The Fruitland Grange II
by Carl Vest
Travelers on South Hill often notice a very large building on the Northwest corner of 86th Avenue and 112th Street. Some believe it to be a leftover relic of the farming period, maybe part of an old farm. It does have the appearance of a barn. Others think it’s a warehouse of some kind. Actually, it’s the home of a very active fraternal organization known as the Fruitland Grange. It has been at this location since the 1930s.
The Grange is an old organization. It’s headquartered in Washington, D.C. and numbers some 160,000 members nationwide. Created just after the Civil War in 1867, its official title is: “The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.” While many people think of the Grange’s work as that of promoting agriculture, which was the originally intent, it now is an organization that stresses the furthering of economic and political well-being of the communities where it’s located.
The establishment of Fruitland came about when the aims of two special interest groups came together. One was a very active coalition of citizens named the Woodland Improvement Club. In the early 1930s it had been successful in securing several significant infrastructure projects on the Hill, but an important one ---the establishment of low-priced electricity --- had not been realized. It was during this same period that the Washington State Grange was vigorously promoting the efforts of Washington’s Senator Homer Bone, later known as the Pacific Northwest’s Father of Public Power, who was creating legislation for the building of Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams and cheap electric power. The two groups decided to merge and it was decided that a Grange chapter would be established on South Hill. All members of the Club elected to move to this new fraternal organization.
The Fruitland Grange was organized in 1932. The first meeting was held on April 21, 1932, in the old Woodland School building. There were 35 charter members, who continued to meet at the school until 1939 when the present structure was completed. The Grange has always been family oriented. On South Hill in 1933 a ladies auxiliary was established. A Juvenile Grange (Youth Services) was begun in 1939. To support veterans a program of ward parties was started at Madigan hospital in 1947.
Fruitland has supported little league baseball on South Hill since 1962. Today, games can often be seen in progress on the Grange site on weekday afternoons. When infant car seats were first introduced as a safety innovation, the Fruitland Grange pledged $ 1,155 for the purchase and distribution of 53 seats. The club received an award for this program in 1985. Support for the purchase of Thun Field by the County was also once a priority. In 2013 a stand on immigration has been made.
Many church groups, civic organizations, and educational groups have routinely used the very large Grange Hall for a variety of programs. So, for the past 83 years the Grange has proudly been a part of the community.
Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.