Olympia Eagles Club building prepares for facelift this summer

One of Olympia’s oldest landmarks will get a much-needed facelift this summer.

Located at Fourth Avenue and Plum Street, the Eagles Club building has seen better days since opening in 1927 - and has deteriorated to the point where some people have had enough.

In response, a group that has been unofficially dubbed “Friends of the Eagles” will paint the three-story building during the last two weekends in August.

“The Eagles building is really a gateway to downtown Olympia,” said Anna Schlecht, a city employee who initiated the effort as a volunteer. “That building is something we all see, and for people who are Eagles, it’s a source of pride.”

Officially known as the Olympia Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 21, the club was founded in 1899. The club’s current home includes a lounge, ballroom, dance studio and a basement thrift store known as E-Mart. With more than 400 members, the Eagles raise money for local organizations and national charities, most notably diabetes research.

So far, volunteers have raised $2,500 for the August project with an ultimate goal of $7,500, Schlecht said. The money will pay for supplies such as recycled paint, but will also help hire a contractor who can safely paint the building’s third story, she said.

“A strong community finds ways to bring people together to work for the common good,” Schlecht said, “and that’s what this project is about.”

The club is also collecting donations and will replace the building’s windows once the painting is done, said Nicole Mercier, an Eagles board member. She said these basic repairs have lingered on the backburner because the club’s limited resources typically go toward charitable efforts. In the past, the club has taken a piecemeal approach to painting and repairs, such as covering up graffiti.

Mercier said she hopes this summer’s renovations will lead to more rentals and community functions at the building.

“It was sort of like, ‘you don’t have a choice, we’re going to paint it,’” Mercier said of this summer’s project. “We’re good with that. We could use the help.”

The upcoming Eagles Club project is similar to a recent cleanup of a neglected building in downtown Olympia. In April, volunteers painted the façade at the vacant Griswold Office Supply building, which was gutted by a fire in 2004. Last month, a new rainbow-themed mural was painted on the front.

Brian Wilson, the city’s downtown liaison, is also volunteering for the Eagles project as a citizen. Wilson said painting the Eagles building will make an immediate visible impact that could encourage similar projects in the community.

“I think there’s a consensus that it’s been a while since that building has had a facelift,” Wilson said. “That’s an entrance point to downtown.”

The Eagles Club project mirrors another effort to improve the appearance of local buildings. In his capacity as a city employee, Wilson is spearheading a program called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Olympia has allocated $25,000 for the program, which primarily focuses on neglected properties in the downtown core. One “hot spot” is the 300 block of Fourth Avenue where the Griswold building is located, said Wilson, citing a recent block-by-block analysis that utilized crime data. CPTED improvements include the installation of gates for certain alcoves, for example, or removing enclosures that shield illegal activities from view.