Please Mr. Postman: Fairhaven folks want stamp of approval from Postal Service

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 14, 2014 

For many people, Fairhaven is a popular commercial district peppered with historic brick buildings in south Bellingham.

For others, Fairhaven is as much a mindset as a mecca of shops and restaurants.

Now, some people hope Fairhaven will become an official postal destination.

Joel Douglas, the businessman who owns Lairmont Manor in south Bellingham, has written to the Postal Service officials suggesting the idea.

"Everything is in a name," he said. "Fairhaven just happens to be a really cool name."

John Servais, who owns and operates Fairhaven.com, a website with details about Fairhaven businesses, events and history, said he likes Douglas' idea.

Such a change would honor the history of Fairhaven, recognize its distinct nature, and bring added attention to the name of Fairhaven and to the businesses there, he said.

"That's good for commerce," Servais said. "We need commerce here to keep these historic buildings."

Bellingham Postmaster Scott Manier referred questions to Ernie Swanson, spokesman for the Postal Service in Washington state.

Swanson said advocates should detail their proposal, in writing, to Manier, with suggested geographical boundaries for mail to be addressed to "Fairhaven."

"It can be done," Swanson said. "It's not automatic. It depends on the case that is made."

The town of Fairhaven had everything with its own name until 1903, when voters there and in Whatcom, the pioneer town at the north end of Bellingham Bay, agreed to consolidate under the name of Bellingham.

A few months later, the Fairhaven post office became a branch of the Bellingham post office, processing mail with a "South Bellingham" postmark, said Jim Berg, a local historian.

That south-end branch was located on 11th Street between Harris and McKenzie avenues, and later moved to the Nelson Block building, once home to a bank, at 11th and Harris, said Gordon Tweit, the informal historian of Fairhaven who for many years owned Fairhaven Pharmacy.

The Postal Service branch in Fairhaven closed long ago - Tweit said it may have been in the 1950s - to be replaced by a series of contract postal operations in various locations in Fairhaven.

Proponents hope that allowing people to write Fairhaven instead of Bellingham on their letters and packages won't pose an insurmountable problem.

"It looks like it's possible," Servais said. "If the post office says it's fine with them, I'll be using it myself and telling others to use it."

TAKE THAT, NEWMAN

In an episode of "Seinfeld," Newman, a postal worker and Jerry Seinfeld's antagonist, tries to impress a woman by revealing hush-hush postal details. "I'll tell you a little secret about zip codes: They're meaningless," he tells her, before breaking into his dastardly laugh.

Sorry, Newman, zip codes do matter, as does postal workers' knowledge of their territory.

As a test, I mailed a letter to the post office box of Fairhaven businessman Joel Douglas. I included the correct zip code for boxes in Bellingham, 98227, but wrote Fairhaven as the destination on the letter instead of Bellingham. The letter arrived without problem.

I also mailed a letter to Douglas at the street address for Lairmont Manor, which he owns. Again, I wrote Fairhaven as the destination. Even though I mistakenly used 98227 instead of the 98225 zip code for street addresses in south Bellingham, local knowledge got the letter there.

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

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