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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.