John Joseph Donovan came to Bellingham
in 1888 as chief engineer of the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad and became
an influential figure in shaping the area. Donovan platted the town of
Fairhaven and constructed its wharves, opened the Skagit River coal mines,
and later became chief engineer for the Blue Canyon Coal Mining Company.
Another venture Donovan entered was the lumber business with long time
friend Julius H. Bloedel. Donovan and Bloedel, along with Peter Larson,
started the Lake Whatcom Logging company in 1898 and by 1913 they were one
of the largest lumber firms in the Northwest.
Bloedel started the construction of this house on North Garden Street in
sold it to his partner Donovan after completing three-fourths of it. The
house is one and one-half story with a wood frame constructed with lumber
from Donovan's mill. The boards used in the house are of exceptionally high
quality, very expensive and hard to find today.
A few years ago the Donovan home had the misfortune of being hit on the
Southeast corner by an out of control car, the minimal damage done to the
wood frame was easier to repair than to replace. The house was remodeled in
the Tudor Revival Style. Today, blue stuccoed walls with exposed timber
painted off-white replace the original dark painted wood siding. Great care
is given to restore many details of the Donovan home and to preserve others,
such as the original window locks.
The property continued to be a private residence for a short while after
the Donovan family moved out. For a period of about twenty-five years after
that, Western Washington University used it has the Donovan Hall dormitory
for women. For the past fifteen years, the ground floor of the Donovan home
has been used as a dentist's office, while apartments fill up the rest. The
Donovan house was placed on the National Historic Registry list in 1983.
For more information see the
J.J. Donovan House National Register of Historic Places Nomination.