Foundation receives grant to preserve and showcase brewery artwork

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Olympia Tumwater Foundation archivist Erin Whitesel-Jones, left, and curator Karen Johnson unwrap a piece of Olympia Brewing Company advertising artwork. The Thurston County Board of County Commissioners awarded seven 2017 heritage grants totaling $29,600. Among the recipients is the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, which plans to use its $5,000 to catalog and re-house 292 pieces of Olympia Brewing Company advertising artwork dating from the 1930s to 1980s. Lui Kit Wong Staff photographer

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Grant will help preserve historic Olympia Beer advertising artwork

BY LISA PEMBERTON – January 21, 2017      lpemberton@theolympian.com

Nearly 300 pieces of artwork used to design billboards and advertising campaigns for the Olympia Brewing Co., will be preserved, thanks to a $5,000 Thurston County Historic Commission grant.

The paintings, photographs and advertising concepts were created to promote Olympia Beer from the 1930s to the 1980s, according to Karen Johnson, a curator with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, which manages the collection.

“These are just typical ads for all kinds of advertising campaigns that the brewery had,” she said.

Most of the pieces have been covered in brown paper for decades and have been stored in the temperature-controlled archives room in the basement of the Schmidt House, the historic Tumwater home built for brewery owner Leopold Schmidt and his wife, Johanna. The house now is managed by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

“We haven’t opened up all of the packages,” Johnson said. “But it’s like Christmas every time we open something up.”

The foundation was one of seven organizations that received 2017 Preservation Grants from Thurston County. The funds come from setting aside $1 from each $5 historic document recording fee that is collected by the Thurston County Auditor’s Office.

The grant program is managed by the Thurston County Historic Commission. It received 10 applications and ranked the requests. The Board of County Commissioners authorized funding for seven of the applications last month.

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation received a Historic Commission grant last year to process and preserve about 6,000 of its collection of 10,000 photographs from the Schmidt family and the brewery.

“It went really well,” Johnson said. “… The logical progression was to preserve the next most fragile thing, which was the artwork.”

The advertising artwork will be placed in acid-free boxes and cataloged. In October or November, the foundation plans to host an art show and feature 20 or 30 of the pieces, Johnson said.

“The whole focus is to share what we have, not keep it locked up,” she said. “… This is our county’s history in here.”

Olympia Tumwater Foundation director John Freedman said he believes the artwork will be a popular draw because the brewery was the county’s largest employer for many years.

“The brewery put Tumwater on the map,” he said.

Freedman said brewery workers saw their job as more of a way of life than an occupation. Olympia Beer items are highly collectable, and the artwork from the historic advertisements will probably tap into nostalgia, he said.

“The Schmidt family was very good to their employees; they had great benefits, great pay for the area,” Freedman said. “There’s a tremendous longing for that life again. It’s a bygone era.”

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433, @Lisa_Pemberton

50 Images From the Archives

As part of of a 2016 grant received from the Thurston County Heritage Grant Program, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation has published a 50 image sample of the Olympia Brewing Company and the founding Schmidt Family. More images will be available after a website update in early 2017. Please see link below.

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Click here to see photos===>     50 Sample Archive Images

Lacey’s 50th Birthday

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Despite the slight dusting of overnight snow, the crowd showed up for a lively presentation at the December 15th monthly history talk at the Schmidt House in Tumwater.  We in Thurston County’s oldest community helped celebrate the 50th birthday of our youngest community, Lacey. The presenters were lively, funny and a lot of fun and the response was wonderful.

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Former Lacey mayor Jon Halvorson, Lacey Museum director Erin Quinn Valcho, Ken Balsley and Schmidt House curator Karen Johnson.

The illustrated presentation began with story-teller Ken Balsley introducing actor Chris Valcho as Bob Blume, known as the father of Lacey.  His informative and entertaining introductory segment led into a dual presentation by Lacey Museum Director, Erin Quinn Valcho and Ken Balsley telling the stories of how the community was formed in 1966 amid periodic episodes of back-and-forth competition with the City of Olympia.The growth pains of the 1960s and the influences of the freeway, South Sound Mall, and various business interests were also discussed.

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A good sign of a successful talk is the response of the audience when the question and answer time comes.  There were many good questions and comments from the group that included a number of residents of Panorama City and former Lacey mayor Jon Halvorson.

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Ken Balsley and Erin Quinn Valcho take questions from the large crowd at the Schmidt House.

The program was video recorded by TCTV for later airing on the Tumwater channel 26.  The Heritage Builders program of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation wants to thank the City of Tumwater and TCTV for their support of our archives and local history programs that have been so well-received by the community.

Our next free noon hour talk will be on Thursday, January 19th, with local historian Lanny Weaver talking about researching your own neighborhood’s history.

Veterans Day flag has amazing history

Army veteran Frank Jones was honored on November 11, 2016 with a pretty special gift. He was presented with a flag that was flown over the American Cemetery in Normandy, France, the US Capitol in Washington DC and the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. Thanks to everyone that participated in this ceremony.

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Olympia Tumwater Foundation trustee Dan O’Neill assists Tumwater Boy Scouts during the November 11, 2016 Veterans Day ceremony at Tumwater Falls Park.

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State Senator Karen Fraser presents the flag to Frank Jones, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

 

“Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”

The new season of free monthly history talks at the historic Schmidt House kicked off with a full house on Thursday, Oct. 20 with a presentation from archaeologist Dr. Dale Croes about the earliest confirmed humans in our area at the time of the Ice Age.   Talk about history!  This was Pre-History in an illustrated talk titled “Elephant Hunting in Thurston County”.  Dr. Croes not only talked about the mastadons, sabre-toothed tigers, giant bears and other ancient animals that lived here, but also shared artifacts from the early humans that lived here.  He also shared some very interesting evidence-based theories of how those people arrived here on the land bridge from Asia and how they came inland to our area from what is today’s Grays Harbor.

The presentation concluded with a unique demonstration in the back yard of the Schmidt House grounds of a working replica of an early hunting weapon that was used with great impact by those early people.  Those who stayed for the demonstration were impressed with the power and ballistics that early weapon produced.

Our next speaker is from Washington State Parks.  On Thursday, Nov. 17, Sam Wotipka will be giving the history of both Tolmie and Millersylvania State Parks here in Thurston County.  Its first come first seated as doors open at 11:30 a.m. for the noon hour talk.  Doors close as we reach capacity, which happened with Dr. Croes’ talk.  We at the “Heritage Builders” program would love to see you here.

Don Trosper