The landmark Fairhaven Hotel in Bellingham served as a beacon to the Fairhaven neighborhood and attracted a host of visitors, including Mark Twain in 1895.
The Fairhaven Hotel made a grand show at the northeast corner of Harris Avenue and 12th Street in Fairhaven, a neighborhood in Bellingham. When the hotel was opened in the later summer of 1890, Fairhaven was still an independent community hoping to become the West Coast terminus for the Great Northern Railroad. Instead, the railroad wound up in Seattle.
That reversal in 1893 and the national financial panic/depression that also began that year flattened the hopes of Fairhaven, but not its hotel. With its grand portico or colonnade, imperial tower and sweeping views across Bellingham Bay, the Fairhaven Hotel survived.
So did this apparently rare photograph of it. Jeff Jewell, who as both the photo historian at the Whatcom Museum and Bellingham’s trusted authority on these matters, tells me he’s not sure he’s seen this particular view, but “it’s fine indeed!” For this photograph we can thank the Hale family — Seth, Kari, Ruby and Georgia — who, while on an evening’s walk in their Wallingford neighborhood, found this and a handful of other Bellingham-area prints in an oversized Dumpster.
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Jewell shared a detailed sketch of the hotel’s history: Mark Twain slept here in 1895 while on his debt-reduction lecture tour. Jeff speculates that the photo dates from 1903 when the C.X. Larrabees, who owned and lived in the hotel, “tidied it up for sale.” There were no takers, though. The hotel lost its tower in 1928, was purchased by Whatcom County in 1937, and soon after “stripped of all external ornamentation for a jacket of cement.” Gutted by fire in 1953, a demolition was completed in 1956.
“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.