Boom Town Fairhaven Fairhaven

The Fairhaven of 1890 was simply a gol-danged, concerned madhouse.  The frenzy began in 1888 when Nelson Bennett, a hard driving railroad contractor from Tacoma, envisioned Bellingham Bay as the place where the transcontinental Great Northern Railroad would meet the sea.  This important northern route being built by his old friend James J. Hill would like the burgeoning industrial heartland of the nation with the Pacific Ocean and the shortest sea rout to the Orient.  Hill was even then pushing his tracks across the plans and mountains and would soon be selecting a route through the Cascade Mountains to a port on salt water.  The selected site was sure to enjoy a remarkable growth and become a city of fabulous wealth  Bennett was confident that Hill would choose Fairhaven, a sleepy little village with a well-protected deep water harbor.

Dirty Dan Harris

In 1853, Daniel Jefferson "Dirty Dan” Harris had jumped ship from a whaling vessel provisioning in Victoria Harbor, procured a wooden skiff and rowed it to Bellingham Bay….
Harris built a dock and a hotel and tried to promote his little settlement by the bay.  He developed a reputation for being an energetic character with little interest in personal hygiene.  Harris platted his town in 1883, naming it Fairhaven, and what would become its main street, Harris Avenue.  He hoped to sell a lots and make some money.

1888 Visit from Nelson Bennett and a new partner, C.X. Larrabee all unsold lots in Fairhaven

The new players incorporated themselves as "The Fairhaven Land Company and quickly filed a re-plat combining (neighboring) Bellingham with Fairhaven.  Their now enlarged town reach from Julia Avenue in the south to the very northern end of what is now Boulevard Park.

The Fairhaven Land Company owners were all wealthy and successful businessmen. Their lieutenants were all tested, competent and well-to-do in their own right:  Edgar Lea Cowgill, E.M. Wilson, Alexander McKenzie and J.J. Donovan.    Together they were a terrific public relations team.  The new "Boom Town” of Fairhaven was advertised all across the nation and even in Europe.  Their promotions praised Fairhaven’s beauty and location, it’s mild climate, the richness of timer and mining resources and it’s unlimited future.  It was called the "Focal City and the "Imperial City”.  

The Iconic Fairhaven Hotel

Soon an iconic hotel began to rise at the top of Harris Avenue; its tower could be seen by approaching ships and from all over the fledgling town.  It stood as evidence of the power of Fairhaven’s developers and the certainty of it’s prosperity.  

Their financial commitment, the physical evidence of growth, the obviously immense potential for prosperity, were the railroad to come, and their consummate selling job worked.  Immigrants came from all over, people of all sorts, wanting to be in on this great opportunity…….By 1889 the "boom” was on.  The Fairhaven Land Company would sell a lot in the morning for $1,000 and by afternoon it might have changed hands twice, the last sale for $2,500.  The day day it would well again…..

Population Explodes

The December 29, 1890 First Holiday Edition o the Fairhaven Herald announced with joy and pride that the populations of Fairhaven had been 150 on September 1, 1889 and just over a year later, 8,000.  Now that is progress, it boasted.  
"Recollect that the Western Terminus of the Great Northern Railway is Absolutely Fixed at Fairhaven.  Boom fever was running hot and heavy.  
…Fairhaven in 1890 was the place to be for the young, the adventurous and the far-seeing.  
 (Below an excerpt from My Darling Anna, Letters from Fairhaven 1890)  
"Boom Town Fairhaven" written by Brian Griffin