The Streets of Fairhaven
Dynamite, Stumps, Protests and a Poem
Since 1883, Harris Avenue (originally platted Harris Street) has always been the main street of Fairhaven. It was named after Fairhaven Founder, Daniel J. Harris. Inexplicably, the grander and wider street platted in Fairhaven was named McKenzie Avenue, after who knows who. It's a mystery--someone Harris knew by 1883.
The intersections of Harris at 11th and 12th streets became the most sought after corners for businesses. This is still true today.
An 1883 plat of Fairhaven can be found here.
11th and Harris Looking East
toward 12th and Harris and the Fairhaven Hotel
Photo: Whatcom Museum Photo Archives
| In 1889, Daniel J. Harris sold his property to the Fairhaven Land Company and moved to Los Angeles. |
JJ. Donovan, engineer for the Land Company was charged with platting this new property. He named the new streets after important members of the Land Company. These include Larrabee, Cowgill and Wilson. Although Donovan was just an employee of the Fairhaven Land Company, he managed to name a street after himself, and his mother (Julia).
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"As if a giant's scythe cut everything in sight."
The December 1890 Holiday Edition of the Fairhaven Herald used this description of the clear-cutting of Fairhaven. The 1889 painting left, gives a "clear cut" view when the trees were removed for lots and streets. Harris Avenue is the prominent street in the painting.
The painting does not include the many stumps that remained in Fairhaven for several years.
"A struggling town, built on the stumps of trees..."
Dr. William. R Gray from Iowa, gives us a account of what the streets of Fairhaven looked like when he arrived on June 13, 1890.
"Arrived in Fairhaven a little after seven o'clock. It is a struggling town, built on the stumps of trees cut down to make way for the town site."
"The trees have first to be cut down and burned. Then the stumps are blown to pieces by giant powder and then they too are burned."
..."Great stumps all over the middle of the street." "It is frequently costing $20 to blast out one stump."
From "My Darling Anna" Letters from Fairhaven
"He wanted us to put in *just a little powder* and loosen the stump."
Another 1890 description comes from the autobiography of John W. Nordstrom, founder of Nordstrom Department stores. As a recent immigrant from Sweden, he spent one day in Fairhaven—and had a blast.
"About this time they laid out the townsite of Fairhaven, which is now South Bellingham, and I got a job to go up there to work for a contractor who was clearing the land and grading the streets. I got a job with the powder man to help him dig the holes under the stumps and the powder man was to put in the dynamite and blast them out of the ground. One day the foreman came to us and wanted us to blast out a stump that stood too close to the edge of the street. He wanted us to put in just a little powder and loosen the stump so we could pull it out.
As the roots of the stump went under a nearby shack about 12 x 12 feet in size which was used to store tools and powder. he did not want us to put in too much powder under the stump, but when the blast went off the stump and the house when up in the air, and the shovels and the tools were scattered all over the townsite. The roof was the only thing that held together but it went in the air and landed about 200 feet from where the house stood. The powder man got fired and the foreman acted kind of mean to me the rest of the day, so I quit that day and went back to Tacoma.”
From "An Immigrant in 1887" by John W. Nordstrom
Muddy Streets and Wood Planks to the Rescue
With typical amounts of Northwest rain, the often muddy streets would soon be laid with 2 x 12 wood planking.
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Looking East up Harris Avenue & 10th Street
(Terminal Building in background left.)
1890 photo looking East on Donovan Avenue.