The Fruitland Grange
by Carl Vest
At the intersection of 112th Street and 86th Ave., on the northwest corner, a big barn like building stands out. It’s a common sight to those who commute through the area, as well as for shoppers traveling to the nearby Costco store. Questions are often asked about its purpose and history. This building is the home of the Fruitland Grange.
The Grange is a fraternal organization, created shortly after the Civil War. Initially the group catered to American farmers and was a very powerful political force from the 1890s to the 1950s. Many historians credit Grange lobbing for the establishment of rural mail service, the Farm Credit System, and other farm related initiatives of the Federal Government.
The Fruitland Grange was organized in the spring of 1932. At a gathering in the Woodland School on April 21, 1932, thirty-five people started its establishment process. The installation was administered by a visiting team from the McMillan Grange. The three top officers were selected during this ceremony. The name Fruitland Grange was also adopted. Subsequently, on May 5, 1932, additional officers were elected. All were installed on May 19, 1932. It was in December 1934 that the Grange was incorporated.
For several years the Fruitland lodge operated from the Woodland School. However, in 1938 the old school building was torn down. So, from June 1938 to February 1939 meetings were held in the nearby Collins Grange Hall. In 1934 Fruitland purchased land to build its own facility. It was the land on which the current building is located. The first building committee was appointed in March 1935.
Clearing the land was started in 1936. Initiating the effort was The Grange Powder Company which held a demonstration on the site and blew out most of the tree stumps. Membership labor was then utilized to clear the property.
In March 1936 plans for a proposed Hall were accepted. Afterwards, in April 1938 a building committee was authorized to borrow twenty-five hundred dollars under terms of the Federal Housing Act. On July 8, 1938 concrete pouring was started. The male members of the Grange were there, working with wheel-barrows, while the female Grangers provided the food. However, that day’s work was just the beginning. Afterwards, nearly every Saturday and Sunday a group of men could be heard hammering away or seen carrying lumber here and there until the main building was completed. At one time a group of Sumner Grangers came to help. Also Grangers from other places worked from time-to-time, helping in various ways. So the Grange Hall was, by and large, designed and built with volunteer labor by Grangers from local areas. It was completed in late 1938 and cost $10,000.
On February 14, 1939, Grange members held a Valentine Dinner in the new Hall. It was its first use. The first regular Grange meeting was held on February 17, 1939. So in 2010 the Fruitland Grange Hall will have been in continuous use for 71 years.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.