Northwest NEWS

July 5, 1999

Front Page

Fire ravages historic Grange Store building


A lone firefighter surveys the smoldering remains of the historic Grange Store building in Carnation.
Photo by Christy Allen.

Blaze consumes two businesses

by Lisa Allen, Valley View editor

   CARNATION--The owner of Eldorado Stone Corp., one of two businesses destroyed in a spectacular early morning fire last Wednesday, says she is continuing to keep her 80 employees busy in the company's second site, located on Entwistle Street.

   Nelda Ostgard said the company has also rented part of the old Odd Fellows Hall, in the space formerly occupied by the Snoqualmie Tribe, to replace the burned offices.

   The company manufactures molds to make decorative building stone. Ostgard began the business with her husband 30 years ago. She said that after her husband died, her son, John Bennett, took over the management of the company.

   "We used to complain that it was unhandy to have two sites, but it turned out to be a blessing," she said. "We can continue to manufacture and ship and want to get back to full capacity. We have a lot of customers to serve and employees to keep busy."

   Ostgard also owned the building, which she said was at least partly covered by insurance. "We probably won't get enough to cover the loss," she said. "We will keep the land, but have no plans to rebuild on it."

   Bruce Kenyon, owner of the NAPA auto parts store (the other business consumed in the fire), said last Friday that the store will be in operation this Tuesday at another site. The businesses occupied space in the historic Grange Store building, built in 1921.

   Former Grange Store employee Elda Clinton said she heard about the fire on TV, then went outside to watch as the old building went up in smoke and flames just a couple of blocks away.

   "It broke my heart to see it burn," said Clinton. "Everybody loved that store."

   Clinton, a lifelong Carnation resident, began working in the store in 1935 and stayed for 10 years. She took 10 years off to raise her children, then went back to work for another 10 years.

   "When it was first opened, there was a switchback in the building so the Milwaukee Railroad train could go inside to unload hay and feed," she said. "And when that closed, feed was trucked in from Fall City."

   The Grange Store also sold general merchandise and had a large dry-goods section, she said. "We sold wheel cheese--we called it 'rat trap' cheese--we just cut off whatever a customer would want and weighed it. We also sliced off slab bacon and baloney and salami. It was the big store in the Valley. I never dreamed it would go up like that ... it's really a shame."

   Isabel Jones, president of the Tolt Historical Society, said that she, her parents, and grandparents had been stockholders in the store. "In those days, there were lots of little farms and the farmers got together to start the Grange Store," she said. "They hired a manager to run it."

   Jones said she laughs when she sees the new QFC ads that offer food delivery. "We had that when the Grange Store was operating," she said. "We would just call and order our groceries and cow and pig feed and they would deliver it on trucks." She added that the Grange Store was sold in 1970 or '71 and later remodeled.

   Resident Garnet Paar said she remembered how friendly the people in the store were. "When I was in high school, it was a good place to stop and buy candy," she said.

   Fire investigators determined the blaze was caused by a malfunctioning space-heater in the drying room of Eldorado Stone, according to Eastside Fire and Rescue spokesperson Josie Williams. She said that firefighters had to take a defensive attack because of potential combustible material inside.

   "We didn't want to put our firefighters at risk, since there were no lives at stake," she said. "The fire moved very quickly due to the age of the building and the fact there were no firewalls."

   Crews from Duvall, Fall City, and Redmond were also called to fight the fire. Williams said a total of 31 firefighters and another six or seven personnel were on hand. Fire crews stayed until midnight to make sure there was "no rekindle and to clean up," she said, adding that the fire caused SR-203 to be closed for five hours.

   Damages were estimated to be $500,000 to Eldorado Stone, $100,000 to NAPA, and $500,000 to the structure.