Even back in my dawn-world days, it was still called the old Neuwaukum Grange, as though it had never been “new.” I guess at one time it was a school house, before it became a social center and dance hall for farmers in the district.
The first time I remember visiting the place, I must have been around 6 or 7 years old. My mama was up on the stage playing the piano – it may, in fact, be the same piano that’s setting on the stage today – along with an accordion player, a banjo player and a drummer. Together, they turned out one hell of a schottishche that so excited the dancers they’d jump and shout and skip and jump again until the whole building seemed to shake; perhaps it actually did.
During the past 30 or 40 years, the place was used less and less and gradually began to fall apart. The foundation rotted and buckled in the center and it looked as though the entire building might implode. Then along came Mark and Jason Gwerder and, with considerable help from other people in the region, especially Boci Delfino, they started slapping the place back in shape. (You may recall a column I wrote about their efforts several months ago.) As some of you may have experienced if you’ve tackled a similar project, the artifacts you discover during such restoration can produce a flood of nostalgic memories. Mark ran across his uncle’s name, Hank Felchlin, scribbled in pencil on the wall. Rather then paint over this relic, he preserved it under a glass frame. They found the original grange sign buried under the collapsed foundation and saved it as well.
Today, most of the building has been renovated and has already been rented for several weddings and a funeral. The outdoor beer garden still needs a little work, but the kitchen has been completely overhauled with new plumbing, sinks, cabinets and a convection oven. There are two unisex restrooms, which seems progressive for a little country landmark 36 miles from downtown Seattle. There’s a “changing room” in case a bride or someone else wants to change clothes. It can substitute as a cloak room. A very attractive, shiny, shellacked bar immediately catches you eye – at least it immediately caught mine. Mark’s wife, Gina, is collecting yesteryear photographs of the people and dances to display on a wall, so if you have any such pictures you might call her.
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with this historic icon, it’s located at the intersection of 180th and 384th. I can assure you it’s an excellent facility for any special occasion you might want to celebrate, whether anniversaries, birthdays or Ground Hog Day. If you’d like to rent the place, contact Jason Gwerder at 253-640-3345. Watch for a grand opening in the near future.
As I left the building, I happened to glance back at the main entrance. Lo and behold, proudly displayed over the doorway, in all the glory of past years, was the old sign they’d found under the foundation: “Neuwaukum Grange Hall #622.”
So, there you are, friends. Everything old is new again.