The recently renamed, 15-acre Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls has been nestled along the picturesque falls of the Deschutes River for decades. The original project was undertaken by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation (OTF) who continues to own and maintain the Park to this day. Not only is the practicality of the Park consistently considered, but also the meaning of the Brewery Park’s historical significance tied to the Olympia Brewing Company. To help engrain the impact that the Brewery had on local history, OTF has helped organize a group of local craftsmen to sculpt a massive Olympia Beer logo to stand proud in the Park.
In 1962 the OTF officially announced their plans to create Brewery Park just in time for the bustling tourism season of 1963 and the expected influx of traffic due to the Seattle World’s Fair. Although the Park wasn’t finalized by the summer, fall brought about the completion of a beautiful space for the community and visitors to enjoy. Not only was the location ideal to attract passerby traffic, but it had been graciously donated by the Olympia Brewing Company whose then offices, brew house, and cellars towered over the east bank.
The history of the Olympia Brewing Company is both fascinating and an integral part of the city’s past that the OTF was excited to highlight with the construction of Brewery Park. First mentions of a brewery in the area can be traced to an 1895 article in the Daily Olympian. Leopold Schmidt first caught wind of the bustle in Thurston County when he heard news of a new capitol building under construction in Olympia, and notably heard of the artesian springs in nearby Tumwater. With his brother Louis in tow, the brothers toured the site to assess its suitability for a new brewery. Leopold’s past experience as a brew master in other parts of the country confirmed his suspicions that the water was of incredibly high quality, not to mention the access to the nearby Puget Sound that assured this location was impossible to beat.
Although originally named the Capital Brewing Company, the name changed to the Olympia Brewing Company in 1902. At that same time, the famous slogan, “It’s the Water” coined for the flagship Olympia Beer was branded on just about everything and is still recognized to this day. Leopold took great pride in his business and stuck to his model of, “Quality First – Quantity Next.”
The original location didn’t survive through Prohibition, but the Schmidt family persevered through other ventures and eventually constructed a new, modern facility in 1934, just up the hill, bringing Olympia Beer back to the city. Unfortunately, the facility is no longer in use, but that doesn’t mean that the history and impact that the Schmidt family had on the city has to be forgotten.
After recently receiving grant money from the City of Tumwater Lodging and Tax Funds, Thurston County Historic Commission and private donations, the OTF began planning the Olympia Beer logo project. “Our overall goal was to pay respects to the Schmidt family and the community with this monument,” explains John Freedman, executive director with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. In conjunction with Bill Lenker from Lenkerbrook Stoneworks and Keith Phillips and Dan Miller from Tenino Stone Carvers, the final plan was conceived to carve the iconic Olympia Beer logo into a 3.5 ton chunk of Wilkeson sandstone.
The Wilkeson stone quarry was chosen as it’s fabled to have supplied the stone used to construct the Washington State Capitol. Using the dynamics of the Olympia Beer logo for guidance, the trio of sculptors are each tackling a section of the design. Dan has been tasked with creating relief for the horseshoe, Keith will carve the waterfall scene, and Bill will flank the foliage. “Keith Phillips is a local treasure,” states Bill. “His lifetime of creation and tutelage should be embraced. He has worked on multiple buildings on the Capitol campus, carved the crest outside Tumwater City Hall, has enhanced much of Tenino, and carved the books that stand outside of Powell’s, in Portland. I was thrilled at the opportunity to facilitate his contributing his efforts to the revitalization of Brewery Park, at Tumwater Falls.” Bill also discussed how this project should be a destination, and how earlier this year, Keith was a driving force in the creation of an old-fashioned Olympia beer barrel water fountain that stands outside the office at the Brewery Park. “It will be a pleasure to see it in use, once the park opens back up. It is nothing but an honor to collaborate, and work shoulder to shoulder with him,” he adds.
Throughout Brewery Park many other sandstone sculptures can be spotted, although the doors have been closed since 2019 due to maintenance repairs and construction projects that needed to be addressed. The Department of Ecology was asked to re-evaluate the work that had been completed at the same time COVID-19 cases began appearing across the state, forcing another closure. While an extended closure is never welcomed, the OTF took the time to continue construction on a new bike path, make repairs to trails, and update the Park’s main office. “We’re excited to announce that Brewery Park will be reopening to the public on April 1,” exclaims John.
While there’s no official timeline on when the Olympia Beer logo statue will be unveiled, guests are welcome to return to Brewery Park and explore the many walking trails and footbridges highlighted by cascading waterfalls, reflective pools, beautifully maintained lawns, picnic facilities and many other features.
Brewery Park is open at no charge but accepts donations to help with the cost of keeping the space beautiful, safe, and clean. “The Schmidt family was a wonderful part of the city’s history,” says John. “It’s an honor to be able to commemorate their efforts in this way.”