Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum


Join us in exploring, preserving and promoting Olympia’s history. We are a non-profit membership-based organization presenting the stories from our past to enrich the present and inform the future of Olympia. The Bigelow House Museum, owned and operated by the Society and Museum, is the oldest residence in Olympia, Washington, and one of the earliest still standing in the Pacific Northwest.

Society News

Second Printing of Thurston County: Water, Woods and Prairies now available

The popular history Thurston County: Water, Woods & Prairies, which sold out last year, has been reprinted with a new introduction, dedication, and updates and is now for sale. Click here to order your copy today!

The 290-page book has more than 250 photographs about the capital county of Washington with essays by local authors about Native Americans, maritime explorers, loggers, early settlers, and farmers, as well as the story of the state capital and contemporary times.

The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum, in partnership with other county heritage organizations, is marketing and distributing the books to promote interest in Thurston County history. The books are $38.29 for softbound and $49.23 for hardbound (including local sales tax and mailing and handling costs). The books will also be available for pickup at the Bigelow House at 918 Glass Avenue NE for $32.82 for softbound and $43.76 hardbound (including local sales tax) on December 12 and 19th from 1 to 3 pm. If picking up, please remember to wear a mask. 

Thurston County: Water, Woods & Prairies ordering and update information is available here or e-mail: olyhistory@gmail.com. The book is also available from the following organizations and retail outfits:

Heritage Partners Selling Books:


Squaxin Island Museum Library Research Center
Call 360-432-3839 or email ljohns@squaxin.us.
Olympia Arts and Heritage Alliance
Call Tom Henderson 360 866-0918
Sacajawea Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution
Call or email jcrumpa@gmail.com 360-798-2348
Gate Community Club
Email:   GateCitySchoolhouse@gmail.com
City of Lacey
Call or email  equinnva@ci.lacey.wa.us 360-413-3557
Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (360) 273-5911
Nisqually Tribe, 360-456-5221
Retail Sellers:
Thompson Furniture, 5407 Capitol Boulevard SE, Tumwater
Browsers Books, 107 Capitol Way N., Olympia
Drees 524 Washington St. SE ,Olympia
Book n’ Brush 518 N. Market Blvd., Chehalis
Last Word Books  111 Cherry St. NE, Olympia

Olympia Armory Storytelling Project Launched!

We are very excited to announce the launch of a year-long effort, the Olympia Armory Storytelling Project. In partnership with the Washington State Military Department, the City of Olympia and others, we are asking members of the public to contribute their memories of the Armory, which will be transitioning to a Creative Campus in 2022. Memories and photographs may be submitted on a form, accessed here, or by emailing olyhistoryresearch@gmail.com, with the subject line Armory. Submitted photographs will be displayed and updated regularly in the Storytelling Project’s Gallery. Submissions may be used in displays, videos and other media and will be archived in the Washington State Archives. 

In addition to serving the Washington National Guard since the 1930s, the Armory has been central to Olympia’s community history as a well-used venue and gathering place for events such as basketball games, antique sales, pet shows, wrestling matches, car exhibitions, festivals and Inaugural Balls.


It’s the Water Exhibit

“It’s the Water” exhibit a project of Olympia Arts & Heritage Alliance (AHA!), is now on view in the front windows of the Old City Hall and Fire Station at State Street and Capitol Way in downtown Olympia and will be on view through October.

The exhibit is a curated collection of 48 images, including historic photographs, contemporary art, and maps. The exhibit is designed to explore the importance that water has played in the lives, businesses, cultures and recreation of South Sound residents. Images include oyster growing, shipbuilding, maritime fleets, Olympia Fire Department, Lakefair, beer brewing, Capitol Lake, rainfall, sea level rise, tribal fishing and basketry, and the Port of Olympia. Online resources accompany the installation, with background information, stories, and links to enrich the exhibit. AHA is also planning a series of related events. For more information see olyaha.org.
Thanks to all of you for your support


We would love you to shop local, but if you do happen to be shopping on line, please consider clicking on the Amazon Smile logo and designating us as the beneficiary of this program, where a percentage of your purchase will go to support our programs. 

We also partner with Fred Meyer, and Ralph’s/Bayview Thriftway charitable donation programs. Click on any of the links provided here to be taken to their donation pages. 

Thank you!