Fairhaven Park

 
Fairhaven Park, located between Harris Avenue and Chuckanut Drive, consists of 16 acres.  A five-acre donation by C.X. Larrabee and Cyrus Gates of Pacific Realty in 1906 was enlarged by another five acres from the Erastus Bartlett estate. Additional acreage was further donated by Pacific Realty, and the entire parcel was then deeded to the Park Board of the city in 1909.
 
UPDATE:  Iconic gateway removed.
Click HERE for Bellingham Herald newspaper article
 

Early development of the park was a personal investment by Larrabee and the local Industrial Club with the intent to improve living conditions in Fairhaven.  John C. Olmsted, of the renowned national landscape firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, submitted the 1910 blueprints for the design of the park.  He was the nephew, then stepson, of Frederick Law Olmsted who is best known for the design of Central Park in New York City.

 
The original entrance to the park was a rustic log structure built in 1915 which succumbed to rot within a few years.  The former brick entrance was designed by local architect, F. Stanley Piper, shown here in 1925.   The Fairhaven Park entrance as of February 2017.  
 

 
Enhancements to the park over the years included playground equipment, donated by Francis Larrabee, along with a $3,000 pavilion.  Tennis courts and even a small petting zoo were soon added.  Cyrus Gates donated a concrete wading pool in front of the pavilion in 1916.  A new spray pool now provides summer fun for local children.

 

Just beyond the entrance is a small memorial stone dedicated in 1946 to George Finnegan, local humorist and owner of Fairhaven Pharmacy. 

 
 
Another park attraction was a 177 foot flag pole formed by a limbed red cedar tree and dedicated on Flag Day, June 14, 1907.  At the time it was the tallest natural flag pole in the U.S.  Subsequent landscaping around the tree undermined its root structure, and the tree toppled in the Columbus Day storm of 1962.

 
Galen Biery Papers and Photographs #1635
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
Western Libraries Heritage Resources 
Western Washington University
  



In the 1920s automobile tourism was popular.  Since Fairhaven Park was located on the main road into the town from the south, local citizens and the Park Board created an automobile tourist camp, similar to the one established in Cornwall Park.  The camp was operational from 1921 until 1928.  It occupied the area that is now the main parking lot just inside the entrance. 
 

 
 
Galen Biery papers and photographs #2982
Center for Pacific Northwest Studies
Western Libraries Heritage Resources
Western Washington University
 

Photo circa 1920-1930.  Chuckanut Drive in the foreground.  The two pavillions and the original log entrance (built in 1915) are shown.   A Model-T or Model-A automobile is on the road that winds though the park. In the left background is the Happy Valley neighborhood.

Fairhaven Rose Garden

A full-time caretaker occupied the house built in 1914 just north of the park’s main entrance.  It was surrounded by a large garden of specimen roses.  Unable to maintain the salary of a caretaker, the position was eliminated in the 1960s, and the house became vacant and fell into disrepair.  The roses were removed in 1998, victims of decay and the ravages of the local deer population.
 
Rose gardens and caretaker’s house, pre-1937.
Sandison photo from G. Biery collection, Whatcom Museum
 
 
The caretaker’s house became a youth hostel from 1990 until 2007.  In 2008, the house and surrounding property were leased to the nonprofit Chuckanut Center for Local Self Reliance.  Through mostly volunteer efforts, the group has repaired and renovated the house and planted the gardens with various edible plants and trees.  Events feature gardening demonstrations, food preservation and other self-reliance skills.