Jim Wardner was a real estate promoter in Fairhaven who had made a fortune from mining silver and lead in Idaho. Nelson Bennett, a Fairhaven promoter, convinced Wardner in 1889 to come and invest in the growing community. Wardner ambitiously purchased 135 lots in Fairhaven, which he used for a variety of endeavors including a waterworks, an electric company, the Samish Lake Logging and Milling Company, and the Fairhaven National Bank. Wardner’s ventures proved successful as he made an estimated $60,000 in profit in only two months. In 1890, with his profits, he began to construct his estate south of Sehome hill that became known as Wardner’s Castle.
Designed by Kirtland Cutter, the huge Victorian edifice of wood construction has three stories consisting of twenty-three rooms, seven of which are bedrooms. There are a total of seven fireplaces in Wardner’s home; the first and second floor each have three fireplaces all with a carved wood mantelpiece. Colored stained glass windows enhance the stairway. Other distinctive features include a porte-cochere for visitors to park and shelter their carriages, a three-story turret, a library and a solarium.
After living in the house for only one year, Wardner sold the majority of his Fairhaven property to Montana’s Peter Larson because he needed more cash for real-estate deals. Shortly after that in 1891 the Fairhaven real estate boom ended because the town was not selected as the terminus for the Great Northern Railroad. Wardner left Fairhaven for South Africa to try and make up for his sizable mining losses. Wardner’s other journeys took him to Alaska, British Columbia and Mexico but never again to Fairhaven.
From 1983 to 1986 the building was used as Wardner’s castle museum. Since then it has been The Castle’s Bed and Breakfast and an Antique Lamp and Lights. At one point the home was painted an astonishing turquoise green, and is now a rich hue of purple. The flamboyant and aggressive personality traits Jim Wardner is said to have possessed are certainly mirrored in the castle he built.
For more information see the Wardner’s Castle National Register of Historic Places Nomination.