Saving the Old Brewhouse

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Take a video tour of the Old Brewhouse  


Visitors to Tumwater frequently ask about the Old Brewhouse of the Olympia Brewing Company, which is seen by thousands everyday as they travel Interstate 5 through Tumwater. After the 2016 donation of the brick tower to the City of Tumwater, tours of the complex have been restricted in the interest of safety during renovation stages.  Residents and visitors want to visit this important site and learn more about the Old Brewhouse, so the City of Tumwater, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, and Thurston Community Media partnered to produce a video tour of the old brewery.

This 8-minute condensed tour of the old Olympia Brewing Company complex is hosted by former Olympia Brewmaster, Paul Knight.  The video provides viewers with an overview of early Old Brewhouse history, explores stories about the founding Schmidt family, describes the creation of the famous “It’s the Water” slogan, and explains turn-of-the-century brewery operations and the huge impact it had on the surrounding community, which is still felt today.

A Community Icon: The Historic Old Brewhouse

Old Brewhouse HistoricIn 1906 the Olympia Brewing Company, owned by Leopold Schmidt, constructed what is now called the "Old Brewhouse" of red Chehalis brick, lumber hauled by horses from Ward Lake, and Tenino sandstone trim. The Olympia Brewery was our community's largest private employer for a significant part of the past century and many local residents have their own stories of family member’s experiences working for the Brewery. The Old Brewhouse is one of the community’s most iconic structures and is seen by thousands of people every day from Interstate 5. Over the years the Old Brewhouse fell into disrepair. The City of Tumwater has taken a number of actions designed to protect and revitalize the Old Brewhouse for generations of Tumwater residents to come, as it serves as the last reminder of the flourishing riverside industries that once formed the heart of this town.

Revitalizing the Old Brewhouse has been a community and City priority for several years. On April 5, 2016, Mayor Pete Kmet was authorized by the City Council to sign a Letter of Agreement with the owner, Falls Development, that would donate the Old Brewhouse to the City. The City is the proud owner of this historic treasure.

Looking Forward

Old BrewhouseThe Old Brewhouse is a regional asset with a high degree of cultural and historic value. The potential for economic development will contribute to increased regional employment opportunities, revitalization of the local and regional economy, and reinvigorate a site that has lasting community value. The challenges to viable and feasible development are the complex environmental dynamics of the site and age of the structure. The Old Brewhouse is vulnerable to extreme weather and earthquakes, and is currently unsafe to occupy. Remodeling and preserving the Old Brewhouse will cost an estimated $5.6 million. To offset costs, the City will commence discussions to develop funding strategies. Possible new sources include:

  • Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits
  • Foundation grants
  • Washington State Heritage Capital Projects 
  • Washington State Community Project Grants
  • Transportation funding for trails
  • Capital campaign
  • In kind donations
  • Foundation partnerships

In addition to a trail system and boardwalk to allow public access, the City continues to work with a team of partners to incentivize redevelopment of the brewery site and build on the historic brand.

View past presentations and public comments given at the April 5, 2016 City Council Meeting:

For more information, see Brewery Properties or Craft Brewing and Distilling Center.

More updates:

Saving the Old Brewhouse, one owl at a time; post on the Craft Brewing and Distilling Center website, 12/2/2016