Brewmaster's House (formerly Henderson House)
A delightful two-and-a-half story home located near the lower Tumwater Falls, the Brewmaster's House dates from the early 20th century. By then, Tumwater had blossomed from a tiny pioneer village into a bustling town with electric streetcars, a railroad spur and a successful brewery at the foot of Tumwater Falls.
The house was built in 1905 for William Naumann, a brewmaster from Hamburg, Germany who worked across the river at the Olympia Brewing Company. It was built by a local firm, the Olympia Manufacturing and Building Company, which was located on West Bay drive. At the same time the brewery was also building a fine new six-story brewhouse — a landmark structure of red brick and sandstone that opened the following year.
The Naumann family’s house was considered quite modern for its day. It boasted such novel conveniences as hot and cold running water, steam heat from a coal-fired boiler and electric lights in each room. Electricity was provided by the Olympia Power and Light Company, which had just erected a new powerhouse on the river below the Naumann home, down at the Lower Falls.
In 1909, the house was purchased by John and Catherine Rohrbeck, who stayed for more than a decade and raised three children here. John Rohrbeck worked for the brewery all his professional life, beginning as an accountant and ending 40 years later as an officer of the firm.
Like most of the neighbors around them, the Rohrbecks grew kitchen vegetables and a modest assortment of fruit trees on their large city lot. They also kept plenty of chickens and a dairy cow for milk.
A style that straddled two eras
Though the house was built at the turning of a new century, its design was largely inspired by the passing Victorian age. The asymmetrical profile, bay windows, fancy upstairs shingles and romantic corner turret were all familiar features of the Queen Anne style, which had been especially popular in the 1880s and ‘90s. The influence of a new era was beginning to show, however. This house was much less elaborate, with a broader and plainer roofline, than earlier Queen Anne examples. Before long the fashion in homes would turn to simpler, more restrained styles.
Washington goes dry
Yielding to strong public sentiment, the State of Washington banned the sale of all alcoholic beverages in 1914—six years before the same policy was adopted nationwide. Prohibition was a terrible blow to the local brewing company. It switched to bottling water and fruit juice in place of beer, then finally shut down entirely in 1921. Perhaps coincidentally, that was the same year the Rohrbeck family sold their house near the brewery and moved to Olympia.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Tumwater was ready. Within weeks the Olympia Brewing Company broke ground on a new facility just upstream from the old one. Construction workers found rooms to rent in the graceful old home originally owned by brewmaster William Naumann.
Restoring a piece of history
In 1974 the house was purchased by the City of Tumwater with the aim of restoring its dignity and using it as a museum. Over the years some radical changes had been made to the exterior, and careful work was required to bring back all of its aesthetic details. The interior, by contrast, had been altered hardly at all. Today this historic Tumwater home looks much the same, both inside and out, as it did back in 1905. It’s listed on the Tumwater Register of Historic Places and the National Register as part of the Tumwater Historic District. 602 Deschutes Way.
In 2013, the City hired a consultant, Artifacts Architectural Consulting, Inc. to undertake a Historic Structure Report for the Brewmaster's House (then called the Henderson House) and site. The final report assessing the physical structure, alternatives for future use, feasibility and action plan should be available in 2014.
In recognition of the Schmidt family and Olympia Brewing Company, the Tumwater Historic Commission recommended the house be renamed as the Brewmaster's House to honor its purpose and significance in the community.
602 Deschutes Way, Tumwater, WA 98501
The house is open on a limited basis for special events.
Tumwater Parks & Recreation for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (360) 754-4160.