Reid Boiler Works, an old industrial building built of huge old growth fir timbers, burned to the ground late Saturday evening. It was a spectacular fire. And very sad as it was one of the unrecognized historic buildings on the Fairhaven waterfront. The cause was unknown but talk of those watching the blaze was that kids with fireworks had been seen under the building by the railroad tracks earlier. The building has been empty for several years and had been well cleaned by the owner Bob Reid. The fire started shortly after 10 p.m. and was down to a smoldering mess by midnight. The Bellingham fire department let what remained of the offices and building burn and directed their efforts to control flaming debris from spreading up into the air and the surrounding area.
The huge timbers of the building burned hot and strong. They had been protected all these decades by a layer of sheet metal on the roof and sides. For the past few decades, the three story building had been coveted by several local restaurant owners and was estimated to have the potential to be the best restaurant setting on the entire Bellingham waterfront because it stood so tall and so close to the shoreline. No new building would ever be permitted to build so tall and near the the water in these times, but an old building can be renovated and re-used. But owner Bob Reid preferred to not sell as the building continued to increase in value year by year. That is all gone now. The question of whether a new building could be permitted and built on the foundation was discussed by some watching the fire.
It seems apparent that no one was in the building nor injured. And because the building stood alone on the west side of 10th Street at the corner with Douglas Avenue, no other buildings were damaged. The fire could be seen from all of South Hill and parts of Edgemore. The building stood about a quarter mile north of the historic district of Fairhaven on the South Bay Trail, south of Boulevard Park and just a block south of the popular Taylor Avenue Dock.
The restaurant concept was more prevelant than I thought, a fact I discovered while talking with strangers and friends watching the fire. Going back 20 years, I have asked well known local restaurant owners about the concept and they have told me they all recognized the potential and apparently the owner had turned down one or more of them. Talking with two former elected City Council members at the fire, they were not sure if a permitted building might be rebuilt on the old foundation. But it is doubful a new building would be allowed to tower four stories above the railroad tracks and right next to the shoreline. Yes, this writer dreamed of enjoying a drink from the top floor bar someday. Poof. Gone in an hour.