New life for the old grange hall | Wally's World

Back in the day — way back before the turn of the 20th century — frontiersmen in the Enumclaw area were digging outhouses and falling trees on their land-grant property. They were affectionately known as “stump farmers.” The timber was of some value and they used the profits to purchase cows, hoping to develop dairy farms.

Concerned about their children’s education, these hardy souls pooled their time, labor and lumber in a community effort and built proverbial one-room schools at strategic locations around the countryside.

By the early 1940s, nearly all the one-room country schools had closed. Thereafter, they were taken over by farm granges and served as community centers for social affairs and farm business. During the 1940s and ‘50s, the most important grange events were community dances. Folks from all over the various districts would gather in the old buildings to waltz, polka and schottische to rather rag-tag bands, each of which usually had a drum, accordion and piano and perhaps a violin, banjo or guitar. Sometime around the early 1960s these dances withered away; the old farmers were retiring and selling their land and their children went to more modern dance facilities in new clubs and lounges around the county.

Today nearly all the schools/granges have been torn down or turned into private homes, with one exception. The old Newaukum Grange is still standing — built to last 100 years — and is still used for events like anniversaries and birthdays, and is especially popular with the Hispanic community and a square dance club. But alas, if you’ve driven past the place in recent years, you would certainly have noticed the foundation had rotted out and the entire A few months ago, some surviving members of the original grange and a group of local investors decided to preserve the place. Several people from the vicinity have started to remodel and repair the structure. A few are being paid minimum wage, but most are community members who simply work for nothing. (Their labor is reminiscent of the community effort that built the school in the first place.) Thus far, they’ve leveled and strengthened the building with a new foundation, which was surely the most difficult and challenging part of the project. There’s still considerable work to do in the restrooms, kitchen and the main dance hall.

Batchy Delfino is probably as close as anyone comes to being the project “manager.” He hopes the job will be completed in March and wants to preserve as much of the building’s original atmosphere as possible.

I’ll let you know when the work is finished. You might want to check it out.

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