Future uncertain for Eldridge mansion in Bellingham
Whether you call it a castle, a chateau or a mansion, the Eldridge residence overlooking Bellingham Bay is certifiably historic, and it can be yours for $2.2 million.
The nearly 3,700-square-foot house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, with a broad view of the bay and the islands from its 2.2-acre spread at 2915 Eldridge Ave.
“It’s the most famous house in Bellingham,” said Steven Schrudder, the Lynnwood real estate agent handling the listing.
The house is on both the state and the national register of historic places, but it’s the future of the property that is of greater interest at the moment.
The mansion could be demolished to make room for more housing, but also could be preserved for commercial use.
A buyer could demolish the house and build multiple residential units on the prime property, but Schrudder said he has been approached by a potential buyer from out-of-state with a track record of saving landmark structures. One idea, he said, is to build several townhouses on the site and convert the mansion into perhaps an event venue, a bed-and-breakfast, or a murder mystery dinner theater — something to preserve the structure by making it financially viable.
“What a feather in the cap for somebody,” Schrudder said.
Such land-use changes would involve public comment and city approval, changes that would be easier if the property were added to Bellingham’s own register of historic places.
The property has been owned since 1994 by Mike and Betty “Cis” Kennard, former residents of the house who now live in Sunnyside, in Eastern Washington. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2013 to reorganize their finances, so any sale of the property would have to be approved in court.
Historic land and home
Whatever the future of the property, the history of the house and land is secure.
The site is part of Edward and Teresa Eldridge’s 320-acre pioneer land claim that once covered much of north Bellingham. Edward Eldridge, originally from Scotland, came to Bellingham from San Francisco in 1853 with another of the city’s founding fathers, Captain Henry Roeder. Eldridge’s first enterprise in Bellingham was to open a lumber mill, one that supplied San Francisco with much of the wood needed to rebuild the city after the city’s great fire in 1906, sparked by an earthquake.
Hugh Eldridge, the son of pioneers Edward and Teresa Eldridge, had the mansion built in 1926.
Eldridge also was a prospector, farmer, county official, and president of a bank and many other local companies. An early supporter of women’s right to vote, he was a leader in the territorial legislature and the 1889 state constitutional convention.
Teresa Eldridge, born in Ireland, was the first white woman in this part of the state when she arrived in 1853. Often called the “mother of Whatcom,” she fed workers from Henry Roeder’s and Russell Peabody’s pioneer mill.
The Eldridges’ first home burned down in 1878. Their second, built in 1891, burned down in a forest fire three years later.
Their only son, Hugh Eldridge, inherited a fortune from his father. He also inherited his father’s interest in politics, winning election as county auditor twice and winning appointment as postmaster.
It was Hugh Eldridge who had the mansion built on the bluff in 1926. He hired Bellingham architect F. Stanley Piper, whose other local projects included The Herald building, the Bellingham National Bank building, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and St. Luke’s Hospital.
The mansion, in a style known as French Chateauesque, features a long driveway leading to the front entrance, with a large garage nearby. The exterior is concrete finished with stucco; the interior walls were lined with fir.
Dean Kahn: 360-715-2291