Schmidt House History

The Schmidt House, set high on a wooded bluff at the mouth of the Deschutes River, was built at the turn of the 20th Century for local brewery owner Leopold Schmidt and his wife Johanna. Mr. Schmidt already owned a successful brewing operation in Montana when a business trip first brought him to the Tumwater area in the early 1890s. Discovering that the artesian springs here were perfect for brewing beer, Schmidt sold his Montana holdings and built a new brewery at the foot of Tumwater Falls which shipped its first beer in 1896.

At first the Schmidt’s moved into an existing house on the slope above the brewery, a home that the family affectionately nicknamed “Hillside Inn.” As his brewing business prospered, Mr. Schmidt began planning a larger, more elegant residence that would stand at the top of the hill. In 1904 the couple moved into the new house with their daughter, the youngest of six children. Their five sons continued to live at Hillside Inn and work in the family business. For reasons lost to posterity, the Schmidt’s called the new house “Three Meter.”

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This view of the six-story brick building known as the Old Brewhouse (1906) was taken around 1910. Midway up the bluff stands a white wood frame house called Hillside Inn
(no longer standing today). And at the top of the bluff on
the right is the Schmidt House before the addition of the
west wing in 1911.

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The Schmidt House as it originally appeared before the 1910 addition. Note the gardener edging the lawn by hand.

A Blend Of Popular Styles

By the time the first part of the house was built, the fussiness of the Victorian age was giving way to simpler, less elaborate house designs. Though the overall shape of the Schmidt House belongs to that earlier period, its decorative details—a portico with classical columns, a front door with transom and sidelights—borrows from the Colonial Revival style that was gaining in popularity at the time the Schmidt’s built their home.

Around 1910, as his health began to decline, Leopold Schmidt added a conference-room wing onto the west side of the house so that he could meet with his sons to discuss brewery business without having to make the long walk down to the company office.

The Next Generation

After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt the house known as “Three Meter” passed to the oldest of the Schmidt sons, Peter, and his wife, Clara, who had been living at Hillside Inn. Although the couple undertook some modernization of the home in the late 1930s and early ‘40s, the Schmidt House remains largely in its original state today.

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This view of the Schmidt House, taken sometime after 1910, shows the addition of the new west wing.

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Leopold and Johanna Schmidt, both born and raised in Germany, pose with their six children in a portrait taken in the late 1890s. The tallest boy is their oldest son, Peter, who inherited the family home.

“I have wonderful memories of looking out of the breakfast nook, dining room and living room windows, which all looked out over Tumwater Bay,” recalled Peter G. Schmidt, Jr., who grew up in the house. “There was a beautiful view of the Olympic Mountains. At night when the Capitol Dome was lit, it too was a beautiful sight.”

Clara Schmidt had a particular interest in the gardens and grounds, and many of the mature trees and rhododendrons surrounding the house were planted during her lifetime. Until the 1950s, there was a small orchard of apple and pear trees located east of the house. At various times, there were also dairy cows, poultry and sheep on the property.

In 1960 the Olympia Brewing Company purchased Three Meter from the estate of Peter and Clara Schmidt. When the descendants of Leopold Schmidt sold the brewing company in 1983, the Schmidt House property was donated to the non-profit Olympia Tumwater Foundation, which continues to own and maintain the house. The Schmidt House is now listed on the local, State and National Registers of Historic Places. No longer used as a residence, the house and its beautiful gardens are made available for community activities as well as a setting for weddings, receptions and a wide range of special events.

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Peter Schmidt, Sr., and his wife, Clara, raised five children at the Schmidt House “Three Meter”. Both are interred in a family memorial garden on the property along with his parents, Leopold and Johanna.