Robert I. Morse home by Dave Ward Photography on Flickr.
Robert I. Morse established Morse Hardware on Bellingham Bay in 1884. His keen business sense allowed Morse Hardware to survive the several economic busts that struck the area; Morse Hardware always kept going and kept growing. Morse’s business dealings eventually extended from Oregon to Alaska.
In 1895 his wife, Etta (Fowler) Morse, selected a design for a new Queen Anne-style home for the Morse family. She found the plans in an 1891 Victorian home pattern book by George Barber. The pattern book called the design “Cottage Souvenir No. 2.” The Morses presented the plans to architect Alfred Lee, the architect who had designed the New Whatcom City Hall. (That Second Empire style Victorian structure is today the Whatcom Museum.)
Construction began just two blocks uphill from the hardware business. The Robert I. Morse House at 1014 North Garden Street was completed in 1897.
The first floor had two parlors, each with its own fireplace, a dining room and adjoining butler’s pantry, and a kitchen. An ornately-carved staircase of maple wood led to the second floor where the bedrooms were located. The basement had five more finished rooms. The exterior of the house was distinctive with an octagonal turret, steeply pitched roof, elaborate trim and latticework, veranda with milled rail posts, and a large, circular window on the second floor. The home was painted charcoal gray. An addition to the south side of the house was finished in 1914.
In late 1919, Morse’s health was failing. In early February of 1920 he traveled to Santa Monica, California hoping to recover faster in a warmer climate. He was hospitalized in Los Angeles, and died in the early morning hours of April 12, 1920 with his wife and Cecil at his bedside.
In 1986 the Morse Home, which had served as apartments for many years, was refurbished, painted blue, and converted into a bed and breakfast. For twenty years visitors to Bellingham were able to stay at the Robert I. Morse house, which operated as the North Garden Inn Bed and Breakfast. Recently, however, the North Garden Inn has gone out of business and the Robert I. Morse Home has been converted back into apartments under Exit Property Management.
The Robert I. Morse Home was entered in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 as building #77001364.