



Although relatively well-preserved over the years, the building was purchased in the 1970s by Ken Imus of Jacaranda Development Corporation and completely renovated. His office is now located on the second floor, and the corner space is occupied by Three French Hens, gifts and clothing.