Fairbairn – A History

How can we say that Fairbairn has been a trusted name in Northern Michigan since 1895?

W.W. Fairbairn & Sons has been in business for over 125 years and through 5 generations. (Paul Fairbairn’s father, Tom Fairbairn Sr., was among the 4th generation of owners.)

In Northern Michigan, Fairbairn is a well-respected and well-known name.


Walter Wayne Fairbairn started his business in downtown Alanson in 1895 during the lumber boom. At the time, he worked to sharpen axes and saw blades for the lumbering camps. He eventually grew his industry to include the sale of hardware and became the first master plumber north of Grand Rapids.

An excerpt from Alanson, Our Town 1882-1982-

“Thomas Hurst had the first general store in 1884 or ’85, on the corner of Milton and River Street, facing Milton. After the new railroad depot was built on its present location, he moved to the corner of Burr and River Streets, where Jerry’s Marathon now stands (in 1982). His business grew as the population increased due to the mills that came to town. Needing more space, he hired Mr. Oberholtzer to erect a large building which he stocked with hardware on one side and general merchandise on the other. He then built a fine, new home on the site of the old store, which is now a part of the Marathon Gas Station.

In 1895 Thomas Hurst sold his hardware stock to Walter W. Fairbairn…eventually, Mrs. Hurst sold the business entirely and Fairbairn took over the whole building. Mr. Fairbairn enlarged his business to include tin-smithing and plumbing. His first venture in heating was in the sale of wood stoves. As demand for central heat grew, he opened a furnace servicing department. Walter’s two sons, Clifford [owner Paul Fairbairn’s grandfather] and Morley, were taken into partnership and a corporation was formed. The business has remained a family affair, with Clifford’s two sons, Walter and Thomas [owner Paul Fairbairns’ father], operating the company, which is well known throughout the County.”

This store eventually became part of the W. W. Fairbairn & Sons Hardware
The home of Thomas and Margaret Hurst was in the location of our office; Coldwell Banker Fairbairn Realty.

W.W. Fairbairn worked to install and maintain plumbing systems in cottages on the Inland Waterway, traveling by boat often to reach remote customers.

The Fairbairn business remains in Alanson and the focus on service has been handed down throughout the generations of Fairbairns.

A business like that of Walter Wayne Fairbairn doesn’t last for over 125 years without honesty, hard work, and the support of the community.

This is why we can say that Fairbairn has been a trusted name in Northern Michigan since 1895.

Our office location has had a varied history of its own. At one point, the home of Thomas and Margaret Hurst stood at the location of our office. Then the home became a popular Gulf gas station. Eventually, in 2008 our Owner/ Broker bought the building and converted it into a real estate office.

As Mr. W.W. Fairbairn did so many years ago, we’re asking you to trust us. Our legacy stems from that of the House of Service and we believe that you can trust us with your real estate needs.

We’re ready to serve you.

Our office stands on the right corner of Burr Avenue (US-31) and River Streets.
The GULF sign on the right of this image marks our business location at Coldwell Banker Fairbairn Realty.

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