Built: 1890 by C.W. Waldron
Cost of original building: $33,000
Unfinished business: When Ken Imus purchased the building in the 1970s, workmen went into the upper floors and found window frames neatly stacked, just as they had been left in 1891.
Construction: The first floor walls were covered with Chuckanut sandstone blocks. The bricks came from the Far East and were originally used as ship ballast.
SOURCE: “AN ILLUSTRATED INVENTORY OF HISTORIC BELLINGHAM BUILDINGS, 1852-1915,” DANIEL E. TURBEVILLE III
A STORIED HISTORY
The Waldron Building was an older building that Bellingham city planner Jackie Lynch was most concerned about when she became part of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
“It almost brings me to tears that they are saving something so special. You can’t find those kind of buildings that are unique to the community both in design and history,” Lynch said. “The history of it alone just hits you right in the face and I’m glad we won’t be losing it.”
The history Lynch refers to has been an unlucky one, according to “An Illustrated Inventory of Historic Bellingham Buildings 1852-1915,” by Daniel E. Turbeville III. Construction began in 1890 by C.W. Waldron, who intended the building to be home to his bank of Fairhaven. At the time, Fairhaven was blooming.
It cost $33,000 to build the exterior shell, roof and the first floor interior. However, when the Fairhaven economy collapsed in 1892 after it was announced a major railroad terminus wasn’t coming to the area, the bank collapsed and the building was never finished.
After the bank’s demise, the first floor of Waldron building was occupied by a department store. In 1894, but the first floor was restored.
That floor has had different tenants over the years, including a feed store and a photography studio, but the upper floors were never completed.
FINALLY TO BE FINISHED
Ken Imus purchased the building in the 1970s and had a vision of constructing a sky bridge over the Sycamore Square building.
“It would have been quite a project, but it was going to be very expensive and after a few potential tenants changed their minds, the project just kind of fell apart,” said Ken’s son, Brad Imus.
In 1975, Ken Imus didn’t renew the leases of two taverns that occupied the first floor so he could work on renovations. He became frustrated with trying to fix the building and turned his attention to other old buildings in Fairhaven. He sold the Waldron to Dave Ebenal earlier this year for $566,000, according to records at the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office.
“I had been after Ken to sell that building for years, because I thought it was out of our league,” Brad Imus said. “The building was haphazardly built and there was just too much work that needed to be done.”
That Waldron Building’s haphazardness is something Lynch hopes will be remembered.
“It (the Waldron Building) certainly speaks to the boom and busts this community has seen over the years,” Lynch said. “It has taken another Fairhaven boom several generations later to get it completed. It’s a project that could only be done by another private developer. Otherwise, it would have become just a pile of bricks.”
Instead, when completed by the spring of 2007, the Waldron Building will be part of a larger project that includes the planned Young Building nearby, Weed said. The result will be 20 condominiums, as well as retail space, an underground shopping area (the entrance stairs go under the sidewalk on 12th Street) and underground parking. The plan is to keep as many of the significant fixtures as possible, including the original vault of the Bank of Fairhaven, which still sits on the first floor.
“It’s one of those projects that I think we’ll be very proud of when it’s done,” Weed said.
“A few years from now the people working on this building will be driving by, showing their kids.
Reach Dave Gallagher at 715-2269 or email@example.com.