Remodeled look of Herald Building to become apparent in coming weeks

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 15, 2013 

Plywood window coverings will soon be a thing of the past at the Herald Building.

A nearly $1 million remodel of the historic building's first floor will become more visible in the near future to people passing by 1155 N. State St.

Bob Hall, the building's co-owner, said new windows along the State Street side should be installed within two months, along with an old-style awning on the State Street frontage, a short awning over a Chestnut Street entrance, and an awning on the alley side that will shelter an outdoor eating deck to be installed for Oyster Bar at Bayou on Bay, the first floor's first long-term tenant.

The Oyster Bar, now located at 1300 Bay St., will occupy the southernmost of six business spaces in the Herald Building that will front on State Street.

The restaurant's new space, which formerly housed The Bellingham Herald's printing press, will have room for about 200 diners, counting the outdoor deck, Hall said. The Oyster Bar is changing its name to Rock and Rye Oyster House and could open in its new location by next June, possibly sooner, he said.

The other five spaces facing State, and two business spaces on the west, alley side of the building, should be ready for occupancy by June, Hall said.

Besides the Oyster Bar, no other future tenants have been announced.

The 87-year-old building was recently added to the Washington Historic Register, and Hall and fellow co-owner David Johnston hope it will soon join the National Register of Historic Places.

When the building opened in 1926, 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 State, was occupied by the Bellingham Chamber of Commerce and other enterprises.

In the 1970s and '80s, The Herald 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 bought the building four years ago from The McClatchy Co., The Herald's owner.

The remodel has uncovered several oddities, including an extra-tall vault that might have been used to house a furrier's inventory and maybe provided rented storage for customer's fur coats.

They also found where a personal elevator ran from a basement parking area to a first-floor mezzanine office. From that vantage point, the publisher could keep an eagle eye on newspaper workers, and then quietly depart to the basement.

"He could get in and out of the office without anybody knowing if he was here," Hall said.

UPTOWN DOWNTOWN?

Bellingham has its Old Town, civic center, arts district and its basic downtown. Now there's early talk about an Uptown in downtown.

With new retail tenants and street improvements along North State Street, there's growing talk about giving the downtown perimeter a distinctive name of its own, said Marisa Papetti, owner of the Bellingham marketing firm fifthonsixth. Among other clients, Papetti represents Bayou on Bay and Daylight Properties, which manages the Herald Building.

Papetti said Uptown could stretch east of Railroad Avenue to where Lakeway Drive meets Holly Street, north to Iowa Street and down North State to the new roundabout.

"If we could name ourselves anything, we would like to name ourselves that," she said. "If it organically happens, that's great."

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

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