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Student Research and Writing

Center for Preservation and Adaptive Reuse

Grange Halls in Washington State: A Critical Investigation of a Vernacular Building Type

WM Hopewell_7908 The Grange, formally known as the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry, is the oldest farm organization in the United States. At the local level, subordinate granges are typically organized among interested community members, and these groups meet regularly for the purpose of improving social, political, economic and educational opportunities for rural residents. The thesis is based on fieldwork documenting over two hundred buildings throughout Washington State that were in active use as grange halls in 2012. Although a majority of subordinate granges met in purpose-built halls, more than thirty percent of the buildings studied were found to have been constructed to serve other purposes (such as schools, churches, and community halls), representing a significant pattern of adaptive reuse in rural community buildings. This thesis documents, analyzes and interprets the historical and cultural significance of grange halls, based, in particular, on ideas of collective memory and social capital. Patterns of physical “improvements” or modifications that have supported the ongoing use of these buildings are examined, and this kind of “preservation through use” is contrasted with various theoretical frameworks that shape the discipline of historic preservation. While historic preservation theory and practice has often focused on architectural landmarks, this thesis analyzes preservation approaches related to cultural landmarks, that is, places that help to anchor a community’s cultural identity by attaching historical memory to place. An assessment of grange halls finds that those remaining in use as community buildings may be considered eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, based on current guidelines for evaluating the significance and integrity of traditional cultural properties. Revisions to existing historic preservation guidelines are also recommended, to better support and facilitate preservation of these vernacular historic properties.

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