Bettman Store first site

Location: 312 Capitol Way N
Diversity: Jewish heritage

bettman“Lower Main Street,” detail, Asahel Curtis studio, 1902, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASite today (portion) (2014), photo by Deb Ross

The Bettman name is associated with several sites in Olympia. In the very earliest years of Olympia’s history, settlement was clustered between Fourth Avenue and the waterfront, at Second Avenue, now Olympia Avenue (First Avenue, to the north, was no more than a dock). Louis, Mose, and Sig Bettman arrived here in 1853 from their native Germany. They established a mercantile store at this location, right on the waterfront at the north end of Main Street (now Capitol Way). Later on, Louis Bettman became the sole proprietor. At one time, the Bettmans lived around the corner on Fourth Avenue, the current site of the Bettman Block. As the commercial center of Olympia moved southwards towards Fourth and Capitol, Bettman moved his store to the important block on Capitol between Fourth and Fifth (see Bettman Store‘s second site). The Bettman store at that site was destroyed in the 1882 fire that burned this entire block; it was severely damaged in the 1949 Earthquake, but lived on as a business until the 1970s.

A fourth site named after the family is the Queen Anne style Bettman-Oppenheimer House, built for Louis’s daughter Belle Bettman Oppenheimer. Louis and his wife Amelia at one time also had an elegant home next door to the Bettman-Oppenheimer House, since demolished.

The Bettmans were the first Jewish family to arrived in Olympia, followed shortly thereafter by the Rosenthals, the Kaufmans, the Lotzes, the Harrises, and others. Although the first synagogue, Temple Beth Hatfiloh, was not built until the 1930s, these families stayed close and in 1873 established the Jewish Benevolent Society as well as a Jewish cemetery.

The photograph at above left is a detail from a photograph showing Lower Main Street, i.e., the north end of Capitol Way, then located in the “Dead Zone,” or Tenderloin District. The Bettman store building remains with his name over the door, but the building has long been abandoned. To its right is the New England Hotel. Clicking on the link below will show the entire photograph, including a glimpse at the more respectable parts of Main Street, including the trolley line that turned at the corner of Fourth and Main.

This site is now a parking lot.


Kilgannon: Temple Beth Hatfiloh Turns 75

Washington State Historical Society photographs

enter the following catalog number in collection search box: 1943.42.1415 (above photograph)

Article, Sapp, Olympia 100 Years Ago

1879 Bird’s Eye View of Olympia, showing the proximity of this site to the waterfront at Second and Main.

For more information on the Bettman family, see the Residents section of this website.

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross

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