The Schmidt House & History Program
The Schmidt House
In 1983, OTF acquired Tumwater’s elegant Schmidt House, built in 1904 for Olympia Brewing Company founder Leopold Schmidt and his wife Johanna. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Tumwater Register of Historic Places and is within the Tumwater Historic District. The picturesque grounds are graced with native gardens, reflective pool and graceful statues brought back from Europe by Leopold Schmidt.
The historic house and grounds are made available for the Public History Programs organized by the Foundation’s Public History Manager, and for a limited number of rental opportunities for weddings, receptions and other special events.
A historical marker, “A House Called Three Meter.” stands just outside the front gate of the Schmidt House grounds and provides a detailed history on the home and family who had lived there.
The grounds also feature the Centennial Rose Garden cared for by Schmidt House volunteers.
Schmidt House History
The Schmidt House, set high on a wooded bluff at the mouth of the Deschutes River, was built at the turn of the 20th century for local brewery owner Leopold Schmidt and his wife Johanna. Mr. Schmidt already owned a successful brewing operation in Montana when a business trip first brought him to the Tumwater area in the early 1890s. Discovering that the artesian springs here were perfect for brewing beer, Schmidt sold his Montana holdings and built a new brewery at the foot of Tumwater Falls. The brewery shipped its first beer in 1896.
At first the Schmidt family lived in Portland, Oregon. Leopold and Peter spent much of their time in Tumwater, since they were actively involved in brewing. When Leopold brought the family north, they first lived in a house near the intersection of Main (now Capitol) and Maple Park in Olympia. As his brewing business prospered, Mr. Schmidt began planning a larger, more elegant residence that would stand at the top of the hill. In 1904 the couple moved into the new house with their daughter, the youngest of six children. Their five sons lived at Hillside Inn, an older home on the slope just above the brewery. For reasons lost to posterity, the Schmidts called the new house “Three Meter.”
A Blend of Popular Styles
By the time the first part of the house was built, the fussiness of the Victorian age was giving way to simpler, less elaborate house designs. Though the overall shape of the Schmidt House belongs to that earlier period, its decorative details—a portico with classical columns, a front door with transom and sidelights—borrows from the Colonial Revival style that was gaining in popularity at the time the Schmidts built their home.
Around 1910, as his health began to decline, Leopold Schmidt added a conference-room wing onto the west side of the house so that he could meet with his sons to discuss brewery business without having to make the long walk down to the company office.
The Next Generation
After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, the house known as Three Meter passed to the oldest of the Schmidt sons, Peter, and his wife, Clara, who had been living at Hillside Inn. Although the couple undertook some modernization of the home in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, the Schmidt House remains largely in its original state today.
“I have wonderful memories of looking out of the breakfast nook, dining room and living room windows, which all looked out over Tumwater Bay,” recalled Peter G. Schmidt, Jr., who grew up in the house. “There was a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains. At night when the capitol dome was lit, it too was a beautiful sight.”
Clara Schmidt had a particular interest in the gardens and grounds, and many of the mature trees and rhododendrons surrounding the house were planted during her lifetime. Until the 1950s, there was a small orchard of apple and pear trees located east of the house. At various times, there were also dairy cows, poultry, and sheep on the property.
In 1960 the Olympia Brewing Company purchased Three Meter from the estate of Peter and Clara Schmidt. When the descendants of Leopold Schmidt sold the brewing company in 1983, the Schmidt House property was donated to OTF, which continues to own and maintain the house. The Schmidt House is now listed on the local, state, and National Registers of Historic Places. No longer used as a residence, the house and its beautiful gardens are made available for community activities as well as a setting for weddings, receptions, and a wide range of special events.
In 2010, we established our History Program. Our mainstays are regular Schmidt House tours, history talks by local experts, and seasonal guided riverwalk tours of Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. We are constantly improving and adding to our program offerings, so check our calendar for events!
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I view the space before renting for an event?
Call (360) 890-2299 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time.
Can I use my choice of caterer for my event?
Is the house ADA accessible?
Yes and no. In 2023, an ADA-accessible bathroom will be completed as well as a lift to the first floor. The basement, second, and third floors remain accessible only to those who can climb stairs.
Directions & Map
I-5 South / Take 2nd Avenue Exit 103 / At stop sign go straight / At light take left onto Custer Way / Take first left onto Schmidt Place. The Schmidt House is straight ahead behind the iron fence. Parking is to the right of the home.
I-5 North / Take Deschutes Way Exit 103 / Turn right onto Deschutes Way / At light turn left onto Capitol Boulevard / At light turn left onto Custer Way / Take first right onto Schmidt Place. The Schmidt House is straight ahead behind the iron fence. Parking is to the right of the home.