Bay Properties shines up Birch Bay gateway

Published on Thu, Nov 7, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Bay Properties shines up Birch Bay gateway

By Meg Olson

“This is the gateway to Birch Bay, the Times Square of the area,” said Carl Dufton, standing on the corner of Birch Bay Drive and Harborview Road next to the restored building that has been home to gas stations and diners and is now home to his Bay Properties agency.

Dufton and his wife Diane bought the building, which last housed the Clamdigger Restaurant, in June 2001 and after almost a year wrangling with Whatcom County over right-of-way and shoreline permits, they dug into renovating it early this summer.

“It was pretty old and destroyed,” Dufton said. “The framing was tight but all the walls came from different eras, pipes were exposed and there were inches of grease on everything.”

As the Duftons rebuilt the structure, they tried to rebuild its history from a stack of old deeds and photographs given them by the previous owners. An 1871 land patent list Bernhard Bruns as the original owner of the property.
“He was one of the bachelors,” Dufton said. “The families were on the uplands and the bachelors lived down here.” The property cycled through half a dozen owners before a 1934 agreement, which described it as “the garage on the triangle,” leased the property to Lonnie Smith for use as a lunchroom and campground. It went through different combinations of uses and owners over the years, from a restaurant to a gas station and a store and back again, the last of these being the Clamdigger, which closed several years ago. “We’ve heard all sorts of people’s memories; all these anecdotes and stories,” Dufton said. “Quite a few people have been sad we weren’t opening a restaurant but overall the feedback has been positive. We cleaned up the entrance to Birch Bay. It looked abandoned and it was an eyesore.”

Entering on the main floor of the building, it shows no trace of its restaurant past. There is a simulated stone fireplace in the center of the room and desks cluster along the wall. However, in the back room there is still an old wall mounted cooler, which Dufton said may be part of a seasonal espresso and ice cream bar in the back alley. An information booth for the chamber of commerce is also a possibility for the site. “These are all just ideas right now,” Dufton said.

The project topping Duftons’ list for this year is to fill the bare walls with local art and history. “One of our ideas for the inside of this place is to hang a whole bunch of Birch Bay history on the walls,” Dufton said. He is also inviting local artists to use the Bay Properties office as an impromptu gallery, and there is a possibility they could display their work there for sale. “I’d like to get things here that really say Birch Bay,” he said. “It’s nice to remember what people come here for: warm water and clean air.”

Bay Properties will celebrate their new digs by inviting the community and visitors in for an open house from November 6 to 16.

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