Since 1950 the Olympia Tumwater Foundation has been working hard to better our community through local projects and scholarships. The nonprofit is led by local community leaders who share its mission to do good deeds within Washington State while honoring Thurston County’s history and looking toward its future.

Olympia Tumwater Foundation History

The Olympia Tumwater Foundation has deep roots in the community, going back to the Schmidt Family of Tumwater and the Olympia Brewing Company. It should be no surprise then, that the Schmidt House and the re-named Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls are both under their care.

But the Foundation has done many things over its long history. Its first project was the Tivoli Fountain at the Capitol Campus. It was dedicated in 1953. Since then, they have done many notable projects.

A more recent project was the preservation of Thurston County historical photos thanks to a grant from the Thurston County Historic Commission. Olympia Tumwater Foundation digitized over 4,400 photos for their online collection, ensuring these snapshots into the past would not be lost.

Scholarships for Washington State Students

Part of looking to the future for the Olympia Tumwater Foundation means investing in our youth’s education. The nonprofit does this through its scholarship programs – they are the largest provider of college scholarships to high school students in Thurston County! Started in 1967, they offer college scholarships to high school students attending a Washington State college or university.

Because the board believes that education should be supported from an early age, in 2006 they began their Early Learning Grants. These go to school districts and early learning programs for innovative classroom projects. Since then, they have funded over $177,000 in grant money to local educational institutes.

The Schmidt House is a historical landmark preserved and stewarded by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation.

The Schmidt House

One of Thurston County’s true historical gems is the Schmidt House, lovingly cared for by the Olympia Tumwater Foundation since 1983. The house was built in 1904 for Leopold Schmidt, the founder of the Olympia Brewing Company

Volunteers keep the house and grounds, which include the Centennial Rose Garden and the Olympia Brewing Company archives, in tip-top shape with funds from the Schmidt House. You can tour the Schmidt House and even rent it for events. Thanks to the hard work of the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, this piece of history is well-preserved for future generations to enjoy.

New History and Nature Center at Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls

Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls has been an icon of Thurston County for decades. Free to all to enjoy, the park features a .5-mile pedestrian walking loop trail, along with ADA-accessible sidewalks along key points including the office, fish ladder and water-viewing platform. A playground was added in the 1960s and of course, your leashed dogs are always welcome at this family-friendly park.

Recent rendering photo of the new History and Nature Center at Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls. Photo courtesy: Olympia Tumwater Foundation

Each year over 250,000 people visit the park, many come to witness the salmon return to the state-operated fish hatchery, which is also part of the park. While there are signs along the trail, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation knew that the educational impact of the park could be better with a facility to highlight the park’s historical and environmental importance.

So in 2020, the Olympia Tumwater Foundation began planning for the new History and Nature Center. “The new History and Nature Center building is planned to be constructed from the currently standing Brewery Park office building,” shares Madeline Pennington, assistant director for the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. “The office was built in 1962 and has since been remodeled and updated over the years, but will benefit from a more comprehensive overhaul of its structural components such as windows, and electrical system. The building will also be redesigned internally to move the current maintenance bay to a separate building across the street in the park, to make room for event and display space.”

The new History and Nature Center’s design will feature an inclusive and accessible indoor-outdoor STEM learning space to complement other educational facilities in the region, but with a specific focus on salmon ecology, climate change, and the relationship between people and this historically significant site. 

“We are in the process of revising the design with community partners who have a deep history and connection to this site to ensure the exhibits and space center the voices and stories of these partners,” shares Erica Stock Williams, Olympia Tumwater Foundation’s new director of development, “while simultaneously serving the growing needs of nature-based educators and schools who are teaching our young people about water quality, the importance of salmon as keystone species, and the ecology of freshwater and saltwater ecosystems.”

Along with dedicated space to feature rotating cultural exhibits, this new facility will enable the community and those coming from throughout the region to more deeply connect with the history and ecology of Salmon and the significance of Tumwater Falls, reestablishing a connection between people and this landscape for generations to come.

“We are planning to break ground in 2025, and with a pending opening date of either 2025 or 2026,” shares Pennington.

To get involved with the Olympia Tumwater Foundation, including volunteer and donation opportunities, visit the Olympia Tumwater Foundation website.

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