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Fairhaven

The Fairhaven district in Bellingham, Washington occupies the area around Bellingham Bay that was formerly one of four pioneer settlements.  The original plat of Fairhaven was filed on January 2, 1883, by Daniel J. Harris, the "Dirty Dan” Harris of local lore and legend.

He named this area Fair Haven from the native "see-see-lich-em”, meaning "safe port” or "quiet place”. Dirty Dan was only one of the many colorful characters that comprise the rich fabric of Fairhaven. 

The Fairhaven Historic District, a town site first platted in 1883, encompasses an area of three and a quarter blocks and contains the areas best preserved commercial buildings. 

By 1904 Fairhaven and adjoining communities along Bellingham Bay had consolidated to the City of Bellingham. Separated from greater Bellingham by the topographical barrier of Sehome Hill, Fairhaven came to be known as South Bellingham after consolidation.

Fairhaven boasted the city's most extensive deep-water frontage. When speculators promoted the town site as the anticipated terminus of the transcontinental railroad a sizable business district mushroomed there in 1889-1890. 

Fairhaven proved to be an ideal manufacturing town because of its ready access to coal and timber. Its lumber and shingle mills and large salmon cannery were among Whatcom County's prime industries.

Fairhaven's waterfront is still a manufacturing site, though it is presently dominated by small boat building and repair operations. In Fairhaven the Port of Bellingham maintains its south terminal, a deep-water facility in a protected location accessible by truck and railroad with the potential for handling containerized cargo.

Nevertheless, the community's payroll and population have been in decline since the Post War years. Much of the commercial development, which earlier in the century was nearly continuous along the West End of Harris Avenue to the waterfront, has been razed, and the cleared land remains vacant.

What remains of the once-thriving commercial center is a comparatively small core, which composes the community's special sense of identity. Thirteen primary buildings oriented along the main intersecting streets of Fairhaven date from the speculative boom between 1890 to the First World War. 

Two of the three secondary structures were constructed after the historic period, in l919 and 1929. The remaining secondary structure was constructed at an earlier date, but its historical character has greatly depreciated.

There are a number of vacant lots within the district, but recent intrusions - such as banking and shopping facilities, service stations and apartment buildings - occur on the periphery, outside district boundaries.

Fairhaven's business district has enjoyed a recent revival, largely due to the efforts of a private developer who in l973 acquired and renovated for commercial lease the Mason Block, now the focal point of, the district. Subsequently, other landmarks were renovated, and business was buoyed by a succession of tourist-oriented shops and eating-places.

In the late 1930s or early 1940s a short tangential section styled Finnegan Way was constructed immediately north of the business district in order to connect 11th Street, the major arterial from downtown Bellingham, to 12th Street, which merges with the celebrated Chuckanut Scenic Drive toward the south city limits. This project necessitated minor relocation of, the Kulshan Club.

2011 map

Looking south at downtown

The old bank building

Looking north. You can still see the trolley tracks in the pavement.

 


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