Have a Seat!      
Dirty Dan on the Fairhaven Village Green J.J. Donovan at 11th and Harris Mark Twain on 11th and Mill

The Fairhaven Historic District has no shortage of beautiful bronze sculptures.  Several function as restful benches to spend some time!  
 
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Better yet,  "Have a Seat next to J.J. Donovan"  and take trip back to the Fairhaven of almost 125 years ago. Watch and learn what was happening in the early days when Fairhaven was one of four towns along the Bellingham Bay.
 
First, Imagine it August 15, 1895.  

You have enjoyed well-rested stay at the beautiful Fairhaven Hotel at the top of 12th Street.     Walking down the wooden planked street known as Harris Avenue you admire the view out to the ocean.  Fairhaven founder Daniel J. Harris named the street after himself in 1883.  (See plat here).    Harris ends at a large mass of land known as Dead Man's Point.  You can see it in the photo below:


It is hard to imagine that just six years earlier, tree stumps were being dynamited to make way for the streets of the new "Imperial City".    The streets could be a mess in the rainy season, so wooden planks were important!   
 
You come across a nicely dressed J. J. Donovan sitting on a bench on the corner of 11th Street.  
 
Meet J. J. Donovan from New Hampshire.  He is re-reading* the letter he wrote to his new wife Clara back in November 1888 with a sketch of the location of towns along Bellingham Bay.  #Whatcom, Sehome, #Bellingham and # Fairhaven.    
 
A civil engineer, John Joseph Donovan came to Fairhaven in 1888 and soon became involved in numerous business ventures, including railroads, the Blue Canyon coal mine and Bloedel-Donovan Lumber Mills.  Donovan named the streets that had not been named by Dan Harris in 1883.  This included, Donovan, Larrabee, Cowgill, and Julia, after J.J., mother.

Have a seat!  Introduce yourself.  Look around at a very busy corner in the town of Fairhaven. 

 

 

This is a reproduction of an actual letter
from JJ to Clara
*Robert McDermott created this sculpture of J.J. Donovan writing a letter to Clara in 1888, pen in hand….but we are changing that story...just a bit, to fit our 1895 timeline!)


<  Left, towards Village Books

Seated on the bench with J.J., look to your left and you may be able to just make out that it is Mark Twain, sitting with his back to you near 11th and Mill! Perhaps you met him earlier at the Fairhaven Hotel where he is also staying.   

Twain, Fairhaven’s most famous visitor arrived yesterday, August 14, 1895.  He is probably relaxing after his successful 90 minute performance at the Lighthouse Hall in New Whatcom (now Bellingham) the previous night. His event in Seattle, on August 13th, was also huge success.
 
Deeply in Debt, Mark Twain is near the end of his busy nationwide "avoiding bankruptcy tour” of 1895. He has one more performance in Vancouver, Canada before departing for a World Tour.  He may be hung-over after drinking and smoking at the Cascade Club in the Mason Block the night before.
 
Sitting on your bench, you will feel your eyes stinging and see smoke.  This was impacting Mark Twain also, a result of forest fires nearby.  Straight ahead in the smoky view, you can make out the location of the Cascade Club on the top floor of the elegant 3-story brick building at the top of Harris Avenue. The Mason Block was built just five years ago during Fairhaven's building frenzy of 1890 and sits just across the street from your elegant 1889 Fairhaven Hotel, not in your view.  
 
>More info on Twains time on Bellingham Bay




The Mason Block  is now Sycamore Square.  
The Cascade Club is now the location of the Cat N Fiddle Hair Salon.>
 


Fairhaven Towers is currently under construction at that location.
 
 
Click photo for 2019 information on both buildings.
^ Straight ahead, The Terminal Building

Look directly across 11th and you will see the Terminal Building.   Built just 7 years ago in 1888,  the building was one of the earliest structures in Fairhaven.  It was constructed of bricks that were used as ballast on the ships from the Orient. (Buildings afterward were built from local brickyards needed to keep up with the building boom.)
 
Every early business in town had an address in this small square building as their own structures were being completed.  
2019 Fact:
 
The Terminal Building is the District’s oldest building and has been in continual use for 130 years and counting.   For many years it was "The Busy Corner”  next to the streetcar.  Tony’s Coffee has been there since the 1970s.   The mural on the Village Green shows the Busy Corner as it was in 1919.    Tony Campbell, of Tony's Coffee is depicted in front of what will be his coffee house in 70 years!


The Southeast Corner of 11th and Harris
 

>2019 Directions:  Continuing looking right from the Terminal Building, across 11th and Harris, you will see a light brick building.  Pretend it is not there and is just a boarded over lot. 



Getting Back to 1895, talk about the weather with Mr. Donovan as you look diagonally across 11th and Harris. You are looking at the former foundation of the McKechnie Building which has been covered for the past 4 years.  In 1891, a "Splendid Structure" of three stories and basement was designed and the basement foundation was laid.  When Fairhaven’s economy "busted”, so did the dreams of Mr. McKechnie which were covered up with local timber.    
 
2019 Fact:  In 1900, J.P. Nelson would purchase this corner for $9,000.  It would become the Nelson Block and initially used as a bank.

In the 1960s, the basement would be the location of "Toad Hall” and the center of Hippie Life, exploding root beer bottles and all. 
 
 

1891 Fairhaven Herald




2019 Side Trip:  Bust of C.X. Larrabee
 

Just to the right of the Nelson Block, behind the bank building, you will see a sign for McKenzie Alley.  Underneath the sign is the bronze bust of another  important Fairhaven Pioneer,  C. X. Larrabee.  
 
The bust was created by Robert McDermott, who also was the sculptor of Dirty Dan and J.J. Donovan.
 
 
Click photo for more information about C.X. Larrabee.  
 


 
Hippies, Kerfluffles and a Bus
 


Back to 1895, seated on your bench, Look right and notice the beautiful onion-domed building at 11th and Harris called the Blonden Block.  

Built just 5 years earlier it was originally occupied by a real estate firm helping investors achieve their dreams of riches just waiting for them at the new "Imperial City” of Fairhaven.  Everyone was sure that Fairhaven would be selected as the deep water port needed for the Western terminus of James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railroad. 
     
Unfortunately J.J. Hill selected Seattle instead.  That news, and the worldwide financial "Panic of 1893” crushed those dreams.  The Blonden Block is now a bar, owned and run by the former President of the Bank of Fairhaven, and former owner of the Waldron Block.   (Notorious and on-the-run from the authorities in Hillsdale, Michigan!)  




 
2019 Facts:    Life became very tough for Fairhaven for much of the 1900s.  Fairhaven, with plenty of bars and brothels upstairs catered to a rough crowd.   A lady, it was said, never ventured west of 11th Street!  As the decades wore on, historic buildings continued to deteriorate.   One was described as a multi-level eyesore.  In 1950, the Blonden Block was about to be torn down, before it fell down.  
 
This photo from 1950 shows the corner of 11th and Harris Avenue.  Starting at the The Nelson Block foreground left and going clockwise you can see the once-elegant Blonden Block just before demolition, the remains of the Citizen's Bank/Sandwick Building after a 1949 fire (now Rocket Donuts/Fat Pie Pizza), and the Terminal Building (now Tony's Coffee) with the Coca Cola sign in front.
 
Fairhaven had seen better days.
For information of the Citizen's Bank / Sandwick Building and the 1949 fire, click photo above.
 
Onion-Domed to Onions 
 
More 2019 Facts:   In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the former location of the onion domed Blonden Block became a garden, growing vegetables.   The location, helped by wheelbarrows of good top soil, was used by the owner of "Toad Hall” for his restaurant.    It was also considered by many residents as their community garden.  When Ken Imus, new owner of the property, arrived with a bulldozer to make way for progress, the Kerfuffle of November 1972 occurred, leading to a long legal journey for the "Fairhaven Seven”.  
 
Thanks to Dennis Wither for leaving class at WWU early and grabbing his camera!  
 
>Kerfluffle Photos


2019 Facts:  The Double Decker bus, which gave tours around Fairhaven decades ago, was placed on the corner and has been Jacci's Fish and Chips restaurant since 1999.   According to former owner Ken Imus in 2008, it was used in the movie PT103.
 
Ken Imus was unpopular with the counter-culture crowd of 1960s/70s Fairhaven.  The bulldozer didn't help.  He had a different vision for a village of Fairhaven, with hanging baskets and charm.  At one point he was hung in effigy from the corner of  the Waldron Block.   We are in debt to Ken for buying many historic buildings of Fairhaven just as the mayor was talking about tearing them down.  Much of what we enjoy about Fairhaven today is because of Ken.   >Ken Imus, Fairhaven Savior
 




The historic intersection of 11th Street and Harris Avenue

Imagine what this corner has seen!    Dynamite blowing up tree stumps.  Muddy streets before they were planked with wood, and later paved.   The Fire Department trying to put out the 1949 fire of the Citizen’s Bank/Sandwick building just behind you.  Bulldozers and the Bellingham Police in newly acquired Riot Gear in 1972,  
 
 ^Back to the Terminal Building, Straight ahead.
 
Coming full circle, notice the Terminal Building again across the street.  The Building just to the left is known as the E.M. Day Building, now Dirty Dan’s Restaurant.  During the Hippie Years, that building was the infamous Plutos Bar.  Sawdust on the floor.  Lots of music and ….one can only imagine.  It was said by those who lived through that time that Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia would drop by on their way between concerts between Seattle and Vancouver.    


Tired of Sitting?  A Suggestion.  

Short walk left towards Mark Twain.   You will pass by the 1891 Knights of Pythias Building on the left.  Now Drizzle Olive Oil and Vinegar.   This was the first location of Village book back in the 1970s.   Yes, it took a Village Books to help set Fairhaven on its revival!    The new building, finished in 2004 is on the corner of 11th and Mill.  The Village Green is located behind the buildings on 11th Street.

If Village Books is open, go in, look around, buy a book, and enjoy the cafe but exit down the stairway to the Village Green.  On the right-hand side of the stairs, you will see an original 1891 Birds-eye Map--a snapshot in time of Fairhaven and it’s surroundings .    

The map is accurate, with the exception of the Fairhaven Opera House, drawn in behind the Fairhaven Hotel on Harris and 12th Street.  This map is perhaps the only place this Opera House ever existed.   Building stopped at the foundation which remained untouched until the 1950s when it was filled in and became the parking lot still in use today at 13th Street and Harris Avenue.  

The stairway will lead you down to the map, more of Village Books and and the Fairhaven Village Green.  With much so much more to see.  

Including another bench with a young Daniel J. Harris, founder of Fairhaven.
 

Have a Seat!

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