Edgefield Tours

A lovely woman named Thursday takes us on a tour of the main McMenamins Edgefield building, and tells us about the evolution of this property into what it is today, and what it hopes to be.

Our first tour was the History tour. We met Thursday outside the gift shop (This McMenamins has the best gift shop of all, btw) and with the help of a notebook filled with old photos, she began telling us the story of how Edgefield came to be in its current character. I covered some of this in the first post.

We did not leave the first and second floors of the main building, but it was enough to tell quite a tale of the hardships of the early days and the plans for expansion. “You need to know that the Edgefield is never done,” she said. “There are always improvements ongoing, new developments, revisions, expansions. The pattern you see painted on the wall here? That is brand new. I haven’t seen that before.” This building is where the dormitories were for poor farm residents, and later for nursing home residents. Today it holds most of the guest rooms, the Black Rabbit restaurant, the Ballroom, and Lucky Staehly’s Pool Hall. The artwork on the walls was accomplished by 25 local artists.

Thursday told us about the acquisition of a nearby historic jail building. Currently in use as storage, the McMenamins company plans to expand the Edgefield campus to incorporate it, and turn the jail cells into guest rooms. Now doesn’t that sound like an adventure.

A mural in the Ballroom.
I love this portrait. Many of the faces on the walls around here are of former residents. I wonder if she is one.

Next, we walked back up the hill to the golf course and the distillery bar that we visited when we first arrived, the day before. There would be a tour of the distillery. The facilities here are small, so by “tour” I generally mean it was a small area, but an expert pointed things out to us and told us about the operations at this location. They were all very interesting, with great tour guides who were eager to answer questions.

Next, we walked to the large brewery facility, occupying a former meat processing facility. The building was just as fascinating to me as the tour, and I took photos of old mechanisms that tickled my fancy. Originally build in 1937, this was made to be a meat packing plant and it was worked by residents of the poor farm. Today it is McMenamin’s largest brewery where over 12,000 kegs are produced each year.

Entrance to the Edgefield brewery. Note the little painted Black Rabbit.
Meat on hooks used to be sent out from the facility to the loading dock here. The racks no longer hold butchered meat, but rather birds’ nests.
Our guide explains to us what is happening in each stage of the brewery. (Did you notice the disco ball?)

Our brewery guide told us a story that lives in many people’s fantasies, I imagine. He really wanted to learn brewing, and bugged the McMenamins staff. He begged for a job, any job. He swept, he made phone calls, he took menial labor work at different McMenamins properties. They finally agreed to send him to training and he tried to go above and beyond every day. When he graduated, just by coincidence, they needed a single person to help out at Edgefield. Boom. Dream job. Experience at one of the oldest and most respected breweries in Oregon is going to ensure his career success.

Our guide pointed out the murals at the top of the walls that lined the largest room. He said it’s a painted rendition of the history of beer brewing in the world. The first scenes are the evolution of plant life, it moves to Egyptians and to what became England. It shows relevant beer scenes through time and ends with a depiction of McMenamins Edgefield. Quite amusing. Not sure what Stonehenge has to do with brewing though? Maybe the artist, Joe Cotter, was taking liberties.

These tanks were so huge they had to be stored outside.

We said goodbye to the brewer, and headed over to the winery. There were four people including Pedro and I for the history tour. Our group had about eight people at the distillery, and grew larger with each tour. By the time we reached the winery, we had 25 people.

We met in the tasting room at the Edgefield winery.

The aging poor farm population eventually needed an infirmary. This building was constructed as the infirmary wing, and its basement was a commissary. The winery and wine tasting room now occupy the basement.

The below-ground winery facility was deliciously cool on a very hot day.
Part of the tour was outside and we watched this man tending barrels of wine.
Back up front at the counter, we made the decision to purchase the Black Rabbit red, and the White Rabbit white.

It was late afternoon by this time and we had spent the better part of two days at Edgefield. It was time to return to our daily routines once more. We hopped in the Jeep and cranked up the AC, and made the easy journey home to Pedro’s place. I kissed him goodbye and headed an additional hour’s drive to my place. I hope to return and see the things we didn’t see. Can you believe after all that, we skipped a lot of stuff? We did not spend time in the Pool Hall, we did not tour the third floor of the main building, we didn’t go to the spa or soak in the pool, we did not explore the Administrator’s House, or take in a movie at the theatre.

Pedro and I will be in Durham, North Carolina for the rest of the week at a conference (for machine learning in medical settings) at Duke University. His Global Entry appointment in Seattle yesterday went great, so we should be able to go into the express lines when we travel to North Carolina.

The view from my brother’s guest bedroom. There’s the newly painted orange Space Needle. {Photo by Pedro Rivera}

15 thoughts on “Edgefield Tours

  1. You know, I never posted about my visit to Edgefield and still have the photos, I think. Yours are so much better and a much better and extensive visit. You saw so much more than they showed us old people. Good luck with your trip.

    1. It may have been too much to herd a bunch of people around in a group, and the grounds are extensive so it could have been tiring. I’m not surprised they didn’t show you as much as we saw. I’d like to see your photos sometime, and see what captured your interest. Thanks with the wishes for luck on the trip. So far so good. Our travel day yesterday was perfect.

  2. Great tour, Crystal. And I have to confess, I have never heard about Edgefield before. That the Egyptians drank beer was no surprise, however. Workers building the pyramids were give a gallon and a half each day. And way back in high school I remember reading the interpretation of a hiroglyph that said “If I kiss her and I taste beer, I am happy.” What’s the story on your conference regarding machine learning? –Curt

    1. I had never heard that story about the Egyptian translation, and I am tickled. What a fun quote. Yes, I’m not surprised at all, since my anthropologies studies taught me that the tradition of beer brewing in multiple countries in Africa goes back beyond the reaches of memory and storytelling. Speaking of that, I had a great conversation this morning with an employee of the hotel who told me she is from Liberia and she lamented the preferable weather there, and the fruit trees. I was thinking of you. Pedro is in the hotel room at this moment, finishing up a report for his MIT class before the 1pm start of the machine learning conference here at the Duke medical facility. So nothing to report yet, except it’s hot and humid and our trip here went as smooth as can be.

      1. I never would have thought that Liberia weather would win any prizes, Crystal. 🙂 But maybe, given the weather we are dealing with during the era of global warming. And I remember those five cent, five cent oranges. Any time you can report, “our trip here went as smooth as can be.” is a good trip!

  3. One of the photos says “Lyle Lovett” with a date in 2006. Does that mean he performed here on that date, or just stayed overnight?

    1. Good eye! Yes, the walls are painted with names and dates of artists and the dates they performed. Edgefield brings many notable artists, including Lyle Lovett, Bob Dylan, Yo Yo Ma, Adele, Willie Nelson, Ziggy Marley, Primus, Bonnie Raitt, and Cake – all over the place, ha ha.

    1. We did have fun, Jolandi ❤ I have been enjoying that about Pedro, who like me, wants to keep exploring whenever possible. Right now we are both in the state of North Carolina for the first time, and we get to do some more exploring!

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