Sunday, November 29, 2015

Chambers Prairie Grange in Tumwater Gets New Chance at Life

Above: The Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 on the corner of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard in Tumwater was purchased by Tom and Tiffany Schrader in October for $200,000. Photo taken January 10, 2014.

The Schrader’s want to convert the former Grange into a neighborhood coffee and sandwich shop and bistro that can also accommodate meetings,birthday parties, reunions, and more. The Grange property is currently zoned single family low density and will need to be rezoned to accommodate this vision.

Owners Hope Historic Preservation Will Create Community Space

By Janine Gates

Tom Schrader has driven by the moss covered Chambers Prairie Grange on the southwest corner of Henderson Boulevard and Yelm Highway in Tumwater for years. He and his wife, Tiffany, a third generation South Sound resident, raised their two children nearby, all of whom graduated from Tumwater High School.

Schrader, a commercial real estate agent for Re/Max Parkside who is actively involved in the Thurston County Board of Realtors, loves history. He says he tracked the property for years as the sale price was gradually reduced from $450,000, and bought it in late October for $200,000 from the Washington State Grange. 

Located at 1301 Yelm Highway, the Grange was valued at $315,900 by the Thurston County Assessor’s Office in 2015 and is not on any historic register or inventory.

The building was once earmarked as a museum for the State Grange, but that had been off the table for years. The Grange paid over $25,000 in taxes on it since 2010.

The wooden, one story, 5,668 square foot building sits on .91 acres, and despite appearances, is structurally sound. The roof doesn’t leak, the original maple wood flooring is relatively unmarked, and the full basement still contains multiple, long, solid tables suitable for dining and entertaining.

Remarkably, the building has been untouched by vandals, and still features the original wavy glass windows.

Schrader is now in the process of getting the building registered on the national and state historical registers through the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.

Since October, Schrader and helpers have been seen actively working to clear blackberry brambles and brush and scraping the moss off the roof. They have hauled away 2,500 pounds of appliances, recyclables and trash items left in and around the property. Schrader also took out the original oil boiler and ducting, but the old wood burning stove is still there, and will be kept.

Asked if he has the original sign that hung on the front of the building that said, “Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191,” Schrader says he does not.

“I don't have the sign, but I would love to buy it back from whoever does! If I don't find it, I'm going to have a replica made of wood looking as close as possible to the old sign, and hang it in the same spot on the front of the building,” says Schrader.

Above: With the plywood off the windows, sunbeams once again shine forth, warming the maple wood floor of the Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 on Saturday afternoon.

Historically, granges served as the community center for social, agricultural, educational and political activities for farmers, and the Chambers Prairie Grange was in the thick of the action.

According to the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the Chambers Prairie Grange No. 191 was organized in 1906 by Fred W. Lewis and reorganized in March, 1908. Grange members built the hall through donated work on land donated by the Wickie Family, completing the structure in 1910. The Chambers Prairie Grange was one of the first in Thurston County.

Above: Schrader has found a few Grange related treasures in the building, including an Olympia Federal Savings and Loan Association bank register, and this purple Grange “10% Net Gain” ribbon from 1957-58.

Schrader’s Vision for the Property

Schrader is working with several engineers and contractors to develop designs for the building. To create a place for community members, he envisions it as a coffee and sandwich shop and bistro. He has already spoken with the local coffee business owners of Olympia Coffee Roasting Company and Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters to assess their interest.

Schrader wants to restore the space with a thick shake roof and original period fixtures and fans. The new front entrance facing the west side of the building would feature French doors and a large deck.

Inside, he will keep the stage and changing rooms. The basement will feature a new kitchen and would be suitable for meetings, family reunions, birthday parties, and more.

The capacity for the entire building was 378 persons – 119 downstairs and 259 upstairs, but Schrader expects this number to possibly increase.

The building is on a well and water and sewer hook up will most likely be from the City of Tumwater. It currently has no power and he has met with Puget Sound Energy to hook up to electricity and natural gas. He says he should have the building up and running in a couple months.

Schrader has developed a plan for 40 parking stalls and plans to keep every large tree on site – several maples, cedars and firs - with the exception of two for the flow of parking. Because it was diseased, a large maple tree was cut down about three years ago by the Grange.

“I want to create a center island of trees that’s natural, with a little trail so you can walk through the trees after you buy an ice cream cone or a sandwich, and sit and talk - a community type area with picnic tables and benches. There could even be a small outdoor organic fruit and vegetable stand….” Schrader said.

Above: The Chambers Prairie Grange as seen this week. New owner Tom Schrader envisions this side, the west side, as the front entrance for a coffee and sandwich shop. 

Zoning Issues 

The Grange, once located in an agricultural area, is at the physical crossroads of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard, and the cities of Tumwater and Olympia.

Northeast of the Grange, Briggs Nursery was replaced by Briggs East Village and is now a 200 unit development for active adults called Silver Leaf.

Northwest of the Grange is the Briggs YMCA and the 137 acre master planned Briggs Village.

East of the Grange is the Tsuki Nursery, a wholesale nursery business specializing in Japanese garden plants, and it is on the market.

As an agent with ReMax/Parkside, Schrader represents the Tsuki Nursery, which is being sold by Phil Hulbert.  The property is currently in Thurston County with Olympia Urban Growth Area jurisdiction, Zoned Residential 4-8.

“They have submitted to the City of Olympia for annexation into the city. This will most likely be heard in the next two months. The two adjacent properties are part of the annexation request, making a total of eight acres. I have one of these two properties listed for sale, a residence at 1707 Yelm Hwy for $315,000. The Tsuki property has been listed four months at $1,499,000. It's 5.03 acres on two parcels,” says Schrader.

Schrader addressed both the Tumwater City Council and the Tumwater Historic Preservation Committee in late November to share his ideas for the building and is also working closely with the nearby Farm Homeowners Association.

The Grange property is currently zoned single family low density. Under that zoning, some of the allowed uses under the Tumwater Zoning Title 18 (18.10 chapter) are single family homes/duplex dwellings, mobile homes, childcare center, adult family center, church, bed and breakfast, community center, and others.

Schrader doesn’t want to see any of those options occur, so he will file with the City of Tumwater on December 7 for a zoning change to accommodate his vision. He is not sure yet what zoning he will pursue. The city only hears rezoning cases once a year, so it may take until May or June for the Tumwater city council to hear his request.

As a former resident of The Farm subdivision, he understands concerns by the neighborhood surrounding future uses on the property. They do not want traffic to spill out from the business onto Henderson Boulevard and then turn into their subdivision, so he is working with the Association to provide the sole access and exit off Yelm Highway.

“The previous owner, the State Grange, tried in 2012 to change the zoning to mixed use. They hadn't consulted with The Farm or other neighbors, and the change essentially scared the heck out of them. There could have been a Texaco gas station, 7-11, Burger King drive thru, or a Starbucks.... all of which I would not want there! I want something the neighborhood wants, and I spent a lot of time talking with neighbors before I bought it,” said Schrader.

“I want the focus to be on local community use, where neighbors can walk, bike, roller skate, jog and stop there to visit and catch up with each other….To get an early morning coffee before a local stroll, or a sandwich after working out at the Briggs YMCA, or an appetizer/dessert on the deck on a warm summer night while enjoying a fine wine….To be able to walk along the trail with a friend, son or daughter, grandchild… and sit at a picnic table or bench, and enjoy the tall trees… and discuss life, love and family!” says Schrader.

Schrader is optimistic that his ideas for a community space will be approved.

“When I’m out here, people pull in and want to talk and tell me stories about the area,” says Schrader.

Above: A silhouette of Tom Schrader as viewed through the Chamber Prairie Grange's coat and purse check window near the front door facing Henderson Boulevard. Schrader envisions maintaining the original north facing doors as emergency exits, and placing French doors and a large deck on the west side of the building as the new main entrance.

There are several active Grange chapters in Thurston County. For more information about their activities, go to

To read about the history of Washington State Granges, go to