City Completes Restoration Efforts for Rainier Historical Church

By Daniel Warn /
Posted 10/26/21

The Rainier Historical Zion Church recently received the final touches of a decade-long restoration effort the city of Rainier undertook at the venue.

The building, located at 209 Olympia St., …

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City Completes Restoration Efforts for Rainier Historical Church


The Rainier Historical Zion Church recently received the final touches of a decade-long restoration effort the city of Rainier undertook at the venue.

The building, located at 209 Olympia St., received its long-sought-after exterior lighting two weeks ago, along with indoor surveillance cameras. Rose gardens were also planted this summer.

The roses were purchased by the city for $400 and were planted by the Rainier Historical Society, while the city paid a total of $1,900 for the lighting and security measures.

“There’s the lights that come down the walkway and lights … that shine up at the building,” said Rainier Mayor Bob Shaw.

He added there’s a few lights on the Minnesota Street side of the building, some in the rear of the church and also some at the front, which can be seen from Olympia Street.

“It really lights up nice,” Shaw said. “And then these candles in the windows and the exterior lighting — it looks like an old-fashioned church. That was the goal of everybody.”

He said the positive responses from people that come from underneath the trestle on Minnesota Street to see the church have validated the city’s restoration efforts. Even in the last two weeks since the lighting was installed, the comments from people driving down the street have been incredibly positive, he said.

“We hear a lot of comments,” Shaw said. “A lot of positive comments. Even though it hasn’t been rented and used a lot, it’s a lot more than that that makes … myself, the council and community members happy.”

People can rent out the venue for $500 from the city, after receiving a rental form from Rainier City Hall.

“The important thing is we had our first wedding in here Saturday night,” Shaw told the Nisqually Valley News on Monday, Oct. 25 from inside the church. “We were supposed to have a wedding earlier this year in the summer, but they had to cancel due to COVID.”

The city is in the process of putting in a paved parking lot for the newly renamed Tenino-Rainier-Yelm Trail, formerly the Yelm-Tenino Trail, at the corner of Minnesota and Rochester streets. Those who use the church will be able to park there.

The church is white, with the city’s website stating the building has an “engaged square tower that includes a gabled vestibule surmounted by a belfry with hipped roof crowned with a spire and cross.”

Former Rainier City Administrator Charmayne Garrison told the Nisqually Valley News in 2018 that the restoration began in 2010, when the Port of Olympia gave the city a grant to update the building’s electrical system and to complete some work on its furnace.

Garrison’s brainchild, the restoration has held a slow, sometimes not-so-steady pace over the years, with the last few years seeing the most progress.

The port also gave a $10,000 grant in 2018, which allowed the city to install water lines and a septic system for the church.

Prior to that time, the venue had been used for weddings, but the events were hampered because there was a lack of running water.

The city completed the septic system along with a new bathroom in 2019, followed by an effort to install new exterior siding and insulated, double-pane windows that same year. A work crew also repainted the exterior of the church toward the end of that year.

In 2020, the city worked on the interior of the building, ensuring that new paint, carpet, refurbished floors, repaired pews, and further updates to the electrical system were completed in the venue with some interior decorating to boot.

Also in 2020, the existing lawn was removed and a new one was hydro-seeded. A sprinkler system and a white, picket fence surrounding the 0.24-acre lot were also installed.

Prior to this year, the city had spent $80,000 renovating and landscaping the church — that amount being fully realized in part through the Port of Olympia’s offerings, with $5,000 of it coming from a Thurston County Heritage grant administered by the Thurston County Historic Commission.

The church was originally built in 1896, by brothers Albert, Theodore and Paul Gehrke. The  structure was used as the second schoolhouse in Rainier while it also functioned as a church.

The Rainier Historical Zion Church was added to the Washington State Heritage Register in 2007. It was the first building in Rainier to receive the distinction.

The city acquired the venue in 1995 for $3,500.


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  • Bald-Hills-Reader

    Hmm. I am wondering when Rainier City will be building or renovating places of worship for other religions such as Jewish, Muslim, and the like. Last time I read the US Constitution, it clearly banned the establishment and support of any religion. Lots of locals are quite verbal in opposition to vaccine mandates but they seem to give establishment and support or religion a p***. Just sayin'.

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