LYNDEN, Wash. -- A Century-old landmark in Whatcom County, once nearly destroyed by arson, has reopened. The renovation of the old Lynden Department Store is bringing history to life and playing an important role in revitalizing the community.
The building, which housed a department store for decades, played a substantial role in Lynden’s history. It is now a hotel and a collection of restaurants and shops. The entire operation fully opened a few weeks ago after nearly a year of construction. Fire engulfed the 43,000-square-foot building in 2008. Two teens were charged with setting the fire. Eight years later, the familiar façade and charming interior are back.
“We really tried to expose the structure as much as possible, so people still had a connection with the history of the building,” explained architect and co-owner Jeff McClure.
It all started in 1897 with the first building, which also caught fire. After the first building’s destruction, the structure was built that still stands today. The current structure was called the Waples Mercantile building, then, Delft Square. Founder and longtime owner Billy Waples sold everything from washers and dryers to wagons, logging chains, and coffins.
“He brought the first goods to Lynden by mule train,” said Judy Judson Carroll, Waples’ granddaughter. “It was a happy place, and you could find anything. You didn’t have to go to Bellingham or Seattle.”
Judy now lives in Seattle, but she was born and raised in Lynden. She worked in her grandpa’s store as a senior in high school.
“The sales people that would try to sell him things said he was a hard man to work with, but they really liked him because he was fair,” she said. “During the depression, he loaned people money because people were starving.”
Today, Waples’ legacy lives on through the work of McClure and his team.
“We wanted to make sure that we kind of kept that department store feel, where you didn’t have to go outside into another tenant space and then back inside,” said McClure. “Everybody is kind of connected at the hip.”
The anchor tenant is a 35-room hotel called The Inn At Lynden. Around its lobby are two restaurants, a tap house, bookstore and a gift shop. All of the tenants feature locally-produced goods focusing on the area’s proud Dutch history and Dairy industry. Those enjoying the new downtown centerpiece say they are excited Lynden’s rich history will live on for both locals and tourists yearning for a small-town getaway.
Tenants will celebrate “Billy Waples Day” on May 1, 2016, to help recognize the building’s official reopening. McClure says before the project, there was a 15 percent vacancy rate downtown Lynden. Now, the vacancy rate is just 2 percent, according to a survey conducted by building developers.