The Schering Block: Tenants through the Years
Late 1970s photo of the Shering Block
by Gordy Twiet
|This two story brick building with sandstone basement is listed on the Register of Historic Places only by an address, The Schering Block was chosen to honor a very early owner Charles Schering. Schering was a large property owner not only in Fairhaven, but throughout Bellingham Bay. Schering’s Addition is a large track of homes located in Happy Valley, a neighborhood just east of the Fairhaven District. (This building is also known by long-time South-siders as the Jenkins-Boys Building after Jacob and Harry C. Jenkins and Fred Boys who operated a hardware/furniture store here from 1903 to 1916. ) |
Schering bought this property from his brother-in-law Daniel J. Harris (Dirty Dan) back in 1883, and built a one-story wooden building here. It was home to the Elk Saloon and Café until a 3:00 am fire destroyed the building on January 31, 1903. Fortunately Schering was insured for loss and quickly replaced the old wooden structure with a two-story building of "unrivaled Alger Oil and Mineral Co. brick” at a reported cost of $10,000.
The Elk Saloon returned to its former location, until the "Dry Ballot" of 1910 closed all drinking establishments. The second floor was built out as a public hall 50 x 80 feet in size. The ground floor consisted of three retail spaces. The two storefronts along Harris Avenue were located at 913 and 915 Harris Avenue. Access to the 2nd floor is from a stairway along 10th Street, which adjoins a small storefront at 1208 10th Street.
The Croatian Fraternal Order occupied the building from 1931 to 1947, using the second floor public hall as a Dance Hall. Croatian Community Dances would be held on special occasions, usually a Saint’s birthday with Croatian families traveling from as far away as Tacoma to attend the event. The Tamboritza Club practiced in the Schering Building and provided music for this event.. This group of teen-aged girls and boys played the tamboritza—a mandolin-like instrument traditional to the Croatian community. Known as the White Flour Sack Band, they were so named because their parents could afford only the tamboritza, with flour sacks serving as make-shift instrument cases. The Girls Club, which also met in the Hall, would provide entertainment by performing skits, gently poking fun at beloved individuals in the community.
The Industrial Years
In the 1940s this building took on an industrial use. A series of companies, Holland Furnace Company, West Specialty Manufacturing Corp, Denison Industrial Fishing Tackle Manufacturing, Fearless Manufacturing Co. Engines, Shear Cut Tool Company were just a few of the companies that occupied this building.
Part of Bellingham’s Boat Building Legacy
Frank Wright, of Wright Manufacturing Co. started building fiberglass boats in the Fairhaven district in 1955 in the Schering Building. The company’s 12-foot car-top dinghies were sold for a time through the Sears catalog. Over the next 50 years, the company expanded to larger pleasure craft, gaining in popularity as Wright Bros. Now known as SeaSport Boats, this company is considered the longest continually operating fiberglass boat in the nation.
Pully which lowered the boats can be seen on second floor. 1960s photo courtesy Gordy Tweit
The boats were built in the former Slav dance hall on the second floor. The 1960s photo (see right) of the building along 10th Street shows that the window and additional brickswere removed to create a larger opening. An iron beam was installed above this opening and a pulley would be used to lower the nearly-completed boats to the ground floor below. Ron Wright, who worked with his father in the business, remembers dropping only one boat to the sidewalk below.
The pulley was also used to haul materials up to the 2nd floor. which included 55 gallon drums of resin. One day a 55 gallon drum of resin was hauled up to the 2nd floor. It toppled over, resin cascading down the stairway to 10th Street. For current owner Brad Imus who refurbished this building in the 1970s, the waterfall story solves the mystery of "what the heck could have happened to the stairway”. Resin was occasionally thrown out the top floor window in the boat building years and can still be seen on the bricks at the back of the building.
Boats were lowered to the ground floor and carried around the corner to 913 Harris Avenue (now Chimney Sweep), and were small enough to fit between the double doors for final assembly. A hook, still embedded in the ceiling, is a remnant of those boat-building days. A passage way (which no longer exists) connected the assembly room to the corner space at 915 Harris. which was used as an office and held up as many as 50 boats, stored upright.
Wright Manufacturing left in 1965, replaced by Charles Dawe Boats and Gilbert Construction. The second floor was a commune for a few years before the building was purchased in 1972 Ken Imus.
Chimney Sweep arrived in 1979, and occupied the the 913 Harris location for 40 years, leaving in 2019 The Fairhaven Cinema took over the 915 Harris corner space in 1984 and operated until 1989. The Eclipse Bookstore’s originated here in 1989 and is named for the Eclipse Mfg Co. name stamped on meters located at the front of the building. (Eclipse Bookstore moved to a new building on 11th Street in 2001. )
|1980s photo |
courtesy Gordy Tweit
The first floor corner space has been occupied for many years by Renaissance Glass. Archer Ale House is located in the basement.