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The vision of a few became reality for the many as the freshly painted red double doors rolled back to reveal the spacious interior of the painstakingly, expertly crafted, renovated Brickworks Building in the heart of downtown Friday Harbor.
From its gleaming wooden floor made of island fir, locally milled, to the two 55-foot-long trusses towering up above, each fortified with 300 shiny, massive bolts, the sight of the refurbished former home of the Friday Harbor Electric Company, drew an outpouring of admiration from an enthusiastic crowd gathered for the building’s official Grand Opening ceremony.
Even those that know it best couldn’t help but marvel at the transformation.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Friday Harbor architect David Waldron, who crafted blueprints for the building’s reconstruction and renovation. “It turned out even better than I thought it would.”
It didn’t come easy.
Saturday’s grand opening stands as a testament of perseverance on the part of the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, which endured and overcame considerable obstacles in its seven-year odyssey to establish what was conceived of at first as simply a home for a year-round farmers market.
Preferred locations vanished and partnerships dissolved until the Ag Guild, backed in part by state and federal grants, purchased the last remaining industrial building in Friday Harbor, at the intersection of 150 Nichols Street and Sunshine Alley, and then began searching high and low to raise the $1.65 million that would be needed to renovate a dilapidated building and to pay off its debt.
Ag Guild Treasurer Mike Wick noted that through grants, donations, large and small, and new-found financial support from the Town of Friday Harbor, that roughly 82 percent of the funding goal, $1.3 million, has been collected to date. The town in February contributed a $100,000 matching grant from its lodging tax fund.
“This is a historic day that we’re all going to remember,” Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher said at the opening ceremony. “I’m so glad, down to the very tips of my toes, that the town and the council found a way to participate in making this a reality.”
The Ag Guild’s Stephen Robins said that more than money is in the spirit of the Brickworks renovation.
He noted that more than 20,000 hours have so far been donated on behalf of the building’s reconstruction. It’s that type of “community spirit” that Brickworks and its long journey to completion represents, he said. In addition to the farmer’s market, and Friday Harbor art market, Brickworks will soon host a Sunday afternoon market, with a variety of activities as well, he said.