Yelm Enjoys Growing Pains
The News Tribune January 26, 1975
YELM ~ This eastern Thurston County town is enjoying a building boom of sorts. Developments downtown include:
-An $82,000 combination city hall-library under construction on the site of the Nisqually Valley News weekly newspaper plant, which has moved into:
– A newly completed strip mall also containing an Evergreen Savings & Loan office, an optometrist’s office and Yelm National Auto Parts store. The Center has replaced an old house and vacant lot.
-An $80,000 Bank of Olympia branch under construction just across the railroad tracks from the new city hall.
Yelm School District plans a total of $5 million in new school facilities. A $3.2 million new senior high school will open in, 1977. A middle school will then take up the entire existing junior-senior high building. Southworth Elementary is doubling its size, and a similar expansion is planned at nearby McKenna Elementary which serves the Yelm district.
“WE’RE GROWING steadily,” said Dr. Glen Nutter, school superintendent, “We’re not trying to plan ahead, just trying to accommodate what we have. Everyone is pleased with the city’s growth.”
City clerk Roger Eide links the long-term influx of new citizens to a flight from larger cities. Most, he said, come from Tacoma, but many from Olympia and other cities.
“A lot of people just want to get out of the big city, have a few chickens, a cow and a garden,” Eide said.
“Many buy a few acres of land and put a double wide mobile home on it,” said Dr. Nutter. “Others buy in one of several ^subdivisions which have sprung up.”
Retired military personnel have settled in the area for many years, the officials said. THE TOWN’S mayor,Lora B. Coates, is serving her second four-year term. She has owned the Garden Gate Antique Shop for 20 years. Asked about the building activity, she responded:
“Whatever growing pains we’re now enjoying we’re somewhat overdue. We have begun to move with the times; everyone is extremely pleased.
“The existing city hall has been inadequate for 15 years,” said Mayor Coates.
“We’re sitting on each other’s laps. The new city hall received a solid 86 percent yes-vote,” she said, adding that the old city hall adjacent to the fire hall will be renovated to accommodate an expanded police force.
WHEN I CAME to Yelm 25 years ago, the population was 406. Now it’s 708, but we serve an estimated 5,000 shoppers in the area.
“Everywhere you look, a new house is going up,” observed a caller at her shop.
“Some young couples are moving into old houses and fixing them up … There are 10 Yelm citizens age 40 for every citizen the 60-to-70 age bracket,” the mayor said.
Even a famous old mansion eventually will be moving to Yelm, she continued. It’s the Reed Ingham mansion Olympia, now occupied by Gov. and Mrs. Dan Evans. After the Governor’s mansion is renovated, the renovated Ingham home will be cut in two and hauled to Yelm, where it will house the town’s community center, housing a food bank, clothing bank and health services. Purchased from state for $1.05; it will be located next to the city park.
There are 1,750 students in Yelm’s schools, with 350 in grades 10 through 12.
“A much greater influx is in the cards,” believes Mayor Coates.