The Bair Drug and Hardware Store was built in 1895 as the second store built by W.L. Bair. The first store was built on Commercial St., the main street of town when Steilacoom was a thriving seaport and the Pierce County seat. This first store was a Drug Store and Post Office, and although it did a fine business, when the Tacoma Trolley Company decided in 1895 to stop the trolley from Tacoma at the top of the LaFayette St. hill instead of down at the dock, W.L. decided to move his drug store to this location. At first this store came only to the archway and it's only business was as a pharmacy. W.L. reasoned the store would be handy for passengers waiting for the trolley or for quick purchases by returning passengers. His faith was rewarded and the business grew. In 1906, W.L. added the soda fountain and began doing a brisk trade in phosphates coolers, sodas and cones.
The electrically powered trolley brought more than customers to the store, it brought light. W.L. tapped into the power line and put in the first electric lights in Steilacoom. Now, because of the voltage drop over the long run, and because the trolley needed all the power it could get to make it up the LaFayette St. hill, the lights would dim as the trolley nearedthe store. And this is the way expectant passengers knew when it was time to leave.
The Pharmacy remained an important stop on everyone's shopping list. Within, one could find the latest in "over the counter "or "patent" medicines, as well as a variety of health and grooming aids. Penny candy made the store a favorite with children, but for mothers it was the chocolate flavored cod liver oil, snake root tonic, oil of Karnak, and Lydia Pinkham. Papa found his favorite five cent cigar here, along with his shaving soap, razors and even his white hat cleaner. The old safe was a curiosity even in 1895. It had been part of the first store back on Commercial St., where it housed stamps, money orders and greenbacks. In 1893 someone broke into
the store, and unable to open the safe, used gunpowder to blow it open. Aside from the few coins scattered on the floor, nothing else was found of the $4260 in stamps, bills and money orders.
The Bair Bistro, owned and operated by Maxwell & Sarah Cannon, is the newest restaurant to inhabit the Bair building. The Bair Drug and Hardware Living Museum is a unique place where you can participate in a turn of the century atmosphere. The building itself and the antiques inside have been beautifully maintained by their owner, The Steilacoom Historical Museum Association (SHMA). Since early 2009, both SHMA and the Cannon’s have worked to preserve the original feel of The Bair, while adding the necessary items required for it to be a functioning restaurant. And in keeping with its traditions, you will find walls full of relics from the buildings former inhabitants. Also, you will find that the original 1908 Bastian Blessing soda fountain is still in use. The Sodas, Sundaes, Cones and Shakes are still a part of this wonderful treasure. At present, menu offerings consist of home-made comfort food for breakfast and lunch, soda fountain treats, espressos, and desserts. Dinner and drinks are to be added, as well as Afternoon Tea, entertainment and community events. We offer modestly priced comfort food, with the addition of some health conscious items such as our gluten-free menu. And if you don't see what you are looking for on our menu, don't hesitate to let us know.
First and foremost we are a Living Museum, and in the intent of preserving our museum displays, please do not open cabinets or go behind counters in the museum areas. Our fixtures are original and many are one-of-a-kind and their loss would be a great tragedy.
A huge thank you to SHMA and the residents of Steilacoom, for without their help, support and love, all this may still be just a dream! And to all of our patrons, thank you, we look forward to serving you for years to come.
With heartfelt thanks,
Maxwell & Sarah Cannon