Location: 516 4th Ave W 98502
Women’s History, Diversity: Japanese, Native American; mid-Century modern; Transportation
J.J. Brenner, 1914, photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
Bayview Market now (2012), photo by Matthew Kennelly
The western end of Fourth Avenue has been a host to water-based industry since the early days of Olympia. The Bird’s Eye View of 1879 linked below shows two wharves to the west of Percival Wharf; today this stretch of Fourth Avenue hosts the yacht club, the Oyster House, and the waterfront seating of Bayview Market, the location featured on this page.
In 1893, JJ Brenner founded his oyster business; it became one of the most important oyster businesses in Olympia and is still in existence, though headquartered in Shelton. In those days the tiny Olympia oyster was harvested; Pacific oysters were introduced by shellfish growers in the 1920s. Pollution virtually wiped out the Olympia oyster between the 1920s and 1950s; today it is making a small comeback. The Brenner building, shown above left, relied on Squaxin and Japanese harvesters, who loaded the oysters onto barges at low tide and then brought them into Olympia, where they were processed at this facility. Women also constituted a large portion of the workforce.
In 1952, Ralph Storman purchased this building from the Brenner Company and turned it into a grocery store. Over the years, the Stormans introduced several unique features, including a conveyor belt to transport groceries from the second floor storage area down to the ground floor, a “Mark-it” system where customers could mark the prices on cans of goods with a grease pencil; and today, a second floor seating area with a demonstration kitchen and view of Budd Inlet and the Olympics.
To the left of JJ Brenner, where the Bayview Market parking lot extends westwards, was the H.A. Long Boatworks. The boatworks, owned by Henry Long, was known for rowboats and canoes.
For more information follow these links:
Washington State Historical Society photographs, enter the following catalog number in collection search box: C19184.108.40.206.5 (unscanned photo circa 1937); 2010.149.39.1 (above photo), C19220.127.116.11.8 (Long Boatworks); C1950.1301.19.16 (interior of office, with JJ Brenner and Charles M. Moore his secretary)
City of Olympia: Mid-Century Modern Context Statement (page 15 chronicles the evolution of the Bayview Market building)
Olympia Women’s History Walking Tour (JJ Brenner’s Cannery)
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross