One of Olympia’s oldest service organizations will celebrate a new beginning Saturday with the re-dedication of the historic Eagles Club building.
Situated at Fourth Avenue and Plum Street, the three-story building received a long overdue face-lift last summer after volunteers raised more than $8,000 and painted the exterior.
New windows also have been installed. Crews are remodeling the upstairs bathrooms at the 88-year-old building, which is shedding its status as a graffiti-marred eyesore.
“Shining up the building like that helps people know we’re alive and active inside,” said LeAnne Hine, the club’s board chairwoman. “If people want to help out and give back to the community, this is the place to make it happen. We’re all about people helping people.”
The public is invited to attend a celebration 1-4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 7). Festivities include the dedication of a new commemorative plaque, tributes from South Sound dignitaries, building tours and refreshments. At 9 p.m., the band Mudcat will play a show, with a suggested donation of $5 per ticket.
The Olympia Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 21 was founded in 1899. The initial membership included tradespeople who helped build much of early Olympia.
Over the past century, the club has been a cornerstone for local charities and is best known for its contributions to diabetes research. The local music scene has even embraced the building as a concert venue.
“It’s a gateway into downtown, and it’s a historic resource,” said Anna Schlecht, a city employee who helped initiate the effort to paint the aging building. “It’s been the basis of a lot of fundraising in the community.”
However, the club has fallen on hard financial times, and extra money often goes toward repairs such as leaky pipes, said club member Nicole Mercier. The building still needs a new roof and a new rooftop heating, ventilation and air conditioning system — all at an estimated cost of about $50,000.
“Every time we build up some money, there’s some little disaster,” Mercier said. “We need a benefactor.”
The club is more than just a bar and ballroom. It’s a source of pride for the nearly 660 club members, many of whom have worked for years to keep it going.
Three generations of one Eagles family gathered Friday afternoon at the club headquarters. They reminisced about the club’s ups and downs and community traditions, such as the Easter egg hunt at Priest Point Park that features 21,000 eggs for kids to find.
“I literally grew up here,” said Donna Ewing, who was joined by her mother, Marie Sayward (a member since 1966), and daughter Corey Crawford, along with longtime family friend Chris Swearingen. “My daughter grew up going to the Easter egg hunt, and now she’s co-chairing it.”
Crawford recalled past birthday parties at the building and how Eagles members even planned her wedding reception at the club.
“It’s a second family here,” she said. “We work together as one.”