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Mark Twain Bench
11th Street & Mill Avenue
In 1895, Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens) was deeply in debt and without literary inspiration. His solution to these circumstances was to embark on a worldwide lecture tour at the age of 60 in spite of various physical ailments.In August, after leaving Seattle, Twain was scheduled to appear in the town of New Whatcom, just north of Fairhaven.
On August 14, 1895, Twain entertained an audience of 700 townspeople at the Lighthouse Hall, formerly on the southeast corner of Holly and Cornwall, now a branch of Bank of America.
Seasonal wildfires filled the air with smoke, obscuring the natural beauty of the area surrounding the towns along Bellingham Bay. Hoarse from his lecture and the smoky atmosphere, it was time for a late night cigar and drinks with a few prominent citizens. He was booked into the bridal suite of the posh Fairhaven Hotel, owned by teetotaler C.X. Larrabee and with no liquor available on the premises. Consequently, he was escorted by his hosts across the street to the all-male Cascade Club on the third floor of the Mason Block, now Sycamore Square, where he could smoke and imbibe in a more tolerant environment.
The following day, Twain traveled north to Vancouver, B.C. for the next leg of his tour. In the end, the tour was both a financial success and a catalyst to further literary efforts.
The Mark Twain bench in front of Village Books was dedicated on May 26, 2018. Designed and executed by sculptor, Gary Lee Price of Arizona, the art work was donated by Michael Botwin, former California Deputy Attorney General, who retired to Bellingham in 2002. As part of the dedication, local historian, Brian Griffin recounted Twain’s visit to Fairhaven, and Bellingham Council Member, Gene Knutson, a strong supporter of community projects, welcomed the new addition. Gary Lee Price, the sculptor, and Michael Botwin recounted the saga of how the sculpture was brought to its current location.