Kulshan Building a triumph when built

The facade had glazed blue and white tile up to
second story

 

Photo by J. W. Sandison, Whatcom Museum #X.3219.5c.

The Kulshan Building, an “Architectural Triumph” at Magnolia and Cornwall, when brand-new in December 1923 with Owl Pharmacy No. 2 on the corner and Ralph Leach’s sidewalk clock outside his jewelry shop.

 

The Kulshan Building on the southeast corner of Magnolia and Cornwall was declared an “Architectural Triumph” when completed in December 1923.

The brick business block was designed by Frank C. Burns, a local architect behind such Bellingham landmarks as the Aftermath Clubhouse and downtown’s Daylight, Alaska, Mason and Countryman buildings.

Burns’ last big commission, the Kulshan Building was financed by James A. Loggie, president of the Whatcom Falls Mill Co., to occupy one of the most coveted corners left in Bellingham’s central business district at the time.

The two-story Kulshan’s facade had “glazed blue and white tile up to the second story, matched by a marquee of blue and white glass.” An entrance on the Cornwall side had “a broad, easy sloping stairway” that led to the second-floor’s 40 rooms that were arranged as office suites.

Loggie had read the market perfectly; every office and shop was already leased by the time the building was finished.

The prominent first floor corner at 1336 Cornwall Ave. was anchored by the Owl Pharmacy No. 2. This was a branch store of the Owl Pharmacy, run by Charles Graham and family, which had its main store only a block away in the Fischer Building (where the Greenhouse is today).

Owl No. 2 would be owned and operated for many years by Fred Graham, one of Charles Graham’s sons.

 

Photo by Galen Biery, Whatcom Museum #1996.10.9480.

The Kulshan Building as it looked in the 1970s after a sensationally awful remodel. What were they thinking?

 

Next door, 1334 Cornwall was Ralph Leach’s jewelry “Factory and Sales Room.” Leach, a manufacturing jeweler, installed a large sidewalk clock outside his Kulshan Building shop and advertised that one could find him if they “Look for the Clock on Dock.” Cornwall Avenue’s original name was Dock Street.

Initially, 1332 Cornwall was “Lindeke’s” hat shop, though in 1924 it became the “Betty-Jean Shoppe” of milliners Betty Rudd and Jean Dawson, who sold mainly the cloche hat that was so fashionable at the time. The Betty-Jean saw dozens of styles come and go during its three decades in the Kulshan Building.

At 1330 Cornwall was the Floral Exchange run by Ira Venters Wilson, who had been in the business of “Cut Flowers and Floral Designs” in Bellingham since 1917. I.V. Wilson was “one of the leading florists in this section of the state and widely known.”

In 1328 Cornwall was Brisbin, Smith & Livesey, an “Office with a Reputation for Service” in real estate and insurance. And 1326 Cornwall was Oswald “Franzke’s China Shop.”

The Kulshan Building’s upstairs offices were “roomy and well lighted” and “finished in mahogany and oak.” In suite 212 were the Great Northern Railway offices managed by Charles Thompson, district traffic agent, and Roy Smith, city passenger agent.

Among other second-floor offices were those of physician William H. Axtell in 206, dentist Waldo Currie in 208, as well as Christian Science practitioners Ralph Kooken and Anna Neilson in 224.

In the basement was the Kulshan Barber Shop, a tonsorial parlor owned by Edmund Brackney who also, of course, tended first chair. The barber shop’s entrance was by way of a stairwell on the Magnolia Street side.

Flush with the success of his investment, James Loggie announced in July 1928 that two more stories were “soon to be built” atop the Kulshan Building. This substantial expansion would add about 50 offices, which were to “be furnished in the most modern style.” The “very latest type of elevator” was to be installed in the Cornwall Ave. entrance.

But these plans were delayed and eventually abandoned with the onset of the Great Depression. The Kulshan never got its third and fourth floors.

In 1930, Leach’s jewelry shop became an early casualty of the failing economy and diamond-setter Robert Averill, who bought the business, did not fare any better. By 1932, the store at 1334 Cornwall was converted into the “Smiles ‘N Chuckles” confectionery, co-owned by Elmer Larsen and Pearl Akins.

A year later, Don Hardwick bought Smiles ‘N Chuckles and renamed it “Hardwick’s.” The soda fountain and lunch counter became one of downtown’s most beloved rest stops and, true to its slogan, Hardwick’s was indeed “Where Friends Meet and Eat.”

In 1934, as the Depression dug in, James Loggie and wife, Laura, turned an office suite into an apartment and lived upstairs in the Kulshan Building. Mr. Loggie passed away there on June 30, 1936. Much of the Kulshan’s second floor was then leased for the New Deal offices of the Farm Security Administration, Farm Loan Association and the Federal Land Bank.

Florist Ira Wilson died in 1938. His widow, Esther, ran the I.V. Wilson floral shop on her own until after World War II, when the couple’s son Charles joined the family business.

In February 1956, Pacific First Federal Savings and Loan Co. took a 50-year lease on the Kulshan Building with an option to buy. The loan company was in the 114 Building, which had just been purchased by Allied Stores as the location for Bellingham’s new Bon Marche.

The 114 Building, named for its 114 W. Magnolia address, was built as the Montague & McHugh department store in 1927. A pioneer dry goods firm, Montague & McHugh financially collapsed under the weight of the Depression. After the store’s demise, in the early 1930s, the large building was converted into use as various offices. Remodeled back into a department store, the 114 Building opened as the Bon Marche on May 9, 1957.

The “Bon” would be downtown’s flagship store until it moved in 1988 to the new Bellis Fair mall on Meridian adjacent Interstate 5. The former Bon is now Crown Plaza.

In the Kulshan Building, Pacific First Federal intended to remodel 1336 and 1334 Cornwall “for their future banking quarters,” meaning Owl No. 2 and Hardwick’s would have to move.

By March 1956, Fred Graham had announced his pharmacy would close without seeking a new location. The popular Hardwick’s closed on April 1, after 24 years in business. Charles Wilson moved out of the Kulshan Building, reopening the I.V. Wilson flower shop that July up the street at 1426 Cornwall Ave.

Pacific First Federal opened in the Kulshan on Nov. 1, 1956, with Archie Banks VP of the branch. The bank “modernized” the building in the late 1960s by covering the first floor with stucco and the upper façade with an ugly aluminum mesh. A rotating clock, in the form of a giant antique pocket-watch, was mounted to the awning at the corner of Magnolia and Cornwall.

Many will recall a similar façade added in 1967 to the exterior of the Exchange Building, home of the Bellingham YMCA. It was an architectural faux pas that in the Y’s case was finally remedied by removal of the metal cage in 1992.

But the historic Kulshan Building, having been rendered an eyesore, had few defenders when Pacific First Federal revealed it was planning a new structure for the site that would include a drive-up teller window and more parking.

Torn down in April 1976, the Kulshan Building was replaced within the year by the new bank. That “new building” is now a branch of Washington Mutual, which acquired Pacific First Federal in 1993.

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