Landmark Fairhaven building marks 125th year

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 29, 2013 

Terminal Building

The Schroeder family, Sam, 5, left, Naomi,1, and mom Rachel,visiting from Kennewick, pass the 125 years old Terminal Building at 11th Street and Harris Avenue in the Fairhaven District, Wednesday July 25, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

There's a notable anniversary in Fairhaven this year, but don't expect much hoo-ha from the 125-year-old subject.

Built in 1888, the Terminal Building at 11th Street and Harris Avenue quietly remains the oldest commercial structure in the south Bellingham district.

In case the name isn't familiar, the building is home to Tony's Coffee and Harris Avenue Café on the ground floor, with nine professional offices on the second floor.

There's a bit of sagging here and there and the flooring isn't uniformly level, but the building is well-maintained and displays a flash of charm with its decorative cornice and multicolored trim.

"It's definitely a building with character," said Kirke Mahy Hestad of Bellingham, a member of the family that bought the building in 2002.

The other owners are her husband, contractor Jim Hestad, and Jim's folks, George and Mary Lou Hestad of Lopez Island.

As is customary with real property, location is key to the Terminal Building, and to its name. One theory is that "Terminal" reflects Fairhaven's hope in the 1880s to become the western terminus of the transcontinental Great Northern Railway. The railroad went to Seattle instead, sending Fairhaven into a tailspin.

The other theory is that the Terminal name came decades later, in reference to where electric streetcars met.

Despite stretches of economic hard times in Fairhaven, the Terminal Building has been occupied almost continually. Early on, the second floor was used for living quarters, while the corner shop at 1101 Harris was a combination saloon, restaurant and barbershop, and the other ground-floor space, 1103 Harris, was a combination cigar store and billiard parlor.

Clearly, early merchants knew what services were important in the bustling, rough-and-tumble early days of Fairhaven.

Later, ground-floor tenants have included a grocery store, drugstore, café, and a shop with a soda fountain that was a hit with students from Fairhaven High School.

Upstairs tenants in recent decades have included lawyers, engineers, songwriters, bookkeepers and landscape designers. These days, counselors and therapists fill most of the second-floor offices, but Seth Fleetwood, an attorney and Bellingham City Council member, has occupied the northwest corner office since the late 1990s.

"I like the view," Fleetwood said. "It looks out on the nerve center of Fairhaven, 11th and Harris. I've lost a lot of productivity just staring out the windows."

The building's corner retail space has appealed to local coffee lovers since 1971 with the arrival of Tony Campbell's Fairhaven Tea & Spices.

George Hestad later became a partner in the coffee company with Bob Elliott, who had bought Tony's coffee business as well as the building. They're still involved with Tony's wholesale roasting operations, while Robin Hoisington owns the coffee shop and café.

Jim Hestad said the structure's advanced age doesn't deter tenants from keeping the Terminal at full occupancy.

"People love old buildings," he said. "It doesn't have the modern infrastructure, but I don't think people always choose that."

"It's really a treasure," he said.

Literally. When Hestad installed new wood flooring in the coffee shop last year, he replaced a knot with resin that encases an 1888 silver dollar. You can see it near the steps from the coffee shop into the café.

Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com .

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