Historically, Fairhaven was a boom town in the late 1800s with a population as large as it is today. Fairhaven was hoping to become a big hub city in the west and the construction of many homes, hotels and a new railroad took place in preparation for this. In 1892, however, Seattle was chosen for the new hub city and Fairhaven fell into a depression.
Just over 100 years later, Fairhaven is experiencing another period of rapid change. Several new multi-level buildings are being constructed in the neighborhood's commercial district consisting of commercial space on the ground level and condominiums above. In addition, several area businesses have expanded and new businesses are filling previously vacant spaces. Fairhaven has retained its historic brick buildings and turn of the century charm even with the changes. It is a popular destination for many locals and visitors who enjoy the local restaurants, unique shops, art galleries and the many events and activities in the neighborhood.
In addition to the newly constructed condominiums, Fairhaven has a residental area south of Donovan Avenue characterized by modest older homes on unimproved streets. These homes are in close proximity to Fairhaven's commercial area and residents would not need to walk far to reach most area services.
Fairhaven consolidated with the other pioneer settlements of Sehome, Whatcom and Bellingham to form the City of Bellingham soon after 1900. Fairhaven is the smallest neighborhood in Bellingham, but it is the only neighborhood to contain all the aspects of a complete city - a retail core, heavy industry, rail, ship and truck trasportation centers and separate residential areas.
Fairhaven is home to the Bellingham Cruise Terminal which is the southern port for the Alaskan Marine Highway System. The Cruise Terminal also offers ferry service to the San Juan Islands with the recent addition of year-round foot ferry service to Friday Harbor. Located conveniently next door to the Cruise Terminal, visitors will find the Amtrack train station and Greyhound bus service.
The Historic Fairhaven Branch of the Bellingham Public Library is located here on 12th Street. The Fairhaven Library building was completed in 1904 with funding from a Carnegie grant. In addition to the library services, the building is host to many events in its cozy, fireplace room. The building has been re-modeled and kept open with the help of the Friends of the Fairhaven Library.
Most Fairhaven residents will not have to leave the neighborhood to meet their shopping needs. Residents can get their groceries at the Haggen Fairhaven Market and the Fairhaven Pharmacy has been in business since 1889. Since there is not a single chain store or franchised restaurant in the district, Historic Fairhaven's commercial spaces are filled with a wide variety of unique shops, art galleries and restaurants. Fairhaven hosts several Art Gallery Walks during the year and Village Books, a community-based bookstore, is host to a full schedule of author events in its recently expanded store. Fairhaven Runners & Walkers provides personal assistance to store customers as well as sponsoring races, fun runs, fitness forums and drop-in runs and walks. After Thanksgiving, beautiful holiday lights fill store windows and streets adding to the charm of shopping in Historic Fairhaven.
Marine Park (below) is a small park located on Bellingham Bay. The park has a saltwater beach, shelter and grassy area and is a good place to sit and enjoy the summer afternoons. Marine Park is the site of the finish line for Bellingham's annual Ski to Sea race in May. The park has benefitted from the recent shoreline restoration project completed in 2005.
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