Until recent years we’d get our daily news headlines and short features from the radio or television. Now, with the age of computers and smart phones, we go “on-line” to find out what’s going on around town. We do still utilize print or on-line newspapers today, but the high tech way of getting the daily…
Saturday, April 16th, was an absolutely beautiful day at the historic Schmidt House in Tumwater, a perfect day for the third biannual gathering of people from around Thurston County with a passion for local history. The “Heritage Builders” local history program of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation hosted this unique Local Historian’s Conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., organized and facilitated by Public History Manager, Don Trosper. The host group also included Curator Karen Johnson, Archivist Erin Whitesel-Jones, and later joined by the executive director of the foundation, John Freedman.
As John was giving his greetings to the assembled attendees, he was surprised by an unexpected presentation from the president of the South Sound Heritage Association, Drew Crooks.
FROM THE ARCHIVES…
Two near-lifesize metal figures have stood guard over the Schmidt House for more than a century. The statues appear in early photos of the house, but little more was known about them until a customs document found in the OTF Archives revealed
Dorothy Wilhelm, a popular newspaper columnist from DuPont, calls herself a “geriatric cheerleader,” and now we know why. She absolutely wowed the crowd at our February 18 monthly free history talk at the Schmidt House, where she presented stories from her upcoming History Press book tentatively titled Lost Stories from Washington History. Dorothy’s presentation for our “Heritage Builders” program dealt with legends and personal stories she has collected over many years. She has interviewed people all around western Washington for her award-winning TV series My Home Town, one episode of which covered our historic town of Tumwater.
Peter G. Schmidt Jr., grandson of the founder of the Olympia Brewery, died Feb. 4. He was 94.
Schmidt was born Dec. 3, 1921, in the historic Schmidt Mansion in Tumwater. He was the youngest of Peter Schmidt Sr.’s five children and the first boy.
Although he grew up with the brewery motto, “It’s the Water,” it wasn’t Tumwater’s artesian wells that attracted him as much as it was the saltwater nearby. When he was 12, he built his first sailboat on the shores of Budd Inlet, where his family had a summer camp. He remained passionately involved with maritime pursuits personally and professionally his whole life.
The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has been expanding its local history focus with the “Heritage Builders” program. A lot of work is taking place in the rich archives at the Schmidt House, the history talks and tours continue to attract more visitors and cultural tourists, local historians’ conferences are enhancing the ties of cooperation in the South Sound area, our new blog at www.olytumfoundation.org features many new articles, and our new 3-minute history videos “Talking Over Old Times” are available for viewing.
Something new was added on January 26 that not only builds upon our history program but also builds upon another important part of the foundation’s mission: education. For many years OTF has been the leading area scholarship provider to students. Now our history program has reached out to Thurston County fourth grade teachers
“We’ve been getting very nice press coverage for our free monthly history talks,” says Public History Manager of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, Don Trosper, “but we were blown away by the record attendance here at the Schmidt House today. As usual the speaker and topic were top of the line, but it was a very rainy, dark weekday that caused us to lower our expectations for the turnout. We smashed our previous record of visitors for a single talk, breaking 100 for the first time. It was standing room only once the talk began.”
Many interesting buildings have been constructed in Thurston County over the years. Some still stand, while others have sadly disappeared. One of the most intriguing structures now gone was the Swiss Chalet that served as a gathering place in Olympia’s Priest Point Park for many decades.
The Washington Standard newspaper reported in its November 12, 1897 edition that “It’s raining pitchforks with saw logs for handles and the tines downward.” In other words, the weather was typically wet for that time of year in our part of the country. What caught my eye though in that issue of the paper was a reference to Tumwater: “Tumwater Park received an unexpected accession to its population the other day, in the shape of a baby elk, which was born in the park from a captive elk.” Keep in mind that this was around 65 years before our modern day Tumwater Falls Park was constructed on the same site in 1962 in time for the Seattle World’s Fair.
Each month, Amber Raney at the Washington State Archives publishes an online newsletter, appropriately titled Out of the Archives. The November issue featured a great photo of a mountain lodge, and challenged viewers to identify the lodge’s location. When I saw that photo, I knew I’d seen a copy somewhere at the Schmidt House, so I went digging through our archives. What I found surprised me, and led both Amber and me to exclaim “It’s a small world!”