Photo by John Servais
Ken Imus
Fairhaven Savior
In 1975-76, long-time resident, George Hunsby, wrote two small volumes of recollections and anecdotes of Fairhaven events and characters that he entitled, "The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Fairhaven”.  The decline, or "death”, of Fairhaven during subsequent economic downturns is illustrated in photos by its many rundown buildings and weed-infested vacant lots scattered throughout the district.  Hunsby then writes of the arrival of a developer who would lead the transformation, or "resurrection”, of this area and breathe new life into the land and the historic buildings. 
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A Bellingham native, Ken left town in 1949.   When he returned to Fairhaven for a visit in the early 1970s, the city had changed.   And not for the better.   He decided, with his wife Barbara's support, to buy property in Fairhaven to revitalize the district. 

With the exception of just a few buildings....The Terminal Building, Chuckanut Motors (Finnegan Alley), the Morgan Block and the Fairhaven Pharmacy, Ken owed just about everything in Fairhaven.  He even owned the McEvoy Oil property which he would sell years later to the Chrysalis Hotel, on the condition they build a first class hotel there. 

Ken Imus was born in Bellingham and graduated from Bellingham High School.  During World War II he joined the Navy (as did Fairhaven pharmacist, Gordy Tweit) and was assigned to a leaky boat that stayed in dry dock for repairs for much of the war.  He returned safely to Bellingham and opened an auto body shop across from the downtown Leopold Hotel.

In 1948, Imus married Barbara Quinby.

The Imuses left Bellingham in 1949, and Ken took a job with a Ford dealership in San Jose, California.  This was the beginning of his future business success developing automotive dealerships in various areas of California, Texas and Hawaii.

 1970s Photo Mason Block

During a visit to Bellingham in the late 1960s, the Imuses drove by the Mason Block at 12th and Harris, which was a prime example of the many historic but rundown buildings in this "Hippie Haven” of Bellingham. Encouraged by his wife to purchase it, Ken bought the building a year and a half later for $150,000 and proceeded with the renovations that resulted in the opening of the "Marketplace”, housing several boutiques and an upscale restaurant. Hoping to improve property values and attract investment, Imus purchased other buildings and vacant lots for clean-up and renovation and thus began influencing the revival of the entire district.

This was not a popular development among many local inhabitants who preferred the funk to the flash, and Imus was even hanged in effigy at one point.  Another property owned by Imus was the McEvoy Oil property just north of Fairhaven that he would sell years later on the condition that a first-rate hotel be built there.  This is now the award-winning Chrysalis Inn and Spa at the top of Taylor Avenue Dock.

On March 19, 2017, Ken Imus, age 90, passed away peacefully at home in Bellingham.  His death was preceded by this wife of 67 years, Barbara.
More information on his life and passing can be found on the blog here.
1970s photo of Ken Imus in front of the Mason Block
and the 1890s "Dapper Man"

Ken and his wife Barbara depicted in an old Model T on the Village Green Mural.


 Ken Imus:  Fairhaven Revitalizer
Recorded in 2006, Brian Griffin interviews a hometown boy who went to California, made a fortune and came home to resurrect Fairhaven. Ken and his family have owned most of the historic village at one time or another, built many of the new buildings and been responsible for much of its renaissance.

 This oral history is part of the Brian Griffin Oral History Series.  A DVD of the entire interview can be found at the Whatcom Museum Photo Archives, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies (CPNWS) and the Bellingham Public Library.



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