TUMWATER –– Yesterday the Tumwater City Council officially approved completion of the first phase of work on the empty Olympia Brewing Company brewery tower. Over the years, the much-beloved building accumulated damage from weather and vandalism since Olympia Brewing Company ceased operations there.
The beloved landmark sits at the base of Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River, and is six stories tall with ornate curved windows and multi-tiered brick patterns. The original structure was built with red Chehalis brick and Tenino sandstone.
“This property is on the national registry of historic places,” said Councilmember Tom Oliva. “The community was able to acquire this [building] at a total acquisition cost of zero … because it was donated to us.”
The City of Tumwater received the tower in 2016, and its restoration aims to revitalize its prior glory. The area has a rich brewing history that extends well beyond 1916, the year that Washington State enacted prohibition (four years before the nation did). Phase one involved basic structural fixes like exterior roofing, new mortar, and brick repair.
Tumwater-based RHD Enterprises won the $2.3 million bid in March 2019 to do the renovation work, about $683,000 over the anticipated contract amount because of masonry work and unanticipated roof work.
“Some of the work was pretty challenging. We had a number of tests,” explained Communications Manager Ann Cook. “Each side of the tower required a little bit of a different recipe because of either the marine air or the exposure, or they were painted at different times.”
Photos of the old tower show burn marks, moss and signs of general wear and tear. The restoration team worked meticulously under expert supervision to complete the project with accuracy, city officials said.
“We ordered five different kinds of bricks in a ratio that was calculated by an intern at the architect’s office to replicate [the] hundred-year-old brick,” explained Cook. “Some of those walls are five and seven [bricks] wide.”
The timeline of the project is currently moving smoothly.
“We’re getting ready to work on the design phase for Phase 2 which is the seismic [retrofitting],” said Cook.
People still often visit the city to see the building in person, city officials added.
“This project has been dreamed about by this community, certainly by certain members of this community, for decades,” said Mayor Pete Kmet. “I think it is an incredible success [for the] iconic structure.”
For more information on the Old Brewhouse Tower, you can visit the City of Tumwater’s webpage detailing the history and giving a virtual tour of the landmark.