The Gamwell House
1001 16th Street
South Hill Neighborhood
Roland Greene Gamwell is descended from a distinguished New England family who founded Rhode Island and was active in the cause of American independence.  Born July 25, 1863, in Rhode Island, Gamwell completed a course in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1886.  In 1889, he came to Northwestern Washington and worked for the Prudential Life Insurance Company in Seattle.
Encouraged to move to Fairhaven by investor, Nelson Bennett, whom he met in Seattle, Gamwell took advantage of the local real estate boom and established a new business, dealing in real estate and insurance.

It was Gamwell’s influence that lured Boston architects, Longstaff and Black to come to Fairhaven, and he subsequently commissioned them to design and build for himself an elegant home on the southeast corner of 16th Street and Douglas Avenue.  The construction of the house was begun in 1890 but, due to Gamwell’s insistence on the use of only the finest materials, it was not completed until 1892.

Meanwhile, Roland Gamwell returned to Boston to marry Helen Thacher, who was also descended from a colonial family.  Upon their return to Fairhaven, they took up residence in the new Fairhaven Hotel until their home was completed.

The most dramatic feature of the house is a solid oak staircase rising three stories and highlighted by stained glass windows.  Italian artisans from Seattle were brought to Fairhaven to carve the elaborate woodwork throughout the house.

Unlike most Victorian or Queen Anne homes of the day, the Gamwell house featured spacious rooms.  There were only nine main rooms in the great house along with a de rigueur turret room typical of the architecture of Longstaff and Black.  The house was elegantly furnished with silver, china, carpets and linens brought from the East Coast.

Roland Gamwell was a noted floriculturist, and the grounds of his home reflected this passion.  In addition to his real estate and insurance business, he ran a nursery out of his home during the years 1935 through 1950.  The current landscape displays several beautiful old trees from Gamwell’s time, but the prize roses of his day have since succumbed to old age.

After Helen Gamwell died in 1944, Roland Gamwell lived alone in the house until 1956.  He died in 1959.  The home has since remained a single-family residence and this elegant structure is still meticulously maintained by its current owners.  The Gamwell mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places.




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