Nearly 100 years of Bellingham history is slated to be destroyed.
The red brick pillars and archway that once welcomed visitors to Fairhaven Park have now become unstable and unsafe, according to the city of Bellingham, prompting the city to demolish the iconic structures.
Built in 1925, there were originally six pillars but time has not been kind to them. Slowly the structures have been coming down, with the one being removed in 2008 when it was hit by a truck.
It was that accident that showed Nicole Oliver, parks development manager for the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department, the poor shape the pillars were in.
“Some things do only have a life as long as they are able to be around. I don’t think we could have done anything to protect these longer than we did, but it is heartbreaking for the department.”
“Our parks operation crew have been trying to maintain them over the years,” Oliver said. “They have been painted many, many, many times and they have been cleaned [but] we are at the point where structurally they are failing.”
The pillars are made of a concrete core, surrounded by two layers of brick veneer. There are also decorative corner pieces made out of concrete and poured stone masonry that make up the decorative caps and finials, which are ornaments on top of each pillar.
It all sounds pretty stable until you realize the mortar that holds those pieces together is disintegrating, Oliver said.
If the mortar were to fail the whole column would come down, including to 500 pound spheres that rest, unanchored at the top of it.
“There is nothing holding those finials from falling off in an earthquake, and because they are right by the entrance and exit to the park we can’t just cord it off and figure it out,” Oliver said.
Community members have suggested repairing or rebuilding them instead of taking them completely down, but rebuilding would cost an estimated $250,000, according to a press release from Bellingham City Hall.
“Right now we do not have the capital funding necessary to rebuild it in its current form,” Oliver said.
Hope now lies in the Whatcom community to raise the money needed, but so far not much support has been given.
A fund was started by the Whatcom Parks and Recreation Foundation, but as of Feb. 10, it has only raised $1,123 which is a far cry from what is needed.
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville is hopeful the funds can be raised.
“Because these are both historic and iconic, we are hopeful the public funds can be raised to rebuild them, and the decorative pieces will be salvaged and stored to assist in that effort,” Linville said in a press release.
Heather Carter is the development director at the foundation and is involved in managing the fund.
“We are hoping citizens will come forward who really care about this, that are passionate about it and want to lead the way on this project,” Carter said.
President of the foundation Daniel Tepper is hopeful that eventually the support will come.
“So far we have not seen a group coalesce around this particular platform, [but] it’s still early so it could happen,” Tepper said.
The demolition of the structures is slated to come at the end of the month and people are already upset, including those involved in its destruction.
“Some things do only have a life as long as they are able to be around,” Oliver said. “I don’t think we could have done anything to protect these longer than we did, but it is heartbreaking for the department.”