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.


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

Lacey’s 50th Birthday


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.


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.


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.


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.

From the Archives: Olympia Beer in Alaska

In 1913, the USS Maryland, a US Navy Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser, visited Seward, Alaska as part of her survey mission in the Northern Pacific. On July 13, Maryland’s sailors and band paraded down Main Street. In this photo they are shown marching past The Commerce saloon and restaurant, which proudly featured Olympia beer. Town residents—and one dog—looked on.

Welcoming parade for the USS Maryland. From the collection of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

Parade during the USS Maryland visit to Seward.. From the collection of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.


USS Maryland

Model Ship Returns to the Schmidt House After 50+ Years Absence



The “Kearsarge” as it looks now.

In June 1896, Scientific American magazine published an article titled “The New Double-Deck-Turret Battleship Kearsarge.” The article described the dimensions and armaments of a new class of U.S. battleships, and included an artist’s rendering and a deck plan of the ship.

Peter G. Schmidt, just sixteen at the time, was intrigued by the new battleship design—so much so, that he decided to build a scale model of the ship. Unlike today, though, he couldn’t go down to the local hobby shop and buy a kit. Instead, he studied the plan, the picture, and the text, and built his own model—entirely from scratch. Continue reading

WSU Grad Student Finds Liquid Gold in Foundation Archives

megan ockerman

WSU grad student Megan Ockerman holds original advertising artwork from the Olympia Brewing Company.

Finding a thesis subject for a master’s degree in History can be a daunting task. Professors prefer subjects that are interesting, previously unresearched, yet with plenty of research material available, and open to new interpretations. Olympia resident Megan Ockerman, who already has her bachelor’s degree in History, had been thinking of doing her thesis work on 1940s residential architecture in the Tri-Cities area and how it was affected by the “company town” atmosphere of the Hanford nuclear plant. However, she wasn’t entirely sold on that idea.
In a Pacific Northwest History class at WSU, a guest speaker talked about hops—history, culture, processing, all related to brewing beer. The speaker also showed an old photograph of Native Americans picking hops in the Nisqually Valley area. Megan’s curiosity was piqued, and over spring break, she delved into Northwest hop history on her own, but found little information.
Serendipity soon came into play. Megan grew up surrounded by Olympia Beer memorabilia, as her father has been collecting it for years. At some point, her interest in the history of hops clicked with her family’s interest in Oly, and a new idea for her thesis was born.
Although Megan was excited about her potential thesis subject, she wasn’t sure about finding enough resources to provide background material. But her Eureka! moment came when she found out about the extensive archives of brewery records at the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. With a few emails to curator Karen Johnson, Megan was convinced that researching the entire history of the Olympia Brewing Company would make a great thesis. Her WSU advisors agreed.
Megan is more than enthusiastic about her subject, and has spent a good part of her summer vacation here in the basement of the Schmidt House, poring over old records from the earliest days of the brewery. After collecting material here, she will return to Pullman and spend much of this winter and next spring writing her thesis, which she’ll defend in April 2017. If all goes well, she plans on turning her thesis into a book. Then she’ll go about finding a paying job in the history field.
We wish Megan the best of luck in her thesis pursuit, and look forward to working with her in the future.