Eatonville, Washington

by Foster Church on September 11, 2012

Eatonville from above

Eatonville in the Mount Rainier foothills is a quietly attractive place known for its good schools, but it’s mostly passed through by crowds on their way to the mountain or to the farm museum and the wildlife park outside town .  Nearby, are reminders of what it might have become. The town of Yelm is  a state of the arts place in the design of new brightly painted mini malls. With more than twice Eatonville’s population, it has none of its character. South of Eatonville is Morton, a two-fisted lumber town that still boasts three mills and a tavern, the Bullsnorter, where off work millworkers belt down brews.

History: Eatonville traces its history to 1889 when an Indian guide, Indian Henry by name, led Thomas C. Van Eaton to the site and said “This good place. Not much snow.” Van Eaton was sold and wound up owning a store, a pack team, a livery stable and serving in the Washington Legislature.  A log cabin where he resided for a time is a symbolic center of the town’s history and culture and stands on a low hill to which it was moved.

Shopping Around: For families with children, the first stops will be the Northwest Trek Wildlife Park and the Pioneer Farm Museum and Ohop Indian Village. The latter displays recreated buildings and people going about the business on a farm in the 19th Century. Kids can dress up like farmers or Native Americans and pretend to card wool, milk cows, and other labors.

At Wildlife Park, sight-seeing trams wander through 435 acres of meadows, woods, and lakes for views of bison, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goats and other wildlife native to the Pacific Northwest.  Adults, however, may prefer shopping in Eatonville and environs. The area is thick with artists, artisans and entrepreneurs who hole up in the countryside. Most welcome visitors, although it’s best to call working craftspeople ahead.

First drop by Terry Van Eaton’s Founding Families Antiques on Lynch Creek Road on the edge of town, which is something between a museum and a crammed second hand store. He’ll show you through a densely packed cottage filled with one of a kind pieces, many of them early American. His house itself is an antique, built in the center of town in 1905. Van Eaton had it carted up like one of his antiques and moved to his property, where he has embellished its living area with magnificent Honduran mahogany paneling from another house. Van Eaton talks with quiet erudition about Eatonville  history  and his antiques.

John Adams oversees a small empire of wine and lavender at Stringtown Lavender Farm outside Eatonville.

Next, drive out to see John Adams at Stringtown Lavender Farm and Winery on Stringtown Road where he sells locally made soaps, oils and sachets, and nine varieties of u-cut lavender. He also sells wines that he makes from grapes grown on his property and other vineyards in Eastern Washington, his favorite being his Farmhouse Red, which regularly sells out. He doesn’t charge for sips in his tasting room, and he’ll talk knowledgeably about wine, building, and virtually anything else connected to his burgeoning little empire in the green-choked valley.

From Stringtown Road, head out about ten miles north of the lavender farm to Terry Carson’s blacksmith shop, Tlc Forge & Farm.

Terry Carson fashions steel seahorses, dragonflies and plants at his blacksmith shop, Tlc Forge & Farm outside Eatonville.

Carson started as a kid grinding knives and quickly learned he could forge them. He took a job at Boeing that paid the bills, and when he got home late at night, he heated up the forge and worked until early morning. Retired now, and freed from the grind, he’s consumed with smithing as art.  He’ll start with a piece of steel and an orange-hot forge, and from this emerge seahorses, dragonflies and plants. Carson also makes an apple cider wine that he will haul out without much prompting.

The Basics: The Chop Stix serves excellent Vietnamese-inspired Chinese food, and Bruno’s serves burgers, steaks and seafood. Both are on Center Street. The only place to stay in town is the Mill Village Motel, which is modern, clean and comfortable

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