HERE IS Lady Rainier, bronzed and 10 feet tall, holding her glass high while standing in the courtyard of the Seattle Brewing and Malting Company’s Georgetown plant. The statue first appeared in The Seattle Times on Feb. 7, 1904, for this paper’s “industrial review” of the company, a merger of three brewers with plants in South Seattle and Georgetown.
The Times included the German-made fountain in an elaborate montage of brewery photos. In this undated portrait, the fountain’s flowing water had turned to ice.
Georgetown historian Tim O’Brian, now deceased, liked to compare his early-20th-century brewery town — before Prohibition — to a medieval community where everyone and everything was crowded under the shadow of the cathedral. Here in place of a narthex, nave and chancel were a malt house, brew house and offices extending along Georgetown’s Snohomish Way (now Airport Way). O’Brian boasted, “At 885 feet it was a few feet longer than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome — although not as wide.” When completed in 1903 and fitted with its fountain, the “Georgetown Cathedral” could readily claim devotional status as “the largest brewery in the West.”
Its premier brand was a lager named Rainier, after the mountain. By 1905 the brewery was producing 300,000 barrels of beer a year; 25 horse teams were needed to handle daily deliveries in Seattle alone. But the Golden Gate state statistics were the most impressive: By 1911, on average, 25 railcar loads of Rainier beer were being delivered daily to California.
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Two years later, the company consolidated all its beer-making to the Georgetown plant and its remaining South Seattle plant — where the giant “R” has recently been reinstalled — was converted to bottle works. When the brewery needed the Lady Rainier’s courtyard for a machine shop, she began her pilgrimage to other locations.
Soon, however, the fountain and Georgetown’s “only employer” were shut down because of statewide prohibition in 1916; national prohibition followed in 1920.
In this week’s repeat, Lady Rainier looks down from her perch beside the Rainier plant in South Seattle, less than two miles north of the remnants of the Georgetown brewery. In recent years, the Georgetown Community Council has hoped to bring the Lady home to Oxbow Park to stand beside another restored and protected Georgetown landmark, the Hat ’n’ Boots.
Check out Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard’s blog at www.pauldorpat.com.