By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Having closed its El Cazador restaurant March 3, the Mount Vernon firm that owns the historic Clallam Co-op grain elevator is looking for buyers for the 85-foot-tall landmark.
The building, which was home to the Mexican restaurant on the ground floor and has several pieces of communications equipment posted at its peak, is listed for $600,000, according to Gary Morgan, accountant for El Cazador.
If no buyers are found before April 27, the property will go up for a public auction as a trustees sale.
“If we had our way, we would sell it before that,” Morgan said.
“This is not something we wanted to do,” Morgan said.
El Cazador, which has other restaurants in Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon, had occupied the ground floor of the landmark since 1981.
It was closed because of dwindling revenues, Morgan said.
The Mexican restaurant was one of the many uses for the lot that was once bisected by the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railroad, a subsidiary of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific.
The elevator is the largest landmark of Sequim's rich agricultural history.
It was featured prominently in the city's centennial logo.
It also is one of many memorable granaries depicted in the 2002 book Old Time Grain Elevators: Stories and Photography from a Vanishing Way of Life, written by Bruce and Barbara Selyem of Bozeman, Mont.
Peninsula Grain Co. built a shed by the train tracks that was used to store farm produce before it was shipped out on the railroad, according to the Selyems' book.
In 1944, according to records from the Clallam County Assessor's Office, Clallam Cooperative built on the spot a wood-cribbed elevator to store corn, beans and wheat that was imported for use as cattle feed by area dairies.
“We'd drive up there — before I even had a license — and the guys working there would sack up grain for us in these 100-pound bags,” remembered Jeff Brown, who operated Dungeness Valley Creamery before turning the operation over to his daughter and son-in-law.
A faded advertisement for the co-op still graces the granary's west face.
A grass seed boom that hit the valley in the late 1960s created a new use for the elevator as grass farmers formed Dungeness Agricultural Supply and bought the granary to store seed.
Eugene and Dorothy Saxton bought the elevator after its agricultural use ended in 1977.
The railroad failed in 1985, and much of its bed is now the Olympic Discovery Trail, though much of the section that ran through Sequim was built over after the tracks were pulled up.
The Saxtons divided the building's warehouse into shops they then rented out to a number of businesses as the Landmark Mall.
In 1988, Hilda Rodriguez and Arturo Briseno leased the space in 1988 to open El Cazador, which would serve as a popular gathering spot for Sequim until its closure in March.
As the city's highest building, the granary drew the interest of a growing telecommunications industry in the late 1990s.
Chuck Beaudette, general manager of OlyPen, said his company put its first wireless Internet broadcaster atop the elevator in 2000.
“There was no Internet infrastructure on the Peninsula at all in 2000,” Beaudette said. “We saw it and thought it would be perfect for putting a signal out there.”
Cellphone companies followed, with Verizon Wireless the first to join OlyPen's transmitters.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.