Bob Hall and David Johnston like to buy old buildings and add them to official lists of historic structures.
Next up, they hope to put the Herald Building on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are financial benefits from doing so, including tax credits on renovation expenses. Joining Bellingham's own register of historic places, which Hall and Johnston hope will happen later, can bring lower property taxes, too.
But they say they have other reasons for having the building at 1155 N. State St. recognized as historic, such as preserving a community's legacy.
"It helps support and foster a sense of place," Johnston said.
Being listed also means future owners can't readily turn their beautiful swans of buildings into ugly ducklings.
"They won't be able to muck it up with these crazy modernizations," Hall said.
Their application to have the Herald Building put on the Washington Historic Register will be considered when the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation meets in Spokane on Oct. 24. If state approval is given, the National Park Service will decide whether the building qualifies for the national register.
The Herald's newspaper roots go back to the Fairhaven Herald in 1890. It changed its name when Whatcom and Fairhaven agreed in 1903 to consolidate and adopt the name Bellingham.
With its ornate exterior, its terra cotta cladding, and its 10-foot-tall neon "Herald" sign atop a 40-foot frame on the roof, the building has been an iconic part of downtown Bellingham since it opened in 1926.
The building's designers included Bellingham architect Frederick Stanley Piper, whose other works include the Bellingham National Bank Building, St. Paul's Episcopal Church and Columbia Elementary School.
At first, The Bellingham Herald occupied about 10,000 square feet of the first floor as well as the full basement. The rest of the first floor - a series of five retail spaces with recessed entries along North State - was occupied by the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce and other enterprises.
In the 1970s and '80s, the newspaper expanded into those retail spaces and replaced their entryways with a series of windows. Today, the newspaper's offices are on the second floor.
Hall and Johnston, who bought the building four years ago from The McClatchy Co., owner of the Herald, are now well into a nearly $1 million renovation of the first floor.
Hall said following the building's original layout makes the remodel easier by providing a ready-made plan that fits the building's structural elements. Their project includes re-creating the five retail spaces, removing lowered ceilings and re-exposing skylights.
"We're restoring the interior to what it looked like originally," Hall said.
They also plan to install an old-style awning along the North State side, and plan to restore or preserve a variety of original floor surfaces, from maple and butcher block to stained concrete and terrazzo.
Bayou Oyster Bar plans to move from its current location on Bay Street into the southwest corner of the building once the remodeling is done. That's the only first-floor tenant announced so far, but Johnston sounded optimistic about the future.
"There's quite a bit of interest," he said.
For details about preserving historic buildings:
Go to the city of Bellingham website, this cob.org webpage.
Contact Michael Houser, state architectural historian, at 360-586-3076 or Michael.Houser@dahp.wa.gov, or see dahp.wa.gov.
Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or firstname.lastname@example.org.