Following months of uncertainty regarding continued operation, St. Urban Grange in Lewis County met on July 14 to decide their fate. Members at that meeting decided by majority vote to keep the Grange open, and will celebrate this decision with a community gala to celebrate their 100th Anniversary in April 2017. Members believe this event will be the catalyst needed to revitalize this Grange and bring it back into the community. In the interim, there is work to do.
St. Urban Grange was once a vital part of an unincorporated area located at the crossroads of Sargent Road and North Military Road. The community, just on the outskirts of Winlock, once boasted a Catholic Church, a Mercantile, a one-room Schoolhouse and the Grange which was the meeting place and heart of this little area. The mercantile and school are long since gone, but the historic church and the Grange remain. The church has recently undergone extensive restoration by local families and was re-dedicated to the community in 2004 and is available for services.
Like so many Grange buildings across the state, St. Urban’s facility is old and outdated and members are concerned that the cost to maintain and update the hall will just be too much. Bushes had grown to cover the windows and the sign on the building; the lean-to woodshed was leaning just a little too much; and the building could stand a good coat of paint. Inside, the heating, electrical, plumbing, kitchen and bathrooms all needed to be updated to adequately facilitate community events and festivities. For several years, the grange has been set up only to accommodate a local quilting group, and the setup was unfriendly to renter, so rent income declined dramatically. These were just the most obvious obstacles discussed at the July 14 meeting, yet the members voted to forge ahead. That’s what Grangers do!
During a work party held at the grange in late July, extensive clean-up and clean-out of the facility occurred. David Schaefer, a Golden Sheaf member at St. Urban and past Special Deputy for State Convention, was on hand to help. He remembers his grandparents working on different sections of the building and he provided insight and guidance on how to bring the building back to life. A massive cleanup of the exterior included clearing gutters and roofs, trimming trees away from the hall, and building new steps to the woodshed. Karen Jackson, Overseer for the Washington State Grange was working hard inside the building where a total clean out of the kitchen was performed. Walls and ceilings were washed, floors and cupboards scrubbed, refrigerators and stoves cleaned, and then new lights and trim were installed.
The effort was just surface work, but what a difference a bit of attention makes! Jackson said, “This grange used to be the ‘go-to’ place in the community where families came for their gatherings – birthday parties, dances, weddings, receptions, and memorials. We want to make it that again. Our goal is to let this community know they are welcome… That our doors are open, and this building can once again become the heart of celebration for their events.”
St. Urban is operating now under new management. Robert Schaefer will be interim Master for the remainder of the year, and John Schaefer will be handling responsibilities as Rental Coordinator. Members will continue to make improvements to the hall and are working towards returning to the community with an Open-House celebration in April to recognize the Grange’s Centennial.