Once regarded as the Hippie Mecca of the West in the 1970s, Bellingham was a haven for long-haired, peace-loving, recreational drug-using men and women. What may come as a surprise to current visitors, is that the highest concentration of counterculture resided in our very own quaint Fairhaven.
The counterculture movement in Fairhaven reached a pivotal moment in 1972 when, in a Western Front Article titled “Drugs, Disrespect will Kills Us”, then-Mayor Reg Williams insinuated the historic, characteristic 20th century buildings of Fairhaven be torn down in favor of the changing times before they began to deteriorate.
One original Bellingham native quickly put a stop to any such notion– Ken Imus returned to Fairhaven after several years away making his fortune in car dealerships in Texas and California to a much-changed town and with an agenda to reclaim the area from the hippies. He began buying a number of buildings and empty lots with the intention of thwarting the counterculture movement in Fairhaven.
When bulldozers threatened a long-standing community garden in an empty lot recently purchased by Imus, protesters arrived on the scene resulting in a skirmish and several arrests.
With Imus’ closing of a few more establishments, including one of the oldest local watering holes, the hippie spirit within Fairhaven slowly began to fade away. Furthermore, the military draft ended, pacifying the social unrest that plagued the era.
The effort to restore some semblance of traditionalism in Fairhaven succeeded and the community settled into its quiet ways. Today, Fairhaven has the appearance of a quaint, small town, yet still retains its spirit of individuality with many local artistic venues, such as independent book seller, Village Books, and frequent art walks.