The white, weather-worn building at Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard in Tumwater, which was once home to Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191, has a new future.
Tom Schrader, a local commercial real estate broker, has purchased the 106-year-old structure and plans to restore the 5,500-square-foot building and turn it into a community destination, possibly by next summer.
“I like old buildings,” said Schrader, who used to live in the area and regularly drove by it when he took his children to Tumwater High School. Finally, he decided to act on his curiosity and interest in the corner property. His purchase closed in October.
The building was built for the grange in 1909 and ceased being a grange in about 2002, said Tom Gwin, state Grange president.
The building had sat unused since then, even though the state Grange took a run at rezoning the property over the years. That effort ultimately proved unsuccessful.
“We’re glad to see something is going to happen,” Gwin said.
Schrader wants to restore the property and welcome a bistro-type business, serving sandwiches and coffee, on the main floor. The basement, which has a separate entrance, will be available for community events. For example, people involved in a youth soccer game at nearby Pioneer Park could meet at the building for pizza parties or other events, he said.
Schrader grew up in Minnesota where grange halls are commonly used for birthdays, anniversaries or picnics. “I want it to be a community place,” he said.
The building is in better shape than it appears. Although the roof became known to passersby for its thick moss, it was replaced in 1993, Schrader said, so it didn’t leak. However, he estimated he removed 3,000 pounds of flea-market type items from the building, including an old electronic board that would inform dancers when to change their dance step.
Schrader plans to add a deck for customers. He said he also envisions selling fruits and vegetables out of a country wagon.
Including the cost to purchase the building, Schrader expects to spend close to $600,000 on the property, its renovation and adding parking next door. Access to and from the site would be off Yelm Highway and not Henderson Boulevard, he said.
He said he is prepared to work closely with the city and The Farm, the subdivision just to the south of the grange hall site, by coming to terms on a development agreement to guide the process. Schrader said he has no interest in turning the site into a gas station, convenience store or business with a drive-thru.
He has filed to have the property rezoned from single-family low-density residential to zoning that would better fit the site, possibly community service or neighborhood commercial. The rezone also would require a comprehensive plan amendment, said Mike Matlock, Tumwater community development director.
Granges are fraternal organizations that have roots in farming and agriculture. Grange halls are often rented out for community events, Gwin said. The state is home to 247 active granges, he said.