The historic red pillars and gateway that frame the entrance to Fairhaven Park have weathered into serious disrepair and are slated for removal this month. City Parks and Recreation staff recently tracked growing cracks in the brick veneer and observed crumbling mortar and disintegrating stonework. A review by a historic mason determined the structure, built in 1925, could not be rebuilt in place due to the lack of structural reinforcement to support the mass. Due to safety concerns, the gateway and pillars are slated for careful demolition and salvage later this month.
“Staff has valiantly explored all options to save the structure, but unfortunately, due to safety reasons, they must be taken down,” said Mayor Kelli Linville. “Because these are both historic and iconic, we are hopeful the public funds can be raised to rebuild them, and the decorative pieces will be salvaged and stored to assist in that effort.”
A public Facebook page in support of the Fairhaven Park gateway will soon include a link to a fundraising account established at the Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation. You can donate now by clicking “Donate” and specifying Fairhaven Park gateway fund. A rough estimate of the City's cost to replicate the 21' high archway structure is approximately $250,000. Reuse of parts of the salvaged pieces, or replication with new materials, are both possible.
For now, a new sign will be installed to mark the park entrance.
History of the Fairhaven Park gateway pillars
The Fairhaven Park entry gate and pillars were designed by prominent architect F. Stanley Piper and built in 1925. Piper also designed the arched entry at Memorial Park in Sunnyland Neighborhood (dedicated Nov. 11, 1922) — both entrances having square pillars with round finials — that form bookends to the north and south sides of town.
F. Stanley Piper designed commercial buildings and residences throughout Bellingham from 1909 through the 1920s. A particularly high concentration of Piper-designed houses are in Fairhaven's South Hill neighborhood. The Bellingham Fire Station No. 2, built in 1927, on Harris Avenue at 14th (now Firehouse Performing Arts Center) was designed by Piper. Others include the Bellingham National Bank Building, Herald Building, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and, of course, the Bellingham Fire District Station No. 1 (now home to the Whatcom Museum's Photo Archives).
For many decades, Fairhaven Park's entrance pillars were the first thing you saw of Bellingham if you were a motorist arriving via Chuckanut Drive (Pacific Highway). The park itself once allowed overnight camping for automobile tourists. The original entrance to the park was made of wood, which only lasted about 10 years. The mason stated one reason the pillars lasted as long as they did was because of the lack of steel supports, which would have rusted over time and caused failure even earlier.