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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Sunday, April 06, 2014

#2170 - Joe's Place, Bucoda, WA - 5/17/2013

"Joe's Place" was established in 1898 in Bucoda, near the Skookumchuck River, and it has been run by the family ever since. Settled in 1856 by Aaron Webster, Bucoda was originally established in 1856 as "Seatco" from the Coastal Salish word “Tsi-at-co,” meaning “devil” or “ghost place.” The original Joe's building burned down and was replaced with the current one in 1919. It is the only building left after a fire destroyed the rest of downtown Bucoda in 1930. The original walnut back bar was consumed in yet another fire during the 50s, but the matching original front counter remains.

Trap door that probably hid the hooch during prohibition,
Joe's Place, Bucoda, WA
Joe's was perhaps a working bar through prohibition, possibly taking advantage of the trap door in the floor behind the bar, which was also used in lieu of refrigeration. In any case, it seems likely that it resumed as a licenses bar very soon after prohibition, so I have guessed that the bar in the current building dates back to Dec. 1933. Joe died working behind the bar in 1937. The cafe and bar have been run by various groups of relatives ever since, with his great-granddaughter Ruth Wall buying out the last of the other relatives in 2004 to take sole ownership.
It was nice to see both the owners and locals taking an understandable pride in the history of Joe's, with various photographs and historical notes on the walls.  I chatted with customer Ray, who remembers sitting at the bar by the coal heater when he was seven. The few sources I have found tend to confirm the historical notes from the bar, with Thurston County tax records confirming that the current building was constructed in 1919, and city guides from 1907 and 1913 listing among Bucoda saloons one owned by Joseph Farrington.  Joe's is also said to have been the first bar in the country to serve Olympia Beer on tap, starting in 1889 and remaining the only brew on tap for many decades after. They now offer other beer selections, along with classic burgers, steaks, and American diner options.

118 S Main, Bucoda, WA 98530 - (360) 278-3599
Est. 1898/1938 - Building constructed: 1919
Previous bars in this location: None
Web site:
Reviews: chronlineyelp

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