Editorials

New hope for iconic Tumwater brew house

A section of roof is lowered into place atop the old brewery in November. Efforts to preserve the old brewhouse will be discussed as part of the History Talk at the Schmidt House on Thursday.
A section of roof is lowered into place atop the old brewery in November. Efforts to preserve the old brewhouse will be discussed as part of the History Talk at the Schmidt House on Thursday. Olympian file photo

South Sound residents should raise a glass of the amber nectar this weekend to salute Tumwater’s effort to save and renovate the city’s iconic brew house tower. There is progress.

The state Legislature’s short session this year produced $506,850 in grant funds to help the city move ahead and save its historic brick tower. Located along the Deschutes River, it is the place where the first Olympia brewery made its beer.

For years, there was reason for despair. The brick structure kept crumbling as time, rain, wind and birds did damage to the brickwork.

That is why the grant is such tremendously important news for Tumwater. The city is in the midst of a major push to reclaim its brewing history and spur a new-era hub for craft brewing and distilling in a new brewing district.

Mayor Pete Kmet calls the distinctive tower an iconic symbol of local history and also of Washington's early manufacturing and industrial architecture. An historic interpretive area and possibly a tasting room for craft beers, ciders and other craft drinks are envisioned in the tower.

City efforts to attract investors willing to assume renovation costs never panned out. But in 2016 developer George Heidgerken gave the tower to the city.

Since then, the city has rubbed enough of its nickels together to nearly raise most of the $1.013 million share of local matching funds needed to tap into the state money. All that is missing is about $250,000, which city spokeswoman Ann Cook says Tumwater expects to cover with private donations that are in the offing.

Work on exterior brick repairs and for a permanent roof is expected to start this summer. The new roof should be completed by June 2019, Cook said.

Also, the City Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday that lets Cook move forward with a grant application to do the next round of major renovations, which could occur during 2019-21.

The final piece includes seismic retrofitting and is estimated to cost about $4.5 million. This phase may be broken into two parts with a city funding-raising campaign helping to fill gaps in funding.

Tumwater would not be this far along if it had not harnessed volunteers last fall to install a temporary roof and to screen out birds that entered the vacant windows. Donations included skilled labor, materials and even construction cranes to put it all in place.

Cook said the tower is dry inside now. “It is a different feel inside the building with everything closed up … It definitely conveys the possibilities,” she said. “It feels like progress.”

Yes, it is progress. It feels good. This project is beginning to move.

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