After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1886, Roland Gamwell moved to Seattle and began working with an insurance company. There he met Nelson Bennett who convinced Gamwell to move north to Fairhaven in 1889. Bennett’s connections allowed Gamwell to take advantage of the Fairhaven real estate boom and quickly make a small fortune.
A native of Boston, Gamwell was primarily responsible for getting Boston architects Longstaff and Black to Fairhaven in 1890; they were commissioned to design and construct his home, one of the most elegant homes on Bellingham Bay.
Gamwell was very meticulous about the construction of his home, using only the finest materials. The intricate interior took the builders nearly two years to finish. A variety of hardwoods were used to panel the home’s nine spacious rooms and the plumbing, gas, heating, and electric facilities were the most up to date technology. Gamwell wanted the house completed before his wedding, but he became impatient and went back to Boston to get married. Upon their return, the couple resided in the Fairhaven Hotel until the house was completed.
The Gamwell house is one of the finest illustrations of Victorian architecture both on Bellingham Bay and the in the Pacific Northwest. Beautiful stained glass windows adorn the three-story hand carved oak stairway, created by Italian artisans from Seattle, making it the centerpiece of the house. The Gamwell family occupied the house until 1956, and has remained a private residence. While the windows appear to have been recently restored, the front porch is currently in need of repair. The intricate woodwork trimming the exterior is still well defined.