Locke family – 6/16/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Sam Fun Locke, dubbed the Mayor of Chinatown, arrived in Olympia in the late 1800s from Toisan, China. In 1902 he traveled back to China and returned with his wife Lay Shee. They had nine children. The family is pictured here in this photo from about 1930.  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Courtesy Locke family

Jocelyn Dohm – 6/1/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Jocelyn Dohm, at left, founded the Sherwood Press, specializing in high-end small-scale printed materials using traditional techniques.  She and her life-long partner Marjorie Sayre were active in the political and arts communities. Jocelyn is pictured here with American Association of University Women member Dorothy Vitous, as she creates stationery for the organization. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Daily Olympian photo, October 1964, State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

William Bettman – 5/26/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Three Bettman brothers, Louis, Moses, and Sig, were members of the first Jewish family to settle in Olympia in 1853. They operated a store at the foot of Main Street (Capitol Way). Pictured here is Louis’s son William Bettman, who took over the business. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

unknown photographer, about 1891, 1891 Olympia Tribune Souvenir Edition, Washington State Library

Quiemuth – 5/19/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Pictured here is Quiemuth, an older half-brother to Leschi, the famed Nisqually leader. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Pen and ink portrait, undated, creator unknown, courtesy Washington State Historical Society

“Bigelow House in Style” at the Bigelow House Museum

Visitors to the Bigelow House Museum can enjoy “The Bigelow House in Style” through August. The house is open for guided tours at 1, 2, and 3 pm on the first two Sundays of the month with an admission fee.  Special tours can also be arranged by emailing olyhistory@gmail.com.
 
Vintage women’s clothing is being featured throughout the house including an 1880s wedding gown, an 1890s brocade dress; an early 20th century tea dress; 1910s walking suit; and an 1890s day dress.  The clothing is from the Bigelow House Museum collection and private collections.
 
Shown is an 1890s era day dress from a private collection.
 
New Outdoor Scavenger Hunt at the Bigelow House
 
Also new at the Bigelow House Museum is an exterior scavenger hunt for younger visitors.  They can search for items around the house and also get a special gift if they bring their completed information sheet to the Bigelow House during open hours from 1 to 4 pm on the first and second Sundays of the month.  The scavenger hunt clue sheet is available on the O at olympiahistory.org.

Nettie Chiang – 5/12/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Pictured here is Nettie Chiang, Chinese-born wife of restaurateur James Toone, in a colorized studio photograph by Ida Smith.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Ida Smith photograph, around 1900

Jish Jish – 4/28/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Jish Jish, also known by early Territorial settlers as Old Betsey, was likely a member of the Nisqually Tribe. She had seasonal homes at the current location of the Capitol Campus and at the Nisqually Reservation. She had a very long life and was well known in the community.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

unknown photographer, late 1800s, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Trena Selvidge Belsito Worthington – 3/31/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Trena Selvidge Belsito Worthington was the daughter of an Olympia-based lumberman and a store owner. She was a noted attorney in Olympia. She designed and built five distinguished homes in Olympia, based on a design from the magazine Architectural Digest. Trena is pictured here, at left, with Governor Albert and First Lady Ethel Rosellini. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Charles Mitchell’s Flight to Freedom

Olympia Arts + Heritage Alliance (AHA) in partnership with the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum and City of Olympia are sponsoring a presentation and discussion about the compelling story of Charles Mitchell. A 13-year-old boy, Mitchell escaped enslavement in Olympia in 1860 by traveling by steamer from Olympia to Victoria, B. C. via the Puget Sound Underground Railroad.
 
The program is Saturday April 20, 2024 at the Olympia Center 222 N. Columbia in Olympia at 1:00 pm and is open to the public.
 
Dr. Lorraine McConaghy, one of the authors of the book Free Boy which presented the biographies of Charles Mitchell and the man who enslaved him, James Tilton will offer an illustrated program followed by a moderated community discussion.
 
For more information email info@olyaha.org

Oyster Harvesters – 3/24/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Oysters have been a staple of Pacific Northwest diets for thousands of years. While oysters were originally harvested by Native Americans, by the 1930s Japanese immigrants were the primary source of harvesting labor in Thurston County. Pictured here are harvesters doing the back-breaking work of loading oysters into a scow. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

unknown photographer, early 1900s, courtesy State Capital Museum, Washington State Historical Society

Pekin Cafe – 3/17/2024

The Looking Back theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Shown here is the Pekin Cafe, located on Capitol Way between 4th and State. The Pekin offered both Chinese and “American dishes.” It was one of several Chinese-owned restaurants in late 19th and early 20th century Olympia. It was owned by Lock Hoy, who later ran the Shanghai Café. Photograph

selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide

City of Olympia, Historic Preservation in Olympia, Assessment and Action Plan, April 19, 2005

This document was captured via the Wayback Machine from a former version of the City of Olympia website. Optical character recognition (OCR) tool was applied to render it word-searchable. Click on links below for individual elements and chapters. Link to the capture event in 2012 here


Cover and Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Section I: Why Preservation Matters
Section II: Historic Resources of Olympia
Section III: Historic Preservation in Olympia
Section IV: Historic Preservation Laws and Policies
Section V: Public Stewardship of the Past
Section VI: Information and Analysis of Public Incentives for Preservation
Section VII: Outreach Partnerships
Section VIII: Olympia Heritage Commission Program Assessment
Section IX: What Next
Appendices ABCD

Jesse Mars and Olympia Fire Company

Our theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Pictured here is Olympia Fire Co. No 2. The young man third from the right is Jesse Mars, son of James and Mary Jane Mars. Jesse was the first Black member of the fire company. Sadly, he died soon after this photograph was taken, of pneumonia.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-streams-a-resource-guide/.

Kanaka Jack and Katie – 3/3/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. “Kanaka Jack” and his wife Katie lived on Johnson’s Point, where they maintained a woodyard and water tank for visiting steamships. Kanaka Jack was a native of Hawaii. Before Washington became a U.S. Territory, he had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is now DuPont. The couple’s birth names are unknown. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

unknown photographer, about 1900, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Leschi – 2/25/24

 Looking  Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Streams, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Leschi, pictured here in this drawing from the 1850s, was a leader of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. He was hanged for his alleged killing of A.  Benton Moses during the Indian Treaty Wars of 1855-1856. A judicial inquiry exonerated him posthumously in 2004. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/

Emma Page – 2/18/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Emma Page’s blindness from age 7 did not deter her from speaking forcefully on behalf of temperance and animal rights. A fountain in Sylvester Park is dedicated to Miss Page, and two troughs at the foot of the fountain were intended as watering stations for pets in recognition of her love of animals. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

Courtesy University of Illinois Archives

Capital Apartments – first on Olyblog, captured on Wayback Machine

Capitol Park Apartments

Although I called them Capital Apartments in a recent post, apparently they were also known as the Capitol Park Apartments.

Shortly before they were demolished to make room for the ever-growing Capitol Campus, Charles E. Anderson and Jerrold F. Ballaine of the firm Anderson & Ashburn appraised the fair market value of the units (Nov. 1, 1969) at $425,000.

I recently came across a copy of their report for the GA: Appraisal of Property Located at 1306-1318 Capitol Way, Olympia, Washington, Capitol Park Apartments.

Here are some extracts of their description. Notice the authors have one name for the place on the previously mentioned title, but another in their narrative: 

“The Capital Apartments consist of two four story and full basement brick buildings. The south building was constructed in 1923 and has an oil burning steam heating plant that supplies heat to both buildings. There is no elevator in the south building. The north building was built in 1925 and contains an Otis automatic electric elevator. Both buildings are connected on all floors …

The buildings are in fair condition for their age and both are colonial design. Roofs are flat, built up tar and gravel. The basement of the south building has some 60 lockers and a low pressure steam heating plant consisting of a Birchfield Boiler and Ray oil burner which burns heavy fuel oil. The basement of the north building has 16 garage stalls.

The ground floor of the south building has a large laundry room and drying room and an ample sized storage room. There are also 6 apartments in this floor. The public halls in both buildings are wide and carpeted.

There are a total of 61 apartments and 218 rooms in the two buildings … All apartments have oak floors in the halls, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.”

Old Cap Way was never quite the same after these two buildings, along with the old OHS, were torn down. I have attached some interesting floor plans, photos, and list of residents in the twilight time of this apartment house. 

Those of you who attended Roosevelt School in the Ike/JFK/LBJ era will recognize one of our 5th grade teachers in the list, who was retired by 1969. I believe she lived to be a century old, something that might not have happened if my rotten class had not convinced her it was time to retire early if we were a sign of things to come. She was a nice person who did not deserve to have a group of little demons like us, but getting out of the classroom early might have prolonged her life in the long run, so perhaps we did her a favor. I hope so.   

Oak floors. Such a shame.

 

Abbie Howard Hunt Stuart – 2/11/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Abbie Howard Hunt Stuart, pictured here, co-founded the Woman’s Club of Olympia, the first on the Pacific Coast. She bucked traditional female expectations by pursuing an independent career, wearing her hair short and, in common with other members of the Club, identifying herself by her first name instead of her husband’s.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

OHS & BHM 2024 Annual Meeting Celebrates Olympia History

The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum (OHS & BHM) hosted their 2024 Annual Membership Meeting on Saturday, January 27th at the Olympia Center.

At the top of the agenda was a program commemorating the 170th anniversary of the meeting of Washington’s First Territorial Legislature in February, 1854. OHS & BHM Board Members recited writings from that time period that recalled life in 1850s Olympia and the workings of that first legislative session.

A highlight of the meeting was presentation of the Society’s annual awards that honor significant achievements in sharing, preserving, and shaping Olympia history. It is an OHS & BHM tradition that the awards presentation be made by Gerry Alexander, the retiring Vice President of OHS & BHM and former Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice.

To thank Gerry Alexander for his distinguished service to OHS & BHM and to establish a lasting legacy of his long association with the organization, the Society made a surprise announcement of naming its annual heritage award program in his honor. Therefore, from this time forward, the OHS & BHM annual awards are titled: The Gerry L. Alexander Award for Outstanding Achievement in Heritage.

The 2024 recipients of The Gerry L. Alexander Award for Outstanding Achievement in Heritage are:

  • Toy Kay: With only an 8th grade education, Toy Kay drew upon her inner-strength and keen intelligence to re-invent her life after 33 years as a waitress at Olympia’s Kay’s Café.  Raised in Montana by her Chinese parents, the arc of Toy’s 99-year lifetime spans from a pre-arranged marriage at age 16 through a sometimes-difficult journey in post- World War II America. A degree from Evergreen State College instilled confidence that paved her way to become a civic leader in women’s rights, the arts, education, and more. Toy has been a major force in the Zonta Club and she mentored southeast Asian refugees. Always proud of her Chinese heritage, she founded the Olympia Chinese Community Association to sustain that history and culture.
  •  
  • South Sound for Senior Services (SSSS): In 2023, this non-profit organization celebrated 50 years of providing low or no-cost services for South Sound senior citizens. Through the decades, SSSS has provided thousands of free meals, transportation, recreation, and camaraderie to their guests at senior centers in Lacey, Mason County, and downtown Olympia.
  • Olympia’s Hidden Histories Walking Tours: In 2022 and 2023, Evergreen State College students and faculty conducted extensive research into Olympia history to produce six on-line walking tours that focus on downtown Olympia and its waterfront. Accessible from any laptop, smartphone, or iPad, these tours explore local histories and make them available to the public. Each tour is also visually engaging through maps, photos, and video clips. To enjoy the tours, go to:  https://storymaps.arcgis.com/collections/.
  • Lincoln Elementary School: Over the past year, Lincoln Elementary School and Options program celebrated the school building’s centennial. Designed by prominent Olympia architect Joseph Wohleb, the building was threatened with demolition in the 1990s, but was saved from the wrecking ball as a result of advocacy by parents, students, and teachers. At the presentation, Lincoln School Principal Marcela Abadi gave Gerry Alexander a T- shirt created by students especially for the school’s centennial.
  • Avanti High School (formerly Washington Elementary School): As with Lincoln, Avanti High School was designed in the 1920s by Joseph Wohleb in his signature Spanish Colonial Revival style. Recently, Avanti benefitted from a $13 million rehabilitation project that preserved the building’s historic character while transforming the inside to a 21st Century learning campus.
  • Squaxin Park: Though not presented at the meeting, an announcement was made during the ceremony about an award to be made jointly to the City of Olympia and Squaxin Island Tribe. The award honors the 2021 signing of the Accord between the Tribe and City of Olympia that resulted in the renaming of Squaxin Park in 2022. The award is to be formally presented to Olympia City Council on March 5, 2024 and to the Squaxin Island Tribal Council at a date to be determined.

 

In addition to the award recipients described above, Board Member Charlie Roe gave a Special Achievement award to Gerry Alexander to honor his long-time involvement with the Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum as well as local and statewide historic preservation efforts. Also, well known Historian, author, and former Director of the Washington State Historical Society, gave the audience an overview of Alexander’s contributions to, and role in Washington history. In his parting words, Alexander said his fondest wish is to see the establishment of a museum displaying Olympia heritage.

As well as his passion for history and historic preservation, Alexander is noted for his term as Washington State Supreme Court Justice and following as Supreme Court Chief Justice, serving in that position from 2001 until retiring in 2010. 

The OHS & BHM also honored retiring Board Member Denise Halloran, departing Board Member Sue Lean, and Volunteer of the Year Craig Swalling, all for their generous support of the society’s mission and programming. Society members also elected two new board members: Vickie MacMillan and Jill Rosencrantz. Biographies for MacMillan and Rosencrantz as well as all board members can viewed at: https://olympiahistory.org/category/board-members/.

Our thanks go to the Washington Secretary of State’s State Archives Division for their support of the OHS & BHM Annual Meeting.

Earl Bean – 2/4/24

Looking Back’s theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Earl Bean, born in Russia,  came here in 1892 and joined his father Jacob in the scrap metal business. He parlayed this into hardware store Olympia Supply on the shore of the Deschutes Estuary (now Capitol Lake). In the 1930s Earl Bean was one of the founders of Temple Beth Hatfiloh. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

Josephine Corliss Preston – 1/28/24

Our theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Josephine Corliss Preston was the first woman to hold statewide public office, Superintendant of Public Instruction, in Washington State. She is shown here in a photograph from around 1918, holding her own among the other elected male statewide officials. Preston championed education throughout the state, and particularly focused on improving teacher and school conditions in rural areas. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

photo around 1918, unknown photographer, courtesy  Washington State Historical Society

OHS & BHM Annual Meeting January 27, 2024

Come join us on Saturday, January 27, 2024 for the OHS & BHM Annual Meeting. The meeting begins at 1:00 pm. This year, our program commemorates the 170th anniversary of the first meeting of the Washington Territorial Legislature in 1854. A highlight of the meeting will be our program featuring historic accounts of life in the Steh Chass village and early Olympia. The meeting will be held at the Olympia Center located directly across the street from the site (currently the location of the Bread Peddler) of the Gold Bar Restaurant where the first territorial legislative session convened.

You will also want to stay for our annual heritage award program during which we will honor and celebrate significant persons, places, and events that have preserved our past and continue to shape Olympia’s future.

After the program and awards, we will hold our OHS & BHM business meeting where members will elect new board members, be briefed about our achievements in 2023, and get a glimpse of what’s ahead for the Society in 2024.

This year, the annual membership meeting will be at the Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. NW in downtown Olympia from 1 to 3 pm. The meeting room is ADA compliant with a seating capacity of 75 persons. If you are unable to attend the meeting in-person, we are also offering a zoom meeting link for you to participate on-line. To register for the meeting on zoom, click on this registration link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZMld-ippjooHdNJC0ze23EPi…

Use the links below to view the following meeting materials:
Per our bylaws, only those people who are current members may vote for the election.

Agenda

2023 Minutes

President’s Report

Financial Information will be distributed at the meeting.

An election for new and returning board members will be held at the annual meeting. There are five positions standing for election. More information is here.

Per our bylaws, only those people who are current members may vote. If you have not already joined or renewed, please consider renewing here.

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday January 27th at the Olympia Center. 

Japanese workers at JJ Brenner – 1/21/24

Our theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Japanese immigrants began arriving in our area in the late 1800s, and by the 1930s were the dominant labor force in the harvesting and processing oysters for the area’s important industry. Pictured here is the “opening room” of the J.J. Brenner company, located where the Bayview Thriftway is now.    Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

Asahel Curtis photo, 1910, courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Sun Wo – 1/14/24

Our theme for 2024 is Many Voices, celebrating our rich and diverse history. Pictured here is Sun Wo, a  businessman born in China who operated a “general merchandise” store on Third Avenue (now State Avenue). Chinese immigrants contributed to Olympia’s development throughout the latter part of the 19th century up to their present day descendants and later immigrants.   Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, https://olympiahistory.org/many-voices-a-resource-guide/.

Ida B. Smith photo, undated, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical  Society

Ira Ward – 12/30/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Ward Lake, in southeast Olympia, is named for Ira Ward, Jr., pictured here, and Jane (Stimson or Simpson) Ward. They were very early settlers in Thurston County. Ira Ward erected the first sawmill on the nearby Deschutes River, in what is now Tumwater. He was a member of the first territorial legislature. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Undated portrait, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Pumping Station – 12/24/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Watershed Park is named for the abundant water resources at the location in southeast Olympia. The natural springs here form the headwaters of Moxie Creek. For many years Olympia took most of its municipal water supply from here. This painting by artist Edward Lange shows its pumping station. Remnants still exist in the park. The watershed was permanently preserved as a park in 1955.  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Edward Lange painting, courtesy City of Olympia

Ed Henderson – 12/17/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Henderson Boulevard, which flanks Watershed Park in southeast Olympia, is named for developer and city booster Ed Henderson. Henderson developed the nearby Wildwood subdivision. He was a member of the Washington State Legislature and son of Olympia evangelist Harriet Henderson and teacher John L. Henderson Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Foshaug Studios (detail), 1949, Washington State Archives

Frederick Xenophon Jacob Miller – 12/10/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Millersylvania State Park is named for the Miller family, who donated the land for the park in 1921. Pictured here is the family’s son Frederick Xenophon Jacob Miller, a prolific poet and author. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical  Society

David Shelton – 12/3/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Shelton, Washington, was named for Mason County settler David Shelton, pictured here, who served in the Washington Territorial legislature.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Rogers Photo, about 1889, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Holiday Open House on 12/10

The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum invites the community to a Holiday Open House at the Bigelow House Museum at 918 Glass Avenue NE in Olympia on Sunday, December 10, 2023 from 1 to 4 pm.  $5.00 suggested donation.

Visitors will enjoy holiday decor, learn about this Olympia treasure as well as savoring a holiday treat.  One of Olympia’s oldest residences, the house was built by 1860 and features authentic period decor and furnishings which tell the story of the long residence of the Bigelow Family in Olympia.  Email olyhistory@gmail.com for more information.

Thomas Huntamer – 11/26/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Huntamer Park in Lacey is named in honor of Thomas Huntamer, who served for over a decade as a member of Lacey’s City Council, beginning with its incorporation in 1966. He served as Lacey’s mayor in 1973.  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Courtesy the City of Lacey

Charles Mason – 11/19/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Mason County is named for Charles H. Mason. Mason was Washington’s first Territorial Secretary, serving from the territory’s formation in 1853 until 1859. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Cain family – 11/12/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Cain Road in Southeast Olympia is named for the Cain family. The family settled in the area of Cain Road in the early 1900s and engaged in farming. Pictured here are Charles and Oma Cain, with their granddaughter Linda. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Courtesy the Cain family

The Trosper Family – 11/5/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Trosper Road in Tumwater was named for the Trosper family. The John Samuel and Mary (Conger) Trosper family, pictured here, arrived here from Kansas in 1892. Along with other area residents, they built the first county dirt and gravel road between Tumwater and Black Lake. Their descendants continue to reside on the remaining homestead property. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, with assistance from Don Trosper, on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Photo Courtesy Don Trosper

SUPPORT THE OHS & BHM THROUGH THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION’S GIVE LOCAL 2023 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN

The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum is participating this year in the Community Foundation of Puget Sound’s Give Local 2023 which begins November 6, 2023 and continues through November 17, 2023.  We invite you to participate by donating here (live link). https://spsgives.org/o/community-foundation-of-south-puget-sound/i/give-local-2023/s/olympia-historical-society-bigelow-house-museum-ohs-bhm-ktdskazyx
 
Thanks to the $100,000 Give Local Bonus Fund, seeded by the Dawkins Charitable Trust, your gift will also receive a boost.  
Also the Community Foundation of Puget Sound and this year’s generous Give Local Sponsors will also cover all credit card and transaction fees, so your dollar goes even further to support OHS & BHM.
 
We invite you to be part of Give Local 2023 and contribute to Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum.  Your gift will help OHS & BHM continue their important work in collecting, preserving and sharing Olympia history through their website olympiahistory.org, public programs, tours, outreach and  partnerships, including with the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Olympia Arts + Heritage Alliance.  Your donation will also help in maintaining and preserving the Bigelow House Museum and its collections to make sure this Olympia treasure continues to be open to the public. Thank you so much for your support of the OHS & BHM and helping preserve our rich heritage. 

William McLane – 10/29/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Pictured here in a charcoal portrait is early settler William McLane. He and his wife Martha McLeod McLane lent their name to a creek, school, fire district and grange. McLane served for six terms in the Washington Territorial Legislature. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Charcoal portrait, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society, Capital Museum collection

Olympia Country and Golf Club – 10/22/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Golf Club Road in Lacey is named for the Olympia Country and Golf Club, later the Mountain View Golf Course, that once existed at the current site of the Panorama retirement community. Pictured here are golfers at the starting tee. In the background is the clubhouse, which once was the homestead of settlers David and Elizabeth Harrison Chambers. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Mildred Kearney Collection, 1920, Courtesy Lacey Museum

A.H. Chambers – 10/15/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The Chambers family, early settlers, lent their name to a prairie, lake, school, and grange in Thurston County, not to mention a world-class golf course in Pierce County. Pictured here is Andsworth Chambers, son of David and Elizabeth Harrison Chambers. He served as Olympia mayor for several terms, and built the Chambers Block at Fourth Avenue and Capitol Way (then Main Street). Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Maybelle Tilley (Countess Stavra) – 10/8/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Tilley Road in south Thurston County is named for the Tilley family, early settlers. Abram Tilley operated a hotel near Tenino. His son, Moses Rice Tilley, operated a livery stable at the corner of State and Capitol (then Third and Main). Pictured here is Moses and Sarah Hodgdon Tilley’s daughter, Maybelle. She was a celebrated international beauty, and married twice, the second time to Greek Count Stavra, hence her married title Countess Stavra. She died a millionaire.

George Bain photo, Library of Congress collection, undated

William Owen Bush – 10/1/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The family of George and Isabella Bush arrived in Thurston County in 1844, among the first non-Indigenous American settlers. Bush Prairie, five miles south of Olympia, is named for the family, as is Tumwater’s Bush Middle School. Pictured here is son William Owen Bush. He was a noted agriculturalist and legislator, the first mixed-race member of the Washington Legislature. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Aldrich Photo, 1900, courtesy Washington State Historical Society, Capital Museum Collection

Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum Seeks Applicants for the Roger Easton History Grant

The Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum will award a $2000 history grant along with a $500 teacher stipend in 2024, provided by funds from long-time Thurston County Teacher Roger Easton. Eligible applicants are K-12 teachers, student teachers, administrators, or classroom professionals in accredited schools in Thurston County.

The successful applicant will use grant funds for securing curriculum/classroom materials, training such as classes or conferences, developing curriculum materials or related purposes, or history programs or events. The projects or training must be related to Washington state history or the Northwest region. Extra consideration will be given to proposals which address the history of Thurston County. Projects should meet Washington State Standards for Social Studies.

Deadlines, application and other information are available here. Questions about the grant should be sent to olyhistory@gmail.com.

Michael T. Simmons – 9/24/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Simmons Street, in Olympia, is named for the Simmons family, early settlers in Thurston County. Michael and Elizabeth Kindred Simmons arrived in Thurston County in 1845, as part of the Simmons-Bush Party.  Simmons and others had interests in mills on the Deschutes River in New Market, now Tumwater.   Simmons Street is built on landfill that did not exist when Simmons lived here. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org. Unknown creator, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Clarence Martin – 9/17/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Martin Way was named for Washington State Governor Clarence Martin, pictured here. He served from 1933 to 1941. Governor Martin was on hand when the road was dedicated in 1937; it became an important component of the Washington State segment of the Pacific Coast Highway, at that time the longest continuous stretch of pavement in the world.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Washington State Archives, Portraits of State Governors

Lydia Hawk – 9/10/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Hawks Prairie is named for early Lacey settlers John and Sarah Hawk and their children. Lydia Hawk Elementary School in Lacey is named for John and Sarah’s daughter, pictured here. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Ruth Yauger – 9/3/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. In the early 20th century, Reverend and Mrs. Francis Yauger purchased 410 acres of investment land in the Cooper Point Road area. Part of the property was sold and eventually became the Capital Mall; another part became the Capital High School campus.  The Yaugers’ son, Colonel Kendall Yauger, and Kendall’s sister Ruth Yauger, pictured here, later sold the land that became Yauger Park. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

1929 College of Puget Sound Yearbook

Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Ann Kennedy – 8/27/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Kennedy Creek, on the border between Thurston and Mason Counties, is named for settlers Benjamin Franklin Kennedy and his wife Elizabeth Ann Kennedy, pictured here in a painting based on a photograph. The Kennedys were early settlers in Mason County.   Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Painting based on a photograph from around 1900, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Summer Event–August 26, 2023

Join OHS & BHM Board Member Paul Parker for a tour of the Bigelow Neighorhood beginning at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at the Bigelow House. The 45-minute tour involves significant walking.

The Bigelow House is also hosting an Equality Day Commemoration on August 26, 2023 beginning at 11:30 am at the Bigelow House. August 26, 1920 was the day that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for women’s voting rights was signed into law. Costumed suffragists will be present along with the opportunity to register to vote, courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Thurston County.

We also will be remembering the 60th anniversary of the milestone March on Washington, a highlight of which was Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Visitors can also enjoy a brief “Suffrage Highlights Tour” inside the Bigelow House every 15 minutes from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm. Suggested donation is $5.00.

Stephen Ruddell – 8/20/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Ruddell Road in Lacey was named for the Ruddell family, early settlers in Thurston County. Stephen Ruddell, pictured here, was involved in the so-called Indian war of 1855-1856. He later married Margaret White; the couple moved to Olympia where they built the Ruddell House on Olympia Avenue, listed on the city’s Heritage Register. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Photograph around 1860, Courtesy Oregon Historical Society

Isaac Dofflemyer – 8/13/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Dofflemyer Point and the Dofflemyer lighthouse take their name from the Dofflemyer family, early settlers in the Boston Harbor area. Pictured here is Isaac Dofflemyer, in a charcoal portrait. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown creator or date, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Littlerock with Albert Rutledge – 8/6/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Albert Rutledge, son of pioneer Thomas Rutledge, stands behind the rock on his family homestead that gives Littlerock, Washington its name, in this photo from 1963. The Rutledge family settled here in 1855. The homestead was one of the earliest in Washington Territory, and both it and the rock still exist. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Daily Olympian photo, 1963, State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

A.B. Woodard – 7/30/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Woodard Bay and Woodard Avenue are named for Harvey and Salome Woodard, and their three sons, who first settled in what is now Woodard Bay on Henderson Inlet. They lived there for only a short time, moving to Olympia before 1860. Son Alonzo Bixby Woodard, pictured here, became a dentist and photographer, and lived on West Bay Drive. His home is on the local heritage register. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society.

possible self-portrait, around 1870; Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Frank Howard – 7/23/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Howard Point, off of East Bay Drive, is named for the Howard family. Rebecca Howard was a Black entrepreneur who operated the Pacific House downtown. She and her husband Alexander adopted a mixed-race son, Frank Howard, pictured here. Frank Howard carried on his mother’s business and later went into real estate. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society.

Olympia Tribune Souvenir Edition of 1891

Summer Tour Event–August 26, 2023

Join OHS & BHM Board Member Paul Parker for a tour of the Bigelow Neighborhood beginning at 11:00 am on Saturday, August 26, 2023 at the Bigelow House. The 45-minute tour involves significant walking.

Tour goers will return to the Bigelow House to enjoy a celebration of Equality Day—August 26, 1920 was the day that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for women’s voting rights was signed into law. Costumed suffragists will be present along with the opportunity to register to vote, courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Thurston County, to be followed by a brief Suffrage Highlights Tour inside the Bigelow House. Suggested donation is $5.00.

Governor Isaac Stevens – 7/16/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Governor Stevens Avenue and Stevens field, both in southeast Olympia, are named for Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Ingalls Stevens. Governor Stevens was appointed to be the first governor of the newly-created Washington Territory in 1853. He later was killed at the Civil War’s Battle of Chantilly in 1862. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

: Portrait engraving, about 1855, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Samuel Woodruff – 7/9/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Woodruff Park is named for Samuel Woodruff. Woodruff was an early real estate developer. He platted much of West Olympia. He set aside land for the park that bears his name. He was also a talented amateur actor and musician and is pictured here in an elaborate theatrical costume. Photo selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Photograph around 1880, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Milroy family – 7/2/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Milroy Street, in northwest Olympia, is named for General Robert Milroy, a prominent Civil War general and later Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Washington Territory, in which capacity he successfully advocated on behalf of Yakama Chief Kamiakin’s ancestral rights. General Milroy is pictured here with his four sons and his wife, Mary Armitage Milroy. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

1870 photograph, courtesy State Capital Museum Collection, Washington State Historical Society

Daniel Bigelow

Bigelow House Museum Now Open for Tours

The updated and revitalized Bigelow House Museum will open for visitors starting June 4, 2023 on the first two Sundays of every month at 1, 2, and 3 pm. All tours will be limited to 10 people each and visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

Admission is $5.00 for adults; $4.00 for seniors and students and $2.00 for children under 18 with a maximum of $15.00 per family. Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum members have free admission. Visitors will see all of the upstairs and downstairs of the house as well as new displays and decor.

Daniel Bigelow
"Daniel Bigelow" in the Library. Photo by Shirley Stirling.

Lurana Ware Percival – 6/25/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Percival Creek, Street, and Landing are named for the Percival family, early settlers in Olympia. Captain Samuel Wing Percival was an Olympia merchant and lumberman. Pictured here is his wife, Lurana Ware Percival, who met and married Samuel after each had arrived separately in the Pacific Northwest. The Lurana apartment building in the Port area is named for her. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society.

Joseph Buchtel photo, 1870s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Join us for an Evening with Dick Pust on June 29th at Harbor House

The Olympia Historical Society-Bigelow House Museum (OHS & BHM) invites all to enjoy a program by longtime KGY radio host and South Sound personality icon Dick Pust. He will present his program on Thursday evening, June 29th at 6:30 pm at the Harbor House on Percival Landing. Pust will share his memories, stories, and photographs, drawing from his recently published book AM 1240: Life at a Small Town Radio Station.

Seating at the Harbor House is limited to 25. Admission to the program is free but donations are encouraged to support the work of sharing and preserving local history by the OHS & BHM. For questions email us at olyhistory@gmail.com

Margaret Hazard Stevens – 6/18/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Hazard Lake in Olympia was named for Margaret Stevens, née Hazard, and her son Hazard Stevens. Margaret was a prominent member of New England society, who married future Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. She was less than enthusiastic upon her arrival in muddy, thinly populated Olympia but soon became a noted hostess as the wife of our first Governor. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org. 

Lithograph, about 1841, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Stories of the Oregon Trail

Click here to view and download a searchable scan of the publication Stories of the Oregon Trail: Accounts & Reminiscences by Daniel R. Bigelow, Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow, Margaret Stewart White Ruddell, and Margaret White Chambers, edited by Annamary Fitzgerald and published in 2000 by the Bigelow House Preservation Association. 

Note: Some of the historical materials in this document stem from a period or culture in which different standards and norms were dominating public opinion – and some of this historical material is discriminatory. The transcription of these documents does not represent the views of the Society and Museum. 

 

James Offutt – 6/11/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Offut Lake was named for three brothers, James, Levi, and Milford Offutt (spelled with two ts), who settled near present-day Tenino in the 1850s. James is shown here with a bundle of hops. Hop cultivation existed from the earliest days of Washington Territorial settlement. Offut lake is now the site of a popular resort. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

L. Wilson Clark photo, around 1860-1870, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Urban Hicks – 6/4/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Hicks Lake in Lacey is named for the Hicks family. Urban E. Hicks arrived in Thurston County in the 1850s. He served as Territorial Auditor, librarian, schoolteacher, and publisher. His son, Gallatin Gwin Hicks, established a resort, Gwinwood, on Hicks Lake, that still exists. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

Secretary of State website, Territorial Librarians page

End of Oregon Trail – 5/28/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Old Oregon Trail Road descends from near the south end of Water Street to the waterfront below I-5. Before I-5 was built, this road was called View Place. The name was changed in 1983 to recognize that this road was part of the northern segment of the Oregon Trail in Washington Territory. Shown here is the dedication of the End of the Oregon Trail marker in Sylvester Park in 1913.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society.

Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Colonel Speed Sapp – 5/21/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Sapp Road in Tumwater was named for the Sapp family, who settled in Thurston County in the late 1800s. Looking Back recently ran a photograph of Bernice Sapp, a prominent suffragist. Shown here is her brother, Colonel Speed Sapp. Confusingly, Colonel was his first name: he held the rank of major in the Spanish-American War and captain in World War I. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Thomas Budd – 5/14/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Budd Inlet was named for Thomas A. Budd, a member of the Wilkes Expedition that surveyed parts of the Salish Sea from 1838 to 1842, including South Puget Sound. Thomas Budd was the acting master of the Peacock, a sloop of war. He was later killed in action while serving the Union during the Civil War.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org. Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command

Margaret McKenny – 5/7/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Renowned and beloved mycologist (mushroom expert) Margaret McKenny meets with young Freddy Dobler, Gary Bichsel and Greg Bichsel at Pat’s Bookery in downtown Olympia, to autograph her book The Savory Wild Mushroom. A local park, campground, and elementary school are all named after Miss McKenny, a lifelong resident of Olympia. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

O.C. Lacey – 4/30/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The source of Lacey, Washington’s, name has never been definitively established. However, it is thought to originate from Oliver C. Lacey, an Olympia real estate developer and attorney. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1893 but was not popular and did not win reappointment. Soon after, he abandoned his wife, returning to his home state, Virginia, only a few years after his arrival here. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org. Morning Olympian drawing, 1893

Talcott Brothers – 4/23/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Talcott Avenue, in downtown Olympia, is named for the Talcott family, early Olympia settlers. Charles Talcott came west with his family in 1872 and opened his jewelry store on Main Street (now Capitol Way). He was later joined by his two brothers, Grant and George Noyes Talcott. The three brothers are pictured here in front of the store. The Talcott Building still exists and is on the local Heritage Register. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society.

State Library Collection, Washington State Archives

Charlotte Emily Olney French – 4/16/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. French Road in northwest Olympia is named for Charlotte Emily Olney French and her husband George French. Charlotte, pictured here, came to this area in the 1850s. An ardent supporter of female voting rights, Charlotte was one of the first women to vote in Washington Territory. After a series of reversals, female suffrage wasn’t permanently granted in Washington State until 1910, 10 years before the ratification of the 19th Constitutional amendment. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Photo Courtesy Thurston County Historic Commission

Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow – 4/9/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The Bigelow neighborhood, Bigelow Park, and Bigelow Street are named for an early settler family. Pictured here is Ann Elizabeth White, who married Olympia attorney Daniel Bigelow in 1854. The Bigelows erected their home on the east side of Olympia around 1860. It is one of the oldest known residences in Olympia, currently operated as the Bigelow House Museum. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Bigelow Photograph Collection, courtesy Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum

Anson Henry – 4/2/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Henry Street in southeast Olympia is named for the Henry family. Anson Henry was a close friend of and physician to President Abraham Lincoln, who appointed him surveyor general for Washington Territory. Anson was visiting Richmond, Virginia, when Lincoln was assassinated, and helped Mary Todd Lincoln after the president’s death. The Henry heritage tree on the United Methodist Church grounds on Legion Way is named for Anson’s son Dudley. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

public domain photo from 1860s

Charles Giles – 3/26/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Giles Street, in northwest Olympia, takes its name from Charles Giles, whose home is at the corner of West Bay Drive and Giles Avenue. Charles Giles was a mill operator, whose business was nearby. The home is on the state register of historic places. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Photograph of Charles P. Giles, around 1925, unknown photographer, Ancestry Public Member Photos & Scanned Documents, shared August 15, 2018

Langridge sisters – 3/19/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Langridge Avenue and Langridge Loop, in northwest Olympia, are likely named for the Langridge family. Father George, originally from England, arrived in this area in the mid 1800s. Pictured here are his three daughters, Alice, Frances, and Kate. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Rogers Studio photo, about 1890, Courtesy State Capital Museum, Washington State Historical Society

Iva Van Epps and Ruth Allison – 3/12/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Van Epps Street, in southeast Olympia, is likely named for the Van Epps family. The father, Theodore Van Epps, ran a stationery store, and later a real estate office. Pictured here is his daughter, Iva, with her good friend Ruth Allison, at Percival Creek. Theodore’s son, Arley, was the photographer. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Photo by W.A. Van Epps, late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Nathaniel Crosby – 3/5/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Crosby Boulevard in Tumwater is named for the Crosby family. The Crosbys were early American settlers, arriving in Tumwater in 1851. Pictured here, third from left, is Nathaniel Crosby III, Tumwater merchant. The Crosby House in Tumwater, now a museum, was originally built by Nathaniel and his wife Cordelia Smith Crosby.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Photo mid 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

George Mottman – 2/26/23

 

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Mottman Road, Mottman Industrial Park, and the Mottman Mercantile Building at Fourth Avenue and Capitol Way are named for George Mottman, pictured here. He immigrated from Germany and came to Olympia in 1885. He began as a clerk at the Toklas and Kaufman Mercantile store, then bought them out and renamed the store. He was also involved in local politics and business.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Prosser, History of the Puget Sound Country, 1903

P.H. Carlyon – 2/19/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Carlyon Avenue and Carlyon Beach are both named for the Carlyon family of southeast Olympia. Philip H. Carlyon was a dentist and his brother Fred a jeweler and real estate developer. Both men were city boosters and active in local politics. Pictured here is Philip. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

 

Washington State Library Endangered Building page from DoCoMoMo

This page from the DoCoMoMo website was captured from a March 2017 post by the Wayback Machine.

Washington State Library

 
 

Designed by prominent Northwest architect Paul Thiry during the height of his career, the Washington State Library Building (Joel M. Pritchard Building), located on the State Capitol Campus south of the Legislative Building, was the last monumental building to be added to the campus. The Washington State Library Historic Structures Report, prepared for the Department of General Administration (GA) in October 2002, cited the Library Building as “…among the most important regional archetypes of mid-century architectural design and thought. The social history surrounding the Library and the prominence of designer Paul Thiry during the period anchor the building and its history firmly in the Pacific Northwest post-war development. By adding the layers of significance that come with associations to political and artistic figures, the Washington State Library becomes a textbook on how Washingtonians looked at the future in the 1950’s and how public buildings reflected that vision.”

Paul Thiry had created a master plan for the Capitol Campus along with this building as an elegant Modern interpretation of Neoclassicism. The stone and glass library contains contemporary pieces of public art, including a continuous 360 degree mural by renowned Northwest painter Kenneth Callahan. However, little of the interior is open and visible to the public. The State Library Building no longer houses a library. A few years ago, while the nearby Legislative Building was undergoing rehabilitation as a result of damage from the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, the State Library was moved to a speculative office building in Tumwater so that the original library building could serve as temporary offices and senate chambers for the Legislature. A cafeteria was also added to this mix of new temporary uses within the building. Meanwhile, the nearby Legislative Building underwent a masterful renovation, and was reopened in 2004.

The question of how to reuse and rehabilitate the library building has been under consideration by the General Administration for several years. Since mid-2006, the General Administration and the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee (CCDAC) have been working with architects from SRG Partnership to create design alternatives for changing the building for new, expanded uses. The proposed project will upgrade original building systems as well as permanently change its functions to a legislative support facility and public cafeteria. In response to a larger program, significant elements of the original building design will be removed, and a new addition will increase the size of the building substantially.

The GA will present the new design alternatives in a public workshop scheduled for September 18, 2006 at 6:30 pm in the lobby of the Washington State Library Building (415 15th Ave SW, Olympia).
Docomomo WEWA has been concerned about the proposed alternatives because none of the alternatives appear sensitive to the original library building, and none appear to meet The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. We are also concerned with the lack of public process—the GA has gained approval of the preferred alternative from its advisory committee, the CCDAC, which it is presenting to the public on September 18th, but there has been no public input to date. It appears that the alternative was developed without a review by the State Capitol Conservator, and without consultation of the State’s own guidelines in the 2002 Historic Structures Report for the building.

On August 22nd, Docomomo WEWA Board members, and representatives from the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Western Regional Office met with a representative from GA to discuss the project. We received background information and an update on the project and the GA welcomed our input. We stressed the need for transparency and a meaningful and open public process. We also expressed the critical need for design alternatives that respect the integrity of the original building. Furthermore, as mandated by State law (RCW 79.24.710 and RCW 79.24.720), the design must meet The Secretary’s Standards. The preferred alternative includes an addition to the building with considerable increased square footage to meet the needs of the new programmatic uses.

Docomomo WEWA believes that an addition meeting program requirements and designed in accordance with preservation standards is possible, and we encourage the GA and its architects to come up with an appropriate design approach.

Samuel Coulter – 2/12/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The town of Bucoda was once called Seatco, a Native American word meaning “ghost” or “devil.” In 1890, the name was changed to Bucoda for the first syllables of the businessmen who owned the coal mines in the area: James BUckley, Samuel COulter (pictured here) and John DAvid. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Attribution: photo mid to late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Ike Ellis – 2/5/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Ellis Cove in Squaxin Park is named for Isaac “Ike” Ellis, pictured here. Ellis was a logger, racetrack developer, and mayor of Olympia in territorial days. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

photo mid to late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Women’s Marathon Trials – 1/29/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names.  In 1970, a park was created on Capitol Lake’s western shore by placing fill material next to an existing railroad berm in the north basin of the lake. The park earned its current name, Marathon Park, when the City of Olympia won the right to host the U.S. time trials for the first Women’s Olympic Marathon, in 1984. The marathon route for the trials began and ended near the park. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

1984 photo, Olympian archives

Yardbirds – Olyblog post retrieved from Wayback Machine

This anonymous post about the Yardbirds store was originally posted on the Olyblog.net site in 2006 and was captured by the Wayback Machine. 

“It was like Wal-Mart on acid,” is the way I’ve heard the old Yard Birds/Sea Mart explained to those who never had the pleasure of shopping at the Olympia landmark that held our fascination for over three decades. Being from out of town, Evergreen students were particularly spellbound by the place that local people had pretty much accepted as normal. It was a frequent topic at parties when local eccentricities were discussed.

 

Yard Birds/Sea Mart filled three city blocks in the area between the present Farmer’s Market and the Phoenix Inn. It consisted of two buildings (connected by a staff-only sky bridge over Capitol Way) and an enormous parking lot. On more than one occasion it had been said in Evergroove circles that Hell was probably being condemned to sit on a sheet of tinfoil in the Sea Mart parking lot on a hot August day.

The outside of the buildings were adorned with huge cartoon murals of pirates, deep sea divers, and ocean creatures. They also had the Yard Birds mascot, an oversize statue of a cartoon black crow with a yellow beak and gloves. Sometimes this statue would find itself in odd places, like the roof of the Olympia High School administration building.

The Sea Mart building on the east, as I recall, was the grocery end of things. The Yard Birds side on the west was sort of a home improvement/Army surplus blend. It smelled like canvas and popcorn, evoking the circus it really was. They also had a restaurant with a maritime motif and giant crabs displayed on the walls.

Just to add a little twist, next to Yard Birds was Harvey’s Pet Store. This place was an overcrowded, smelly cacophony of an animal prison. I don’t think Harvey sold any caimans, but he did have a lot of exotic pets for sale. If it hadn’t burned down, I’m sure Harvey’s would’ve been a big target for animal rights activists in later years.

The building that became Sea Mart had originally been some sort of packing plant, maybe for fish. When Sea Mart first opened they had a promotional indoor carnival. I have this memory that reaches ‘way back to 1959 or 1960 where my Dad and I are going to the Sea Mart building at night and inside are neon lit rides for little kids. Far from being the delightful treat it was meant to be, it made my hair stand up on end (Well, since I had a crew cut, the mandatory haircut of the era, my hair was up on end anyway, but you know what I mean). It was like a scene out of Carnival of Souls.

And that weird feeling never went away. I still get it just by driving by the area where the store used to be.

Kinney family – 1/22/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Pictured here is the Kinney family of South Bay, one of the two families for which Sleater-Kinney Road was named (contrary to what some may believe, the street name came before the band!) The family consisted of Henry and his wife Martha, and children Nellie and Ivan. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

photo around 1890s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Little Hollywood recalled by Dean Shacklett

This page was captured by the Wayback Machine on October 3, 2009, from the olyblog.net website

Little Hollywood Era In Olympia Recalled / by Dean Shacklett

[The following article was originally published in the Sunday Olympian, Mar. 23, 1958. Mr. Shacklett’s tenure as a reporter and editor for the paper included a lot of community service. I first met him when he gave me a personal tour of the Daily Olympian facilities at their old location (SE corner of State and Cap) in the 1960s. I was earning my Boy Scout merit badge in journalism, and in hindsight I realize what a chunk of valuable time he sacrificed for little insignificant me. I later talked with him in their then brand spanking new building about the business of comic strips. Just walked in off the street and he answered all my questions in a friendly and direct way. Also, he visited my OHS journalism class and was a very informative and entertaining reality check in an amusing cynical smartass way (“People always enjoy reading who is getting divorced or getting thrown in the clink”), a quality demonstrated in the article below. Although I seldom agreed with his editorials at the time (and still don’t), I can recognize and salute his devotion to building Olympia’s community as he saw fit, and appreciate his willingness to hear the story of anyone who walked in. A note of interest is that Shacklett was one of the few mainstream newspaper editors respected by the singular John Patric. It was especially nice as a young person at the time to have a community authority figure like Mr. Shacklett treat me seriously without being cutesy or condescending– and that was unusual. Dean, if you’re still out there (you must be in your 80s now), thank you for that. It made an impression.

Anyway, I stumbled across his engaging report on Little Hollywood and thought I would share it here for my fellow OlyBloggers. This makes me want to start tracking down Shacklett’s other feature pieces. Warning, his coverage would never wash in the 21st century, not only in allusions but also in journalistic focus– this not only reveals to us what Oly accepted as normal in 1958 but also demonstrates how far we’ve come in the last half-century. Bonus: catch the artesian reference, and the view of Little Hollywood as an entity totally apart from the Olympia community]

Little Hollywood Era In Olympia Recalled / by Dean Shacklett

Office workers in the Temple of Justice strained their eyes and peered down into the pall of smoke that hung over the tideflats below the Capitol buildings. It was the bleak Winter of 1938 and city officials were putting the torch to the shanty town section affectionally known as Little Hollywood. It took two years to finish the task, and, with the cooling of the ashes, the pages were closed on one of the more colorful chapters of Olympia’s history.

Little Hollywood leaned on the eastern shoreline of the tidal basin that became Capitol Lake in 1951 with the completion of the Fifth Avenue dam. The village started from the vicinity of Fifth Avenue and crowded south along the beach for about four blocks.

Ninety-seven houses there were, some standing on piling, some on dry land and others on float logs mired in the mud at low tide. A handful of the buildings were fairly livable, but most were shacks.

Drab the shanties may have been, but it was the characters living in them that gave the settlement its color, and perhaps its name.

Little Hollywood, like the pickanniny playing in the dust around Uncle Tom’s cabin, just grew. No one remembers the exact date in the 1920s when the first shack appeared on the scene, but the community reached its peak in the depression years.

Architecturally, Little Hollywood reflected that dismal building boom that followed the bursting of the financial bubble in the Roaring Twenties. Some of the dwellings were float houses, polled or towed in at high tide and left to squat on the mud flats when the saltwater ebbed. Others of the shanties were knocked together on piling from odd bits of lumber scrounged by the inhabitants.

Little Hollywood was populated by folks who were on the run– some from the depression, some from the law. All were down on their luck.

The mention of Little Hollywood evokes memories from many Olympia residents. Now, three decades after the village was at its peak, the bizarre events and the colorful and criminal characters are the ones recalled. The folks who tended to their own knitting while they weathered a financial storm have been forgotten. But that’s human nature.

Still recognized as an authority on the sinful and seamy side of Little Hollywood is Ray Hays, a practical lawman of the old school who was an Olympia police captain when he retired some ten years ago. Hays professional interest in the settlement is reflected in his recollection.

“Little Hollywood was a nest of immigrant lumber and forest workers and every type of character and bum,” boomed Hays in a voice that appeared to originate somewhere from his six foot, plus frame. “I’ve taken murderers, robbers, rapists and every type of stinking criminal out of there. There were some bad ones, all right, but as a whole the transients were pretty good old bums.”

It is Cap Hays who is credited with giving Little Hollywood its name. “I just called it that one day,” he said. “It was almost an idle remark. I picked the name because of the contrast between the bums in our settlement and the swells in California’s Hollywood. The name stuck.”

Olympia’s shanty town wasn’t unique in the days of the last depression. Hobo jungles flourished as armies of unemployed took to the highways and railroad rods in search of their next meal. As the jungles sprouted more permanent shelters, they became shanty towns and the name, Little Hollywood, or Hollywood-on-the-Flats, wasn’t uncommon in these parts where many of the settlements were located on rivers and waterfronts.

One explanation on the similarity in names comes from Broward County, Florida, and the days of the rollicking 1920s when land was booming on the Southern Atlantic Coast. A group of California promoters founded Hollywood, Florida, on a swampy, marshy site that was completely platted before the land was drained and filled.

Time passed, Hollywood, Florida, was drained then went on to flourish. Although some of the inhabitants of our Little Hollywood made a noble effort to drink the settlement dry, the fountain they tapped seemed to have a never ending supply.

“Drink? Yes, they drank a bit in Little Hollywood,” boomed Hays. “But they could walk the planks leading from shack to shack no matter how drunk they were. The planks were narrow and, when it rained, they were slippery, but I never saw anyone fall into the bay. In fact, I never heard of anyone taking a header. That’s one thing we never had to do in Little Hollywood– fish ’em out.”

The retired police officer thought for a minute then, with his head tilted back and peering down through gold-rimmed glasses, Cap Hays wondered aloud, “Do you know what some of ’em drank in Little Hollywood; Canned heat, my boy. They drank canned heat.”

Canned heat, for the young and unititiated, consists of a paraffin-like substance laced with alcohol. It is sold in cans that supply a handy source of clean heat when opened and touched off by a match.

“Canned heat,” continued Hays, “They’d heat it enough to loosen the wax which they’d shove into one of their dirty old socks. Then they’d squeeze that sock until they had all the alcohol out of the wax. The squeezings were cut with a little warm water. The fancy ones added sugar. The result was something that’d blow the top off a normal man’s head.”

Water, for cutting canned heat or adding to a batch of beer or moon, was readily available in Little Hollywood. The village had its own system originating at several artesian springs that bubbled up through the mud of the tideflats.

One day, some smart operator collected a piece of pipe that had strayed into Little Hollywood. This was driven down into one of the springs. Other hunks of pipe were connected to it. Before long, many of the shacks were tied together with a zig-zag system of piping that brought with it the luxury of running water.

The arrival of running water had nothing to do with the fact that Little Hollywood’s cup was at its fullest in the thirteen years following January 16, 1920. On that morning, the drys answer to the demon rum, national prohibition, went into effect. Little Hs’ answer to prohibition was to go into business.

It may not have pleased Carrie Nation, the Kansas anti-saloon agitator, had she learned that prohibition enabled a member of her sex to make her mark in Little Hollywood. She is remembered in certain circles as Big Nel, a gal who thumbed her nose at the Volstead Act as she followed the dictates of the age old law of supply and demand.

There still is a boulevardier or two around town who remembers Nel as Little Hollywood’s most famous female bootlegger of booze. A thirsty segment of Olympia’s population constituted the demand that was supplied by Big Nel, who may have had some close associates in the Black Hills, a moonshiner’s paradise in the days of bathtub gin. [stevenl note: the McCleary Museum has an authentic display devoted to celebrating this very fact. The exhibit was built by an expert who knew the craft firsthand. My Father, may he rest where Revenuers can’t reach him.]

Romance there was in Big Nel’s life. She had her man. The story of how she and he chased one another back and forth between here and Aberdeen is something of a legend.

As the story goes, Her Man hired a cab and went to Aberdeen on what might have been a combination business and pleasure trip. Big Nel squeezed this juicy bit of news out of the grapevine, hired a hack of her own and chased after him.

But, Her Man was homeward bound and their cars passed on that snaky stretch of highway connecting the seat of the state’s government and that Gray’s Harbor city that capitalized on vice. Memory grows dim as time passes. It generally is recalled that Big Nel and Her Man made six trips between this capital and that capital before finally getting together.

Says one chap, “Big Nel and that guy of hers ran up a couple of hundred dollar cab bills in days when hardly nobody but a bootlegger had a dime to spare.”

Cap Hays demanded respect for the law in his days on the police force. And he got it. Came then a day when Cap decided some of Little Hollywood’s regulars were falling a bit short in the respect department.

“I pulled a raid that I still get a kick out of whenever I think of it,” recalls Hays.

With the help of other lawmen and all of Olympia’s men in blue, Cap Hays surrounded the settlement of shanties. When the dragnet was closed, some one hundred and fifty of Little Hollywood’s choice characters were on the inside.

“We lined them up and marched them down to a lot, vacant at that time, across from headquarters. By the twos and the threes we took them into the station, shook ’em down to see what they had in their pockets and questioned them.”

Hays said the raid netted him “two or three hotshots” wanted by other departments for various crimes. A change in attitude was also observed around Little Hollywood. Chances are Hays wouldn’t have won any popularity polls in that neighborhood, but he was respected.

Now, on the twentieth anniversary of the city’s clampdown on Little Hollywood and more than thirty years after the settlement was at it’s peak, it’s hard telling how many lived in the shanty town by choice and how many were forced there by necessity. Doubtless, the hard days of the depression contributed to the village’s population.

As an oldtimer recalls, “it really wasn’t too bad a place. There was plenty of fresh air, a marine view and artesian wells– things that folks in many parts of the country still crave.”

Fresh the air may have been but the plumbing was primitive and city officials who barely had tolerated Little Hollywood during the worst depression years decided in 1938 that the shacks had to go. The sizable job of carrying out that order was given to W.R. Turner, building inspector.

Turner enlisted the aid of Beale Messinger, city police lieutenant at the time, and the two set to work. First, the ownership of each of the shanties was determined. This was no small job in itself. Then, each of the owners was served with condemnation papers.

As Little Hollywood’s residents were evicted, their shacks were burned. Two years after Turner and Lieutenant Messinger started their chore, the torch was applied to the last shanty.

As Turner recalls, “Some of Little Hollywood’s residents were pretty nice people, but most of them were bums.”

The condemnation proceedings were carried out with a minimum of fuss and fury, the building inspector remembers. “There was one guy who let me inside his shack and then took a swing at me with a two-by-four,” said Turner, “but that only happened once.”

Little Hollywood is gone, but the memories linger on. For instance, one fellow remembers the bearded resident who looked like a Russian Bolshevist, but wasn’t. His weakness was booze and it was the death of him.

As the story goes, the bearded one bet a crony $20 he could drink eight fifths of a whisky at one sitting. The last drop from the fifth bottle had dribbled down his chin when he groaned once and pitched forward. The winner picked up the stakes. Police collected the body.

 

Legion Way Trees – 1/15/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization, in support of World War I veterans. In honor of Olympia veterans’ service, Sixth Avenue was renamed Legion Way in 1927, and the Legion Way trees were planted in honor of veterans’ service in these and all wars. Pictured here are two Legion Way saplings, photographed around the time the trees were planted. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org.

Merle Junk photo, Washington State Archives, Susan Parish collection

Georgia Pacific Building Docomo page – captured from Wayback Machine

This page was captured from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine on May 17, 2017 and describes the endangered status of the Georgia Pacific Building in the Port of Olympia. Original URL http://www.docomomo-wewa.org/endangered_detail.php?id=10

Georgia – Pacific Plywood Co. Office

 

The number of formally recognized and designated Modern resources in Washington State is low. Less than two dozen properties (constructed from 1941 or later) are listed on local registers and just seventy-five are listed on the State and/or National Register. Slowly, individuals and communities are beginning to recognize the need to document and celebrate the recent past.

Among the most recent Modern properties to be recognized is the 1952 Georgia-Pacific Plywood Company Office Building in Olympia, which was formally listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2007.

Despite its listing, the building is still threatened with demolition. Owned by the state, legislators have specifically asked that the property, along with others owned by the state in downtown Olympia, be issued for surplus. Located next to the farmer’s market, legislators note the site has high redevelopment potential, and that the existing structure is not the best and highest use for the property. What they seem to be missing however, is the historical significance of the resource.

The building, which served as headquarters for a large and bustling plywood mill, is the last extant structure (in Olympia) associated with the Georgia-Pacific Company and its subsidiary, Washington Veneer. The building holds the distinction of being the first NBBJ designed project to be listed on the National Register.

Georgia-Pacific, founded in Augusta, Georgia in 1927, served mainly as a wholesaler of hardwood lumber in its early development years. Seeing the demand for building products after World War II, the company decided to move into plywood production. In 1947, it acquired its first West Coast mill, a plywood facility in Bellingham. The next year, Georgia-Pacific acquired the Washington Veneer Mill in Olympia and a mill in Springfield, Oregon from Weyerhaeuser.

At first, Georgia-Pacific struggled to sell plywood products since the company was unfamiliar with the marketing networks for the product. The firm re-organized its operations and moved the operational headquarters for the company to the west coast. Executives chose Olympia, Washington, the location of one the company’s most successful manufacturing plants.

Before the major move of the operations side of the company to the west coast could occur, the company needed an adequate facility to house the various executives and staff. It also needed space to house lumber scalers and buyers that were associated with operating the local plywood mill. Georgia-Pacific hired the prominent Seattle architectural firm of Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson (NBBJ) to design a Modern facility which would highlight the products of the growing lumber company.

Completed in July of 1952 for $200,000, the building served as a unique marketing tool for the company by demonstrating the many uses of its products in a unique integration of plywood veneers for interior and exterior finishes. Inside, each office featured exotic plywood veneer walls and built-in cabinetry (each with its own plaque). On the outside, the design demonstrated how plywood could be applied in a variety of exterior applications.

Formed in 1943, the partnership of NBBJ was established initially to take advantage of large contracts commissioned by the federal government during WWII. By the end of the war, the partnership was solidified, emphasizing a “team” approach to design and a service approach to practice. By the early 1950s, the firm began to receive a variety of important commissions such as facilities at the University of Washington and Swedish Hospital, downtown Seattle office towers such as the Public Safety Building, and a variety of schools across the Pacific Northwest.

In 1954, just two years after arriving in Olympia, Georgia-Pacific moved their headquarters to a multi-story building in downtown Portland, but maintained offices in the nominated building. Not needing such a large space, Georgia-Pacific sold the nominated office building to the State of Washington Department of Game in 1959. It was during the late 1950s that the growth of state employment began to supplant the manufacturing base of the city.

Upon purchase of the building, the State Department of Game asked the architectural firm of Wohleb & Wohleb to complete drawings for an addition to the rear southeast corner of the building. The addition was completed in 1960 and is reflective of the original 1952 building with its use of plywood on the interior and exterior.

In December of 1971, the Port of Olympia purchased the former Washington Veneer/Georgia-Pacific manufacturing site. Shortly thereafter, the Port began dismantling the former plant to accommodate the area as a cargo hold for logs and other exports. The last of the Washington Veneer/Georgia-Pacific facility, except for the nominated building, was demolished in 1993, ending a chapter in the industrial history and development of the city.

The only remaining buildings from the plywood veneer industry in Olympia are the nominated Georgia-Pacific Plywood Co. Office, four manufacturing buildings, and an office building from the Olympia Veneer/St. Paul and Tacoma/St. Regis operations.

Capitol Park Apartments – Blog entry by Steven L

This blog entry from Steven L was captured by the Wayback Machine from the now-defunct OlyBlog.net website. The capture URL is https://web.archive.org/web/20160412032816/http://olyblog.net/capitol-park-apartments

Capitol Park Apartments

Although I called them Capital Apartments in a recent post, apparently they were also known as the Capitol Park Apartments.

Shortly before they were demolished to make room for the ever-growing Capitol Campus, Charles E. Anderson and Jerrold F. Ballaine of the firm Anderson & Ashburn appraised the fair market value of the units (Nov. 1, 1969) at $425,000.

I recently came across a copy of their report for the GA: Appraisal of Property Located at 1306-1318 Capitol Way, Olympia, Washington, Capitol Park Apartments.

Here are some extracts of their description. Notice the authors have one name for the place on the previously mentioned title, but another in their narrative: 

“The Capital Apartments consist of two four story and full basement brick buildings. The south building was constructed in 1923 and has an oil burning steam heating plant that supplies heat to both buildings. There is no elevator in the south building. The north building was built in 1925 and contains an Otis automatic electric elevator. Both buildings are connected on all floors …

The buildings are in fair condition for their age and both are colonial design. Roofs are flat, built up tar and gravel. The basement of the south building has some 60 lockers and a low pressure steam heating plant consisting of a Birchfield Boiler and Ray oil burner which burns heavy fuel oil. The basement of the north building has 16 garage stalls.

The ground floor of the south building has a large laundry room and drying room and an ample sized storage room. There are also 6 apartments in this floor. The public halls in both buildings are wide and carpeted.

There are a total of 61 apartments and 218 rooms in the two buildings … All apartments have oak floors in the halls, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.”

Old Cap Way was never quite the same after these two buildings, along with the old OHS, were torn down. I have attached some interesting floor plans, photos, and list of residents in the twilight time of this apartment house. 

Those of you who attended Roosevelt School in the Ike/JFK/LBJ era will recognize one of our 5th grade teachers in the list, who was retired by 1969. I believe she lived to be a century old, something that might not have happened if my rotten class had not convinced her it was time to retire early if we were a sign of things to come. She was a nice person who did not deserve to have a group of little demons like us, but getting out of the classroom early might have prolonged her life in the long run, so perhaps we did her a favor. I hope so.   

Oak floors. Such a shame.

Images posted to page:

Apartments being demolished 1960s:

Plot plan:

Floor plan of apartment:

Tenant listing:

 

General Administration Building endangered – captured page from Docomomo

This page was captured from the Wayback Machine of a page from the Docomomo.org website featuring endangered properties. Original URL: https://www.docomomo-wewa.org/endangered_detail.php?id=9, captured on May 19, 2011. 

 

General Administration Building

The Department of General Administration (GA) continues with plans to create an ambitious new Executive Office Plaza/Heritage Center despite its effect on this significant International Style building. The new structure would house executive offices, general offices, and functions related to the various agencies with heritage or history as its focus. The 1956 General Administration Building sits directly on the site where the new center is planned. The preferred plan calls for the demolition of the GA Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According to the nomination, the GA Building “…is the first building to be constructed on the capitol campus since the Great Depression. It represents the significant growth of state government in Olympia, Washington following World War II, and specifically the re-centralization of government to Olympia mandated by Supreme Court order in 1954. The building is also historically significant…as an intact example of Modern architecture in Olympia, Washington. The building was designed by prominent Tacoma architect, A. Gordon Lumm, in the International style distinctive for its horizontal cubical form and spare ornamentation. Its exterior minimalist appearance and interior architectural flexibility, including movable aluminum wall panels, demonstrate a growing aesthetic for modular space able to easily accommodate changing space and technology requirements. In this case, a building that needed to serve a diversity of state agencies housed in one structure. The period of significance is 1956, the date the building was completed and occupied by state offices.”

On July 17, 2006, Docomomo WEWA Board members attended a public meeting for the Executive Office Plaza/Heritage Center project. Two previous public meetings were held to get input from the public about the project. Docomomo WEWA brought up concerns about how the GA Building’s historic significance has been ignored and not presented to the public. There is also a lack of understanding on the part of those involved with the project on why the GA Building qualifies for listing on the National Register.

Docomomo WEWA was interviewed by The Olympian in a front page cover article that took a look at the GA Building itself, rather than the proposed project.

If you are interested in reading the National Register Nomination for the GA Building, please contact us at info@docomomo-wewa.org, and we will forward a copy of the document to you. Docomomo WEWA will continue to follow the process on the GA Building and provide comment. If you’d like to learn more about the Executive Office Plaza/Heritage Center project, go to the GA website for more information.

Albertina Schneider – 1/8/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Three creeks, a hill, a prairie, a heritage oak tree, and a street in Thurston County are all named for the Schneider family, early area settlers. Pictured here is Swedish-born Albertina Schneider, wife of Konrad Schneider. She was a long-time resident of West Bay Drive, where she and her children operated a farm and wharf at the foot of Schneider Hill. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum,  olympiahistory.org. Courtesy Ron Secrist, Schneider descendant

Edmund Sylvester – 1/1/23

Throughout 2023 we’ll be exploring the origins of area place names. Sylvester Park is named for Olympia’s founder Edmund Sylvester. Born in Maine, he arrived here in 1846, along with his business partner Levi Smith. When Smith drowned in an accident, Sylvester inherited Smith’s claim to what is now the core of Olympia. He platted out the city and included a New England-inspired “town common” that was later re-named for its founder. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Washington State Archives, State Library Photograph collection

Hazard Stevens Elk – 12/25/22

Hazard Stevens, son of Washington Territory’s first governor, Isaac Stevens, was an investor in the Olympia Light and Power company that operated a hydroelectric facility at the Middle Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River in Tumwater. Hazard fenced in the area below the falls and installed a menagerie of elk, swans, and bears, to attract visitors. Pictured here are some of elk with the falls in the background.  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Late 19th or early 20th century photograph, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Bernice Sapp – 12/18/22

Washington State and Olympia were in the forefront of the push for female suffrage in our state and nationally. Pictured here is prominent Olympian Bernice Sapp, while she was attending the National American Woman Suffrage Convention in 1909. Held in Seattle simultaneously with the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition, it was a major event in the campaign for successful ratification of permanent voting rights for most Washington women in 1910, ten years before the national 19th amendment. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

1909 photograph, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Livery Stable – 12/11/22

For many years the northwest corner of Third Avenue and Main Street (now State and Capitol) was occupied by a livery–a combination public stable, stagecoach, and carriage rental business. The first proprietor was Moses Rice Tilley, whose father Abram operated an early inn and stagecoach stop on the route between Olympia and Longview. The business operated under different owners until 1912, when the Old City Hall and Fire Station building (currently vacant) was erected here.

Susan Parish collection, Washington State Archives

Haskin and Peele – 12/4/22

In 1914, photographer Robert Esterly took photographs of Olympia businesses and their owners. Pictured here is the Haskin and Peele shoe shop, located at 406 Fourth Avenue East (current site of the Clipper Café). The owners James Haskin and Robert Peele are likely two of the three men posing in front of the shop. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

Robert Esterly photograph, 1914, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Columbia Hotel – 11/27/22

The Columbia Hotel was built in the mid 1800s by early Olympia settler John Clark, at what is now 114 Columbia St. NW. At the time, it was on waterfront and popular with politicians, lobbyists, and travelers. The hotel was acquired by George Carlton and renamed the Carlton Hotel; later rebuilt and enlarged. The hotel lasted until at least 1940, though its status declined due to its proximity to the deteriorating Tenderloin District north of State. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org. Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Motorcycle Officer Koepke – 11/20/22

Fred Koepke was appointed Olympia’s motorcycle police officer in 1912. He was chosen in part for his familiarity with motorcycles and their repair. He’s pictured here in front of the Masonic Hall on Main Street (Capitol Way). His motorcycle was a Yale 7 HP (horsepower). Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org. 

: photograph taken around 1912, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Olympia Motorcycle Club – 11/13/22

The Olympia Motorcycle Club was formed in the early twentieth century as motorcycling took off as a popular activity for men and women alike. The group hosted races, outings, and social occasions such as dances. In this photograph, women are seated sidesaddle at the rear of the cycle while the cycles’ male drivers stand beside them. Other photographs of the time, however, show women behind the wheel as well. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

1913 photograph, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Nancy Smith and Mandana Smith Bush – 11/6/22

Pictured here are Nancy Scott Hunt Smith and her daughter, Mandana Smith Kimsey Bush. Mandana was a widow in Oregon when she married Tumwater resident William Owen Bush, son of settlers George and Isabella James Bush. W.O. Bush was a noted agriculturist and was Washington’s first Black legislator. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

Undated photograph, Washington State Archives, State Library Photograph collection

Sons of Veterans – 10/30/22

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization of Union veterans of the American Civil War. Later, their offspring formed the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The GAR and Sons of Veterans headquarters in Olympia was the former Central School building, then located at 200 Union Avenue (the building is now moved to the corner of Union and Adams). In this photo, uniformed Sons of Veterans members pose in front of the building. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, olympiahistory.org.

undated photo, likely 1880-1900, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Kennedy – 10/23/22

This painting of Kamilche, Washington settlers Benjamin Franklin Kennedy and his wife Elizabeth Ann Kennedy is based on a photograph that was taken of members of the extended Kennedy and Simmons families. The Kennedys were early settlers in Mason County: Kennedy Creek is named for the family.   Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Painting based on a photograph from around 1900, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Old State Capitol Annex – 10/16/22

In 1901, Washington State purchased the Thurston County Courthouse, adjacent to Sylvester Park, to serve as the state’s Legislative Building. An annex to the original building was built to accommodate state government functions. This photograph from around 1902 shows the groundbreaking for the annex. Governor John R. Rogers is in front, wielding a ceremonial shovel. The building is now the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

photo about 1902, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Hop pickers – 10/9/2022

Washington State produces the majority of hops grown in the United States. The crop, used in making beer, was first introduced in Western Washington by pioneer Ezra Meeker. Thurston County hop pickers pose in front of the crop in this photo from about 1889. Most hop pickers of that time were Native American and Chinese. Today, most commercial hops are produced in the Yakima area.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Rogers Studio, around 1889, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Cultural History of the Olympia Oyster, by Ed Echtle

This article, written for the City of Olympia, was captured from the Wayback Machine and posted here for information purposes. 

Introduction

Oyster Table at Percival LandingFor millennia, the  native people of Puget Sound relied on the Olympia Oyster as a key part of their food supply.  Its abundance in South Sound gave the Squaxin people a valuable asset to share and trade with their neighbors and allies throughout the region.

When American settlers arrived on Puget Sound in the mid-1800s, they also depended on shellfish as a staple food.  Very early on, Olympia Oysters became an export product, allowing the development of one of Washington’s most enduring industries.

Despite early overharvesting, environmental threats and political controversies, the Olympia Oyster remained an important cultural icon that continues to symbolize the area to the present.  Its importance to the diverse peoples and natural environment of Washington throughout history makes its story key to understanding this place.


Natural History

1948 map of Olympia Harbor, NOAAIce Age glaciation over thousands of years shaped the inland waterways that comprise Puget Sound. When the last glaciers receded 11,000 years ago, the many channels left behind filled with seawater, allowing shellfish and other marine life to populate the inlets. Olympia Oysters are found from Alaska to Baja California.1 The numerous shallow bays of South Puget Sound provide…

The numerous shallow bays of South Puget Sound provide ideal habitat for Olympias. In the mild climate, spawning begins in May and continues through August.2 Despite their small size, Olympia Oysters require several years to reach full maturity and may live as long as fifty years.3

Olympia Oysters are sensitive to environmental factors and mainly grow below mean low tide where they are always covered with water. They require clean water to thrive and naturally occurring temperature extremes sometimes damage them.4 If frozen while tide is out in winter, oysters may float to the surface as a mass on an incoming tide resulting in a large die-off and a feast for gulls.5

 


Native Uses

Lester and Johnny John 1880-1920, Washington State Digital ArchivesLocal native peoples referred to the Olympia Oyster as “Kloch Kloch”. Ancient piles of discarded shells throughout south Puget Sound show the Olympia Oyster has always been a key part of native peoples’ diet in this region. At what is now Olympia, a Squaxin village called bəsčətxwəd meaning “a place that has bears” existed well into the 1850s. Located on the original shoreline on what is now…

Located on the original shoreline on what is now Columbia St, one early settler described it as, “…about a dozen one-story frame cabins … covered with split-cedar siding, well ventilated, but healthy.”6

For millennia, the south end of Steh-Chass, later called Budd Inlet by whites, was very shallow, and low tide exposed vast mudflats teaming with shellfish, much like neighboring Noo-She-Chatl (Henderson Inlet), Squi-Aitl (Eld Inlet) and T’Peeksin (Totten Inlet).

Although its original source is unclear, a saying used throughout the Pacific Northwest is, “when the tide is out the table is set,” referring to the abundance of food contained in the tidelands.

The Squaxin people who lived on the inlets gathered mussels, clams and oysters and granted harvesting rights to other tribes in exchange for access to food-gathering sites they controlled. Scattered along the shores of Steh-Chass/Budd Inlet were seasonal villages, used by visiting Chehalis, Duwamish, Nisqually, Skokomish, and Suquamish, among others. Tribes from east of the Cascade Mountains also travelled to South Sound to gather shellfish, trade, and strengthen family and social bonds, a tradition that continues today.7

 


American Settlement

Oyster shucking 1909, Washington State Historical SocietyWhen American settlers first arrived in late 1845, it was too late in the season to plant crops so they relied heavily on shellfish. Andrew J Chambers, who arrived in 1847, recalled oysters were critical to settlers’ survival their first winters here.8 Thomas Prather recalled that in 1853, “There was a big band of Indians camped on the west side, coming to this side in canoes for the purpose of…

bartering fish, oysters and berries for sugar, flour, bacon and calico.”9

The importance of shellfish to American relocating to Puget Sound is also reflected in the song, “The Old Settler” written by Olympia Mayor Francis Henry in 1874. It catalogues the hardships faced by settlers, but concludes with the verse:

No longer a slave of ambition,
I laugh at the world and its shams,
And I think of my happy condition,
Surrounded by Acres of Clams

By 1854 settlers increasingly encroached on traditional native food gathering resources. In December, Washington’s first territorial governor Isaac Stevens concluded the first of several regional treaties at Medicine Creek, a few miles east of Olympia. Stevens appointed representatives from among the natives and grouped smaller bands under new tribal designations. The Squaxin Tribe was formed out of several smaller bands that lived along South Puget Sound inlets. In exchange for their agreeing to allow American settlement, the Governor guaranteed natives’ right to continue gathering food “in common” with American settlers in their “usual and accustomed places.”10

However, by late 1855 some Western Washington natives angered by the treaty terms attacked settlers and fought US troops and volunteer militiamen into 1856. Settlers in Olympia built fortifications and banished all natives from the town. Many Squaxin people spent the conflict in an internment camp on Squaxin Island, just north of Olympia. After the war, natives returned to Olympia to work and trade, but new town laws prohibited their residence in city limits. Afterwards they resided in nearby camps along the shores of Budd Inlet and continued to provide labor and trade gathered foods with American settlers.

 


Early Oystering in Washington

Delivering oysters to the steamship, ©The Susan Parish Collection/Shadow Catchers The first people to offer oysters for sale were natives. George Blankenship recalled native women harvested oysters in the mud flats around Olympia for sale or trade for clothing or other household goods.11 Gathering took place at low tide, day or night. Some natives built fires on sleds with iron tops to provide light and warmth as they harvested.12 Pioneer Olympia merchant Gustave Rosenthal recalled, “… oysters were sold only by Indian women, carrying a basket of a quarter bushel on their backs, supported by a strap across their foreheads.”13  Others remembered native women sitting along streets in Olympia with hand-woven baskets filled with oysters for sale. After the advent of automobiles and highways, some natives sold shellfish in hand-woven traditional baskets to tourists on the steps of the State Capitol building.14

Early Chinese immigrants also took up small-scale oyster harvesting, in competition with natives. Chinese arrived in Olympia by the early 1850s. Barred by whites to work in direct competition with white male labor, oyster gathering was one of the few opportunities available to them. Competition with native oyster harvesters led to an informal agreement between the two groups: Chinese gathered Oysters in the tide flats south of Fourth Ave while natives gathered to the north.15

The first large-scale export of oysters from Washington began at Willapa Bay, on the Washington coast. During and after the 1849 California Gold Rush, demand for oysters in the boomtown of San Francisco created a thriving trade. While Olympia Oysters were small, (2400 shucked oysters per gallon,) they were prized for their unique “coppery” taste and became a traditional food for celebrations of financial success.16

At Willapa, natives worked for American entrepreneurs, providing the main source of labor in the oyster beds.17 However, the “oyster boom” at Willapa soon led to overharvesting and a need for regulation. The first Washington Territorial Legislature passed laws in 1854 requiring permits for harvesting unless the harvester was a resident of Washington, and later banned all harvest by nonresidents.18

 


Puget Sound Industry Beginnings

Oyster Bay Claims 1893, Washington State Digital ArchivesInitially oysters growing in south Puget Sound were too remote to survive transport to California by sailing ship. As settlement of the northwest continued, demand for oysters increased in the region, especially in Seattle and Portland. By the 1860s entrepreneurs looked at South Puget Sound oysters as the next great extraction industry. To promote the idea, local press referred to the tidelands as “oyster mines.”19

The first known commercial export of Oysters from South Sound was by Adam Korter, from Oyster Bay in Totten Inlet, but the effort failed to generate much interest.20 Olympia merchant Gustave Rosenthal began buying oysters from native women in 1868 for sale to restaurants around Puget Sound with better results.21

By the 1870s enough people were engaged in oyster harvesting that the Territorial Legislature passed a measure granting exclusive use of up to ten acres of oyster beds to applicants in order to prevent “claim jumping” by competing harvesters.22 The ability to secure legal claim, if not ownership, encouraged oyster harvesters to make improvements on the tidelands. In 1878 AB Rabbeson, RP Shoecraft  and TC Van Epps founded the Olympia Oyster Company, the first incorporated oyster company on Puget Sound.23 Later that year Joseph Gale, AJ Smith and David Helser came to Oyster Bay from Olympia and established an oyster business.24 Just two years later, local producers shipped $100,000 of local oysters to Portland Oregon via the recently completed railroad.25

The rapid increase in harvesting on South Puget Sound inlets led to a sharp decline in the natural oyster population as early as 1881. Oyster growers quickly realized they had to regulate the harvest before oysters disappeared from local waters. That year Gale, Taylor, Smith and ten others, founded the Puget Sound Oyster Association (PSOA) to coordinate the industry. PSOA oversaw the restoration of oyster beds and advocated practices to better maintain the oyster population.26

After Washington achieved statehood in 1889, the legislature passed the “Callow Act” allowing the purchase of oyster tideland from the state. The state required purchasers to file a survey and map of their land with their application. After 1918 the state also established “seed grounds” or reserves where harvest was banned to maintain spawning stocks.27 These measures further protected the investments of growers in their oyster beds spurring growth in the industry.28

 


Oystering Families

Earl G, John and Earl Brenner Jr., The Rise and Decline of the Olympia OysterThe physical demands and round-the-clock schedule of oyster cultivation and processing made early shellfish enterprises family affairs. Squaxin families were among the first to enter the rapidly industrializing oyster business. The Charley, John, Jackson, Kettle, Krise, Simmons, Slocum, Tobin and Wohaut families not only harvested oysters on Eld, Totten and Little Skookum Inlets west of Olympia, they also filed official land claims as soon as they were able and constructed culling houses, floats and other structures and developed contracts with shippers as the industry developed.29

The small numbers of white settlers engaged in the early oyster business on rural Eld and Totten Inlets fostered interdependence between white and native families and intermarriage was common. Adam Korter began his oyster business with his native wife in the early 1860s. Joe Gale, another founder of the industry, married Katie Kettle, a member of a prominent Squaxin family. English immigrant Harry Weatherall married Sallie, a Squaxin woman. Married couples worked in partnership and in some instances native women were able to control land themselves.30 In the case of Katie Gale, courts awarded her and their children ownership of half their oyster claim after a divorce from Joe.31 However, after oysterman Harry Weatherall died, Sallie was unable to convince courts they were legally married and his relatives inherited their claim.32

Others taking out early oyster claims on South Sound inlets included SK Taylor, Jesse Bowman, AS Ruth, William H. Kneeland, David H Helser, J Y Waldrip, Charles Brenner, Simmons, CN Allen, CR Talcott, John Blass, AD Simmons, WJ Doane, JJ Brenner, and EN Steele; also, J. H. Deer, Dan & Dennis Hurley, Thomas O’Neil and AL McDonald.33 While not all lived on the bays, those who did comprised a tightly-knit community bound together through economic interdependence, marriage and other social ties.

 


“Famous Oysters”

Crane’s Café in Olympia 1950, ©The Susan Parish Collection/Shadow CatchersHow oysters found the length of the Pacific Coast of North America acquired the name “Olympia Oysters” remains unclear. While restaurants featuring local oysters in Olympia date nearly to the earliest settlement, it wasn’t until Captain Woodbury J Doane’s Oyster House opened in Olympia in the 1880s that “Olympia Oysters” gained wide notoriety.

Born in Maine, Doane went to sea as a young man. He arrived in California in time for the 1849 Gold Rush, but soon returned to work on steamboats in British Columbia during the Fraser River Gold Rush. After Doane relocated to Olympia, he opened his Oyster House Restaurant on the southwest corner of Fifth and Washington. Initially Doane and his sons raked, processed and cooked the oysters themselves; later he employed Chinese cooks.34 By the 1890s Doane’s Oyster House garnered a wide reputation as a must-visit eatery due his widely praised “Oyster Pan Roast.”

While Doane was outgoing and jovial, he kept his oyster pan-roast recipe a closely guarded secret. Some suspected Doane’s Chinese cooks were responsible for the recipe, enhancing the oysters with techniques and seasonings unknown to Doane.35 In one interview, Doane admitted his “secret” was the addition of an “imported sauce.”36

Doane’s Oyster House became popular among legislators who discussed political affairs over plates of oysters. Several attempts by other Washington cities to remove the Capitol from Olympia for themselves were countered by “pro-Olympia” Oyster feeds, conducted throughout Washington by local boosters. Earl Steele gave this account in 1957:

[The location of the capitol] was put to a vote of the people and the contest became very spirited. The people of Olympia got their heads together and planned a campaign; they arranged for public meetings in many of the most populated points in Eastern Washington, supplied themselves with a goodly quantity of oysters and the battle was on. Their arguments why the Capital should remain in Olympia were many and forcefully stated, but the clinching argument was the oyster dinner following the meeting. They created a warmth and friendly spirit and the oysters were so well liked that much publicity was given, not only to the merit of the arguments, but to the merit of the oysters. Olympia won the election, and the oyster dinners were given the credit.”37

The practice led some in the press to dub the Oyster Olympia’s “succulent lobbyist.”38 Steele believed this campaign, along with Olympia being the largest town close to the most productive beds, led to the name.39

However, an earlier account by pioneer oysterman Joseph Gale adds another layer to the story of how the Olympia Oyster got its name. To promote sales early in the industry, Gale stated, “…we sent 50 boxes to San Francisco and found nobody knew anything about them. At first they wouldn’t sell. Then we hired men to go into restaurants and call for Olympia Oysters and thus worked up a field for them.”40

 


Industry Growth

The JJ Brenner Oyster Company in 1914, Washington State Historical SocietyWhile small-scale processing happened at the oyster beds, companies including the JJ Brenner Oyster Co, Olympia Oyster Company and the Olympia Packing Co. built processing plants in Olympia, nearer to railroad and the port for shipping.41 The first, opened by Brenner in 1893, was located along Fourth Avenue west of downtown.42 Others soon followed choosing sites near Brenner’s and close to the recently completed Northern Pacific railroad station.43 Built before filling created land north of West Fourth Avenue, these structures were built on pilings, allowing boats to offload oysters directly to the processing plants.

Increasing demand for oysters and unusually cold winter weather led to growers to adopt the “French Parking System” in 1895 to protect oysters from extreme weather conditions and maximize production. They built dikes and terraced the tideland to keep water on the oysters even at low tide, minimizing the risk of freezing in the winter months. Growers also diked and bedded tidelands that had no natural oyster populations, creating artificial beds.44

In 1909 the Olympia Oyster Investment Co., Inc., was incorporated by W. H. Kneeland J. Y. Waldrip, O. C. Hanson and became the largest oyster company in Washington State.45 That year also saw Olympia Oysters shipped as far east as Chicago.46 Olympia Oyster growers also mounted an exhibit for the Alaska Yukon Pacific Worlds’ Fair in Seattle, which included a scale model of oyster beds and processing facilities on South Sound.47

 


Harvest and Processing

Oystermen and shell piles ca. 1915, ©The Susan Parish Collection/Shadow CatchersThe process of harvest and processing oysters changed little in more than a century. Oyster harvest takes place in nearly all weather conditions and much of the work is still best done by hand.48 In a 1974 interview Dick Helser, whose father began working oyster beds in 1878, described the harvesting process as cold, wet and exhausting, as harvest took place at low tide, day or night.49

To begin, harvesters position floats over oyster beds at high tide, then fork oysters into the float after the tide recedes. When high tide returned, they poled the floats to culling houses anchored in the bay.50 Oysters were then transferred to “sink floats” described as “an upside down float containing two feet of water to keep the oysters fresh.”51

Cora Gingrich Chase described the process:

From the sinkfloat they were forked into a wheelbarrow, rolled into the culling house, up a plank, and dumped onto the culling table. All day long the cullers sorted out the large oysters, knocking off smaller oysters, barnacles and debris with a culling iron (a thin piece of metal, easily grasped.) and dropping the marketable oysters into a five-gallon kerosene can, then raked the cullings down the hopper at the edge of the table. The cullings were forked onto a float and bedded by forking them into the water over the ground from which [they were] taken up.52

Pioneer oysterman JJ Brenner also described oyster processing in 1908:

The much-sought bivalve is raked from its bed by tongs, and all sizes, ages and kinds are thrown in a heap at the bottom of a float. From this they are gathered into piles for assortment, the cull and young oysters being thrown back upon the beds and the marketable oysters put up into bags containing 115 pounds each. After the oysters are gathered, sorted and sacked they are shipped to Olympia; where they are turned out to the openers to be shucked and put up for the market. They are opened into quart measures and placed into pans to be washed. They are then put up in tubs, pails and cans and shipped.53

Early producers sometimes rowed their oysters to Olympia from their oyster beds. By the late 1800s steamboats plied the waters between Shelton and Olympia carrying passengers, freight and mail, stopping in the bays to take on passengers and cargo. Later, as the oyster industry developed, a number of boats built specifically for this purpose took over transporting oysters to processing. After gas and diesel powered boats appeared on Puget Sound in the early 1900s, the larger  oyster firms built and operated  their own launches called “tenders” to ferry oysters to town and workers to the bays.

The grueling work took its toll on laborers; drowning, exposure and injury impacted the workforce on occasion. In 1914, Chinese immigrant Locke Mai lost his life falling from an oyster float at Henderson Inlet.54 While working on an oyster scow at Mud Bay, Y Watanabe slipped overboard and drowned when his oyster boots filled with water.55 County records list the names of others who lost their lives working the oyster beds as well.

 


Asian Labor & Families

Joe Miyagi ©The Susan Parish Collection/Shadow CatchersAs the oyster industry expanded, need for outside labor increased. Like other industries, oyster producers turned to Chinese contract laborers beginning in the 1880s. In Olympia, several Chinese contracting companies including Hong Hai, Sun Wo, Hong Yek Kee and Quong Yuen Sang acted as brokers between companies and the laborers. During harvest these laborers resided in float-houses and bunkhouses near the oyster beds.

While documentation of individual names are few, they do appear occasionally in records. Tom Kee worked as foreman for Joseph and Katie Gale’s oyster beds.56 Cora Gingrich Chase, who lived on oyster bay in the early 1900s, recalled hearing Chinese men sing to pass the time as they worked.57

After congress passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Law limiting immigration of “unskilled” laborers, the oyster industry turned to  Japanese immigrant labor.58 Initially hired through the same Chinese contractors, they eventually developed their own contracting networks and worked throughout the oyster industry. By the 1930s Japanese Oyster workers were the dominant labor force in the oyster beds and culling houses.59

As early as 1920 there were  approximately twenty Japanese families residing at Mud Bay and Oyster Bay.60 Many Japanese came intending to stay permanently, and began families. These families also worked collectively in the oyster business. A few made inroads as leaders in the industry: in 1935 the Yoshihara family in Mason County incorporated the West Coast Oyster Company despite laws forbidding land ownership by Japanese non-citizens.61

 


Changing Fortunes

Land grading at Oyster Bay, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW5780By the late 1800s, increased population and new industries around Budd Inlet impacted the Olympia Oyster population on Budd Inlet. Sewers drained directly into the bay and industrial waste made shellfish in Budd Inlet unsafe to eat.62 Meanwhile, extensive harbor dredging operations from the 1890s onward further decimated shellfish populations.

Even in the relatively unpolluted waters of the other inlets, unsustainable practices negatively affected oyster populations. Initially, harvesters took the best oysters and simply dumped young oyster “culls” on beach.63 Further, removal of shells degraded habitat necessary for oyster reproduction.64 Over  time, harvesters adopted more sustainable practices, but other challenges followed.

The reduction of the Olympia Oyster populations led the industry to introduce non-native oysters to meet demands. As early as the 1890s, growers transplanted the Eastern Oyster to Willapa Bay. Larger and faster-growing than the Olympia Oyster, it was introduced to Puget Sound as well. In 1899 oyster growers also attempted to transplant Pacific Oysters  from Japan. After several failed attempts it began proliferating locally by the 1920s, further displacing Olympia Oysters.65

Additionally, new species of predators arrived with the transplanted oysters including the Oyster Drill Snail. The comparatively slow growth of Olympia Oysters, coupled with its susceptibility to these new threats further accelerated the Olympia’s decline.66

In 1927 a wood pulp mill for paper production opened at Shelton. Soon after, waste “liquor” sulfites dumped into Puget Sound damaged shellfish populations in nearby inlets, especially the sensitive Olympia Oyster. Oyster growers sued the mill in 1931 and courts ordered the mill to dump its waste inland.67 However, sulfites continued to wash into Puget Sound. Public protests by oyster growers in Shelton against the mill were opposed by millworkers who pelted them with fruit.68

The prominence of the oyster industry made its leaders prominent community leaders as well. In 1932 pioneer oysterman Earl N Steele was elected Mayor of Olympia.69 During his term in office, the historic US Frigate Constitution visited Olympia as part of a tour of the Pacific Coast to raise funds for its preservation. The large celebration at Olympia included specially minted “Oyster Money” for use in town by visitors in the form of oyster-shaped tokens. Oyster Money was  legal tender in Olympia during Constitution’s ten-day visit.70

By the end of the 1930s, the Olympia Oyster’s waning numbers, small size and sensitivity to pollution made it a tiny part of shellfish production on Puget Sound. However, rapid changes brought about by war and recovery in coming years set the stage for its return.

 

The reduction of the Olympia Oyster populations led the industry to introduce non-native oysters to meet demands. As early as the 1890s, growers transplanted the Eastern Oyster to Willapa Bay. Larger and faster-growing than the Olympia Oyster, it was introduced to Puget Sound as well. In 1899 oyster growers also attempted to transplant Pacific Oysters  from Japan. After several failed attempts it began proliferating locally by the 1920s, further displacing Olympia Oysters.65

Additionally, new species of predators arrived with the transplanted oysters including the Oyster Drill Snail. The comparatively slow growth of Olympia Oysters, coupled with its susceptibility to these new threats further accelerated the Olympia’s decline.66

In 1927 a wood pulp mill for paper production opened at Shelton. Soon after, waste “liquor” sulfites dumped into Puget Sound damaged shellfish populations in nearby inlets, especially the sensitive Olympia Oyster. Oyster growers sued the mill in 1931 and courts ordered the mill to dump its waste inland.67 However, sulfites continued to wash into Puget Sound. Public protests by oyster growers in Shelton against the mill were opposed by millworkers who pelted them with fruit.68

The prominence of the oyster industry made its leaders prominent community leaders as well. In 1932 pioneer oysterman Earl N Steele was elected Mayor of Olympia.69 During his term in office, the historic US Frigate Constitution visited Olympia as part of a tour of the Pacific Coast to raise funds for its preservation. The large celebration at Olympia included specially minted “Oyster Money” for use in town by visitors in the form of oyster-shaped tokens. Oyster Money was  legal tender in Olympia during Constitution’s ten-day visit.70

By the end of the 1930s, the Olympia Oyster’s waning numbers, small size and sensitivity to pollution made it a tiny part of shellfish production on Puget Sound. However, rapid changes brought about by war and recovery in coming years set the stage for its return.

 


WWII and After

Shortly after Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor naval base at Hawaii, US authorities barred all people of Japanese ancestry from the west coast. The War Relocation Authority sent Japanese at Olympia and Oyster Bay to the Tule Lake Relocation Center in northern California. During the war, the oyster industry hired white women to replace Japanese workers in the culling and opening plants.

Unlike their male counterparts, women were paid by the piece, with no benefits or overtime pay.71

War with Japan also ended the import of Pacific Oyster seed from Japan.72 After the war, the oyster beds were in poor repair, due to the lack of experienced workers to tend them. Local oyster growers recruited experienced Japanese oyster workers to come to Olympia. Several families answered the call, including the Abo, Kajihara, Kanda, Marikawa, Sato and Yoshimura families; many continue their residence in the area to the present.73

Refrigerated trucks and better roads led the JJ Brenner Oyster Co and the Olympia Oyster Co to build new processing plants near their beds at Oyster Bay in the 1950s, leaving the aging Olympia plants derelict.74 The 1924 Olympia Oyster Co culling house became the Olympia Oyster House restaurant, remaining in business almost continuously since.75

The 1950s saw increased official attention paid to industrial pollution across America. A Federal Report listed Puget Sound as 6th most polluted waterway in US.76 In 1953 a mysterious ailment nearly ended the remaining Olympia Oyster production.77 Conditions in South Puget Sound inlets began to improve after 1957 when the pulp mill in Shelton shut down. Almost immediately, South Sound shellfish populations showed signs of recovery.78

By the 1950s, canned oysters from Asia entered the American Market, driving down prices. To compete, American oyster growers refocused their efforts on the fresh oyster market.79 They renewed attempts to create a hatchery system and finally developed a successful hatchery at Quilcene, now [2013] the largest in the world. The oyster industry, in collaboration with the State of Washington, also developed hatcheries at Totten Inlet and elsewhere on Puget Sound.80

Despite the renewed growth and stability in the local oyster Industry, commercial yields of Olympia Oysters in Washington State dropped by more than 98% between 1881 and 1961.81 Reliance on larger and hardier Pacific and Eastern oysters made marketing Olympia Oysters a low priority. However, Olympia Oysters retained their cachet as a status food, and a small “boutique” market kept it part of production. In the 1970s scientists finally developed the first reliable hatchery methods for Olympias, setting the stage for its future return to wider use.82

By the 1970s, popular support for cleaning up industrial pollution in America swelled. In 1972 the US passed the Clean Water Act, requiring the monitoring of industrial waste flowing into waterways.83 Additionally, environmentalists began examining the effects waste from failing septic systems and runoff from household chemicals, leading to legislation managing these issues as well.84 The oyster industry’s understanding of the effects of pollution on oysters made them leading advocates for measures promoting clean water.

 


Changing Tides

Hanging oyster growing system, ©The Susan Parish Collection/Shadow CatchersAs the industry grew, many native tideland owners’ families sold off their oyster beds to larger companies. However, natives continued shellfish gathering to supplement their incomes. Over the ensuing decades, property-owners increasingly blocked their access to natural beds on privately-owned tidelands.

By the 1950s and 1960s, northwest native peoples increased political agitation for enforcement of the 1850s treaties’ guarantee of “equal access” to gather food in “usual and accustomed places.” Northwest tribes engaged in a series of “fish ins” and other acts of civil-disobedience to demand their rights.

In 1974 Federal Judge George Boldt affirmed the treaty-guaranteed equal access to resources for natives.85 In response to the ruling, native entrepreneurship in seafood industry again bloomed. Locally, the Squaxin people purchased the existing Harstine Oyster Company and renamed it Salish Seafoods, developing shellfish farms along the shores of South Sound inlets in tidelands harvested by their families for centuries.86

In 1994 the courts agreed the treaties guaranteed equal access to naturally-occurring oysters on privately-held tidelands as well.87 Rather than fight the law, natives and the oyster industry forged a partnership where all parties shared responsibility for managing and harvesting shellfish. Since that time industrial shellfish producers increasingly work in cooperation with tribes to ensure protection of environmental conditions needed to sustain oyster proliferation.

 


Stewardship and the Return of Olympia Oysters

Booklet illustration, Washington State Historical SocietyIn recent decades, new influxes of immigrant workers filled the need for seasonal labor in the shellfish industry formerly the domain of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Southeast Asians fleeing economic and political oppression in the 1970s and 1980s became an important workforce in the industry. More recently, Hispanic workers have become a key part of the shellfish industry…

More recently, Hispanic workers have become a key part of the shellfish industry labor pool and many now live and raise families in Mason and Thurston Counties.88

In the 1990s scientists as well as environmental advocates recognized the importance of Olympia Oysters as a “keystone species,”  an important indicator of Puget Sound’s overall environmental health. Gradually, researchers developed a greater understanding of its crucial role in maintaining appropriate habitat for other marine life, as well as providing an important food source for diverse aquatic species..89

With that recognition, a collaborative effort between many stakeholders, including the Squaxin, Skokomish, and Suquamish tribes, as well as oyster growers and the State of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began efforts to reestablish Olympia Oysters. Drawing on surviving “remnant populations” found in isolated tidelands, the effort has spawned renewed populations of Olympia Oysters.90

In the 21st Century Olympia Oysters are  making a comeback. At present, they remain a small part of shellfish  production as other species still generate greater profits. But many tideland farmers make an effort to keep and grow Olympias as a connection to place and history. “For them, it’s a labor of love,” says Bruce Brenner, great-grandson of oyster pioneer JJ Brenner.91

The Olympia Oyster’s deep connection with the history of Olympia and South Puget Sound cements its status as a distinctly northwest food. Understanding its uses through time, its cultural significance, and the environmental stewardship that led to its ongoing recovery offers numerous lessons in public and private resource management and changing environmental values. If the lessons take hold, it may remain the case that, “when the tide is out, the table is set.”

 


Sources

 

  • 1Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 2Kincaid, “Oyster Culture in Washington” in Transactions of the Pacific Fisheries Society at its Second Annual Meeting, 1915. Seattle, The Society, 1916.
  • 3Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 4Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 5Frank Mossman, “Early Days in Mason County” in Told by the Pioneers; Tales of Frontier Life As Told by Those Who Remember the Days of the Territory and Early Statehood of Washington Volume II, Works Progress Administration, 1938, 217.
  • 6Hubert Howe Bancroft and Frances Fuller Victor,  History of Washington, Idaho and Montana, 1845-1889.  San Francisco:  The History Company, 1890,  55.
  • 7Llyn DeDanaan, email correspondence with author, 21 December 2012.
  • 8Chambers, Andrew Jackson, and Margaret White Chambers. Recollections. Fairfield, Wash: Ye Galleon Press, 1975., 25-26.
  • 9Blankenship, Georgiana Mitchell. Early History of Thurston County, Washington: Together with Biographies and Reminiscences of Those Identified with Pioneer Days. 1914., 136.
  • 10Clifford Trafzer, “Washington’s Native American Communities” in White, Sid, and S. E. Solberg. Peoples of Washington: Perspectives on Cultural Diversity. Pullman, Wash: Washington State University Press, 1989, 10.
  • 11Blankenship, Lights and Shades, 85-86.
  • 12Frank Mossman, “Early Days in Mason County” in Told By the Pioneers, Volume II, 217.
  • 13Blankenship, George E. Lights and Shades of Pioneer Life on Puget Sound. Olympia, Wash: [s.n.], 1923., 197.
  • 14Karen Johnson, personal communication with author, 25 January 2013; Squaxin Museum Display.
  • 15Budd Inlet originally extended to Tumwater.  A dam on 5th Avenue built in the early 1950s created Capitol Lake .  Steele, Earl N. The Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster. Elma, Wash: Fulco Publications, 1957, 9.
  • 16Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 17Bancroft, Hubert Howe, and Frances Fuller Victor. History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889. San Francisco: History Co, 1890, 347.
  • 18Bancroft, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889, 347.
  • 19“Oyster Mines” Puget Sound Herald, 13 May 1859.
  • 20Prosser, A History of the Puget Sound Country, 256; “Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 153.
  • 21“G Rosenthal Tells of Pioneer Times” Olympia Record, 20 June 1918; Blankenship, Lights and Shades, 197.
  • 22Bancroft, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889, 347.
  • 23Rathbun, John C. History of Thurston Co., Washington. Olympia, Wash: [s.n.], 1895., 73; Newell, Gordon R. So Fair a Dwelling Place: A History of Olympia and Thurston County, Washington. [Olympia, Wash.]: G.R. Newell, 1985., 83; Newell, Gordon R. Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen. Seattle: Hangman Press, 1975, 82; “Thurston County Oyster Industry,” The Coast, 1909, 153.
  • 24Prosser, William Farrand. A History of the Puget Sound Country, Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People: with Some Reference to Discoveries and Explorations in North America from the Time of Christopher Columbus Down to That of George Vancouver in 1792, Vol. I. New York: Lewis Pub. Co, 1903, 286; “Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 153; Chase, Cora G. The Oyster Was Our World: Life on Oyster Bay, 1898-1914. Seattle: Shorey Book Store, 1976., 11.
  • 25Bancroft, History of Washington, Idaho, and Montana: 1845-1889, 348.
  • 26“Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 153-54.
  • 27“Thurston County Oyster Industry,” The Coast, 1909, 154; Gordon, David G., Nancy E. Blanton, and Terry Y. Nosho. Heaven on the Half Shell: The Story of the Northwest’s Love Affair with the Oyster. Seattle, Wash: Washington Sea Grant Program, 2001., 60.
  • 28“Thurston County Oyster Industry,” The Coast, 1909, 153.
  • 29Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 15-16.
  • 30Llyn De Danaan, “Tideland Tales” Columbia Magazine, v21, No 3, (Fall 2007): online at columbia.washingtonhistory.org/magazine/articles/2007/0307/0307-a1.aspx, accessed 28 November 2012.
  • 31Chase, The Oyster Was Our World, 83.
  • 32“Picturesque Character of State Passes” Morning Olympian, 26 June 1913.
  • 33Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 16.
  • 34Locke Suey Kay, aka Charley Kay worked for Doane as a teenager.  He later worked at the Hotel Olympian and opened Kays Café in 1941.  Author interview with Bill & Toy Kay, 1997.
  • 35“Memory of Doane’s Oyster Pan Roast Still Lingers” Morning Olympian, 1 November 1922.
  • 36“Olympia Oyster Chat” Tacoma Daily News, 2 November 1897.
  • 37Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 32-33.
  • 38Stevenson, Shanna. Olympia, Tumwater, and Lacey: A Pictorial History. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Co, 1996., 54.
  • 39Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 33.
  • 40“Olympia Oyster Chat” Tacoma Daily News, 2 November 1897.
  • 41“Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 154.
  • 42Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 50.
  • 43Bruce Brenner, interview with author, 23 January 2013.
  • 44“Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 155; “Olympia the Center and Sole Shipping Point of the Great Oyster Industry” Olympia Record, 29 July 1909, 10.
  • 45“Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 154.
  • 46“The Famous Olympia Oysters” Morning Olympian, 30 October 1910.
  • 47“Olympia the Center and Sole Shipping Point of the Great Oyster Industry” Olympia Record, 29 July 1909, 10.
  • 48Chase, Oyster Was Our World, 10.
  • 49“Bivalves” in How the West Was Once: A History of West Olympia. Olympia: Jefferson Junior High School, 1974, 22-25.
  • 50Frank Mossman, “Early Days in Mason County” in Told By the Pioneers, Volume II, 218.
  • 51Chase, Oyster was our world, 10.
  • 52Chase, Oyster was our world, 10.
  • 53“Thurston County Oyster Industry” The Coast, March 1909, 154.
  • 54“Recover Body of China Boy Drowned at Oyster Beds” Olympia Record, 21 July 1914.
  • 55“Heavy Boots Drag Japanese to Death” Olympia Record, 21 July 1917.
  • 56Tom Kee’s father was Chinese and mother was native Umatilla from Oregon.  Llyn De Danaan, “Katie Gale’s Tombstone” Oregon Historical Quarterly, v106, n4, 650.
  • 57Chase, Oyster Was Our World, 21.
  • 58Smith (ed.) How the West Was Once, 23.
  • 59DeDanaan, personal communication with author, 28 December 2012.
  • 60DeDanaan, “Mountain of Shell”.
  • 61DeDanaan, “Mountain of Shell”.
  • 62“Thurston County Oyster Industry,” The Coast, 1909, 153.
  • 63Frank Mossman, “Early Days in Mason County” 218.
  • 64Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 65Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 67.
  • 66Bruce Brenner, interview with author, 23 January 2013.
  • 67Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 68Chase, Cora G. The Oyster Was Our World, 14.
  • 70Stevenson, Olympia Lacey Tumwater, 186.
  • 71DeDanaan, “Mountain of Shell”.
  • 72“PCSGA Chronology”
  • 73DeDanaan, “Mountain of Shell”.
  • 74Steele, Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster, 51.
  • 75“Olympia Oyster Company Packing and Storage Building” WA DAHP Historic Property Inventory Report No 34-873.
  • 76“PCSGA Chronology”
  • 77“PCSGA Chronology”
  • 78Tristan Peter-Contesse and Betsy Peabody, Reestablishing Olympia Oyster Populations In Puget Sound, Washington Washington Sea Grant Program, 2005
  • 79Gordon, 146-47, Bruce Brenner, interview with author, 23 January 2013.
  • 80Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 132.
  • 81Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 82Jacqueline White, Jennifer L. Ruesink* And Alan C. Trimble, “The Nearly Forgotten Oyster: Ostrea Lurida (Olympia Oyster) History And Management In Washington State” Journal of Shellfish Research, Vol. 28, No. 1, 43–49, 2009.
  • 83Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 129.
  • 84Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 130.
  • 85“Federal Judge George Boldt issues historic ruling affirming Native American treaty fishing rights on February 12, 1974” online at http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5282, accessed 6 December 2012.
  • 86http://islandenterprisesinc.com/subsidiaries/salish_seafoods/ accessed 8 January 2013.
  • 87“Mason County — Thumbnail History”
  • 88Bruce Brenner, interview with author, 23 January 2013.
  • 89Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 140.
  • 90Gordon, Heaven on the Half Shell, 141.
  • 91Bruce Brenner, interview with author, 23 January 2013.

Union Block – 10/2/22

This photograph of the Union Block, taken in 1894, dramatically illustrates how Olympia’s shoreline has changed over the years. The Union Block was located on Fourth Avenue between Chestnut and Cherry, approximately where City Hall is now. The building was perched on pilings over the Moxlie Creek estuary at that location.. Moxlie Creek now runs underground and empties into the eastern arm of Budd Inlet, where it meets Olympia Avenue.   Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

1894 photograph, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Francis Henry – 9/25/22

Francis Henry was an early Olympia settler. His cousin Anson Henry, a close friend and physician to Abraham Lincoln, also settled in Olympia. Francis Henry has lived on in posterity as the author of the song “The Old Settler,” sometimes called the unofficial folk song of Washington State, with its iconic line “surrounded by acres of clams.”  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

late 1800 photo, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Philemon Van Trump – 9/18/22

Philemon B. Van Trump was in the first party of European-Americans, in 1870, to summit Mount Rainier.  He summited at least five other times, once guiding noted naturalist John Muir. When not at the mountain, he lived in Olympia and Yelm.  In this photo from around 1911, he is shown here at Paradise Valley, holding his trusty alpenstock (hiking stick). Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 

Photo about 1911, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

 

The Prices with their automobiles 9-11-22

The extended family of Benjamin and Agnes Mitchel Price poses proudly with their two automobiles, an REO or Red Wing, and a Winton Six, in this photo from about 1907. The Prices were among the first automobile owners in Olympia. The photograph was taken by Agnes Mitchel Price’s sister, Ida B. Smith. Agnes and Ida were both professional photographers. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org.

Ida B. Smith photo, about 1907, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Olympia Knitting Mills – 9/4/22

Olympia Knitting Mills was an important contributor to Olympia’s economy in the early 20th century.  The factory was located on 6th (Legion) Avenue between Jefferson and Cherry, and created woolen sportswear and outwear to be shipped throughout the United States and beyond. Pictured here are co-owner Sol Meyers and his crew in the winding room. Finished garments can be seen on shelves at the rear. The building still exists. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Photo around 1915, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Queen Ruth with her court – 8/28/22

In August 1902, the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization, held a carnival in Olympia. They sponsored a contest to name the Queen of the Carnival. Ruth Allison edged out Iva Van Epps for the honor. Here is Queen Ruth with her court, taken during the four-day event.  This photo by Ida B. Smith was honored at the Northwest Photographers’ convention later that year. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Ida B. Smith photo, August 1902, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

 

Olympia from the West Side – 8/21/22

This photo was taken in the late 1800s from the west side of Olympia. In the foreground is the elegant Percival Mansion. Below it is the Fourth Avenue Bridge that crossed the wide Deschutes Estuary, leading to downtown Olympia. The railroad track, with its depot at far left, linked Olympia to Tenino and access to the Northern Pacific Railroad. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 

photo late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Central School – 8/14/22

Pictured here, in a photo from the late 1800s, are the students and a faculty member at the Central School in Olympia, located at the corner of Union Avenue and Washington Street. The building still exists and is one of the oldest in the city: it was cut in two and moved to the corner of Union and Adams Street where it serves as an apartment complex. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org. 

Photo, late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

T.C. Van Epps Land Office – 8/7/22

The Van Epps family operated several businesses in downtown Olympia in the late 19th century. Pictured here is the T.C. Van Epps Real Estate office on Main Street (now Capitol Way). The building still exists and is currently the home of Browsers Bookshop. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. Photo late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Oyster Harvesting – 7/31/22

Oysters have been an important food source for our area’s residents since well before the arrival of non-Indigenous Americans. In this photograph from the early 20th century, harvesters are working at low tide to shovel oysters into a nearby scow. At the time this photograph was taken, harvesting was done nearly exclusively by Japanese immigrants. This process would later be replaced by less back-breaking methods. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Undated photo, around 1924, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Logging in transition – 7/24/22

This photograph shows the logging industry in transition. At right we see a team of oxen pulling timber out of the forest, probably on a “skid road” of cut logs. At left is a narrow gauge railroad, with a steam locomotive visible at the far end of the image, taking the logs to nearby mills. Soon after this time, oxen teams would be entirely replaced by steam operated winches and railroads. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

Photograph taken in late 1800s, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Bilger and Going – 7/17/22

William Bilger and Clint Going were partners in a hardware business that was established in 1891. They are pictured here in a publicity photo demonstrating their wares. They occupied the Olympia Hardware building at 109 Capitol Way North, still in existence in the National Olympia Downtown Historic District. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 

Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Jacob, Earl, and Mollie Bean – 7/10/22

Jacob Bean immigrated to Olympia from Russia in 1902, bringing with him his family’s Torah (first five books of the Hebrew Bible). He and his wife Mollie owned the business now known as Olympia Supply, still in existence in downtown Olympia. Jacob, Mollie, and their son Earl are pictured here around 1907. The Bean family’s involvement with the business spans three generations. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see olympiahistory.org. Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Independence Day Canoe Race – 7/3/22

In 1905, the most anticipated event of Olympia’s three-day Independence Day celebration was what was called the Indian canoe race, held in the Deschutes Estuary (now Capitol Lake). According to newspaper accounts, the eleven-man canoes, two of which are shown here, were named the Loon, Reliance Number 2, and Sea Otter. The Sea Otter, captained by Sam Wilson, won the exciting race by a half-length. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Thurston County Courthouse – 6/26/22

Thurston County has had several courthouses over its history. Pictured here is the second purpose-built courthouse, which was at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street (current site of the State Theater). It was built in 1902 and later razed. To the right of the building in this image is Columbia Hall, which had also earlier served as a courthouse in territorial days. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Unknown photographer, about 1905, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Henry Sanford Bush – 6/19/22

Henry Sanford Bush was five years old in 1845 when his parents, George and Isabella Bush, made their way to Washington Territory from Missouri. The mixed-race Bush family were among the earliest non-Indigenous American settlers north of the Columbia River. Henry never married and lived on the Bush farm in Tumwater until his death in 1913. This photograph was taken two years before his death. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, 1911, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Paving Downtown – 6/12/22

As bicycles and automobiles grew in popularity in the late 19th and early 20th century, the muddy streets of Olympia presented a significant navigation challenge. In 1908, the city agreed to pave its downtown streets. The project consumed the following spring and summer. Here we see workers paving Fourth Avenue. The buildings in the background are the Mottman Building and the Chambers Block at Fourth and Capitol, still in existence. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, 1909, Courtesy State Capital Museum Collection, Washington State Historical Society

Mary Olney Brown – 6/5/22

The therapeutic benefits of cold water treatments have been in the news and social media lately. One 19th century practitioner was Dr. Mary Olney Brown, pictured here. Dr. Brown was affectionately called “Coldwater Brown,” to distinguish her from another Olympia woman with the same last name, known as “Presbyterian Brown.” Dr. Brown is better remembered today for her ardent promotion of universal suffrage. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org. L. Wilson Clark photo, about 1880, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Clark Savidge – 5/29/22

Olympia native Clark Savidge is shown here as a young postal carrier, in about 1891. He later was a long-time Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands, and was a prominent member of Olympia society. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Frank Camp photo, about 1891, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

First Airfield – 5/22/22

The Carlyon Fill in 1910-1911 added 29 blocks to the central peninsula of Olympia, adding most of what we now know as the port area. Just after the fill was completed, in May 1911, aviator Fred Wiseman piloted his tiny aircraft to make several landings in the newly filled area. The little airplane is now on display at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, as it was the first airplane to carry mail. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Bettman Block – 5/15/22

In 1891, the Bettman family, early merchants, built the masonry structure shown here, at 312-324 Fourth Avenue. It featured stores on the ground floor, with a hotel above. The building was damaged in the 1949 Earthquake and the second story and parapet removed. The building still exists, much altered. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Jeffers returning from hunt – 5/1/22

Brothers Joseph and H.R. Jeffers founded a photography business in 1904, at the southeast corner of Washington Street and 5th Avenue. Their original studio is shown in this 1908 photo (it was replaced by the current Jeffers Building at the same location). Joe Jeffers and friends pose in front of the studio as they return from a hunting expedition. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Jeffers studio, 1908, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Morning Olympian – 5/8/22

The Morning Olympian newspaper operated at the southeast corner of State and Capitol for decades. Shown here in a 1910 photo is the press room, with foreman Bob Yantis and press operators. This building was succeeded in 1930 by the current Mission-style Olympia Press Building at the same site, now home to several downtown businesses. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Jeffers returning from hunt – 5/1/22

Brothers Joseph and H.R. Jeffers founded a photography business in 1904, at the southeast corner of Washington Street and 5th Avenue. Their original studio is shown in this 1908 photo (it was replaced by the current Jeffers Building at the same location). Joe Jeffers and friends pose in front of the studio as they return from a hunting expedition. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

Jeffers studio, 1908, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Kanaka Jack and Kiki – 4/24/22

“Kanaka Jack” and his wife Kiki lived on Johnson’s Point, where they maintained a woodyard and water tank for the benefit of visiting steamships. Kanaka Jack was a native of Hawaii. Before Washington became a U.S. Territory, he had worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is now Dupont. Kiki was Native American. The couple’s birth names are unknown. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, about 1900, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

James Tilton Pickett – 4/17/22

James Tilton Pickett was the son of General George Pickett, of Gettysburg infamy, and Sâkis Tiigang, a Haida woman. George Pickett was a close friend of Olympia surveyor James Tilton, a fellow Confederate sympathizer. James Tilton had care of his namesake when George left to join the Confederate army (link here for more information on James  Tilton). This photograph was taken at the time the young man was attending Union Academy in Olympia. He later attended art school and was a talented painter, but died young and in poverty. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross.

A.B. Woodard photograph, 1877, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Tumwater School – 4/10/22

Pictured here is the first Tumwater School and its students, along with principal Frank Clem and the school’s teachers. The school was located at 2nd Avenue between “D” and “C” Streets. The 45 stars on the large flag establish that the photo was taken between 1896 and 1907.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum (thank you to Don Trosper for additional information about the school). For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

unknown photographer, 1896-1907, Courtesy State Capital Museum Collection, Washington State Historical Society

Charles Burmeister – 4/3/22

Charles Burmeister was a well-known Olympia saloon keeper for decades. He first operated an establishment on Fourth Avenue (pictured in our July 26, 2020, Looking Back feature). He later moved to the corner of Third and Main, now State Avenue and Capitol Way. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

unknown photographer, about 1880, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

Peterfield Turpin 3/27/22

Peterfield Turpin was an early American settler in Olympia, Washington Territory, arriving in 1858. President Buchanan appointed him to be a Land Office surveyor, and he held several other public positions throughout his long life. His home was at the northwest corner of Legion and  Capitol (then called 6th and Main), kitty-corner from Sylvester Park.  Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society, olympiahistory.org.

A.B. Woodard photograph, around 1865, Courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

 

History of Olympia, Washington

[Captured from Wayback Machine from deleted City of Olympia website pages]

 

Native Roots

Located on the southernmost point of Puget Sound, the peninsula known as Olympia was Steh-Chass to the Coastal Salish who occupied the site for many generations before the American settlement was established.

The end of what we now know as Budd Inlet was a favorite shellfish gathering site for many Coastal Salish tribes, including the Nisqually, Duwamish and Squaxin. Potlatches, the Northwest tribal custom in which tribal leaders shared their wealth with neighboring tribal groups, were held both east and west of the Inlet near Olympia.

The falls of the Deschutes River at Tumwater called “Stehtsasamish” by the Nisqually Indians may have been occupied as a permanent village site for shellfish and salmon harvesting for 500 years or more before the coming of white settlers.

Historic photo. Frontier family in front of old growth tree

European Settlement

Peter Puget and a crew from the British Vancouver Expedition visited the site in 1792. The U.S. Exploring Expedition under Lt. Charles Wilkes came to the site in 1841 and named the waterfront bay Budd Inlet after Midshipman Thomas A. Budd, a member of that expedition.

More about Budd Inlet
A wide, navigable body of water extending north from Olympia about six miles to Boston Harbor. The inlet is shallow at its southern end and requires dredging of a channel for waterborne commerce. Budd Inlet was named by Lieutenant Commander Charles Wilkes for Thomas A. Budd acting master of the Peacock and a member of the U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1841. Budd was appointed a midshipman on February 2, 1829. He resigned his commission on April 29, 1853. He rejoined the United States Navy in 1861 and was killed in action March 22, 1862, during the Civil War. In recent years, the inlet has also been called Olympia Harbor.

 

The first American settlers were Levi Lathrop Smith and Edmund Sylvester who claimed the town site in 1846, naming it Smither or Smithster (and later Smithfield), after themselves. The town was officially platted in 1850 by Sylvester, at which point it was given the name Olympia, as suggested by Isaac N. Ebey, a local resident in recognition of the view of the majestic Olympic mountains seen to the north on a clear day. Sylvester, a Maine native, laid out a town in a New England style with a town square, tree lined streets, land for schools, a Masonic Hall, and capitol grounds.

The first American settlers were Levi Lathrop Smith and Edmund Sylvester who claimed the town site in 1846, naming it Smither or Smithster (and later Smithfield), after themselves. The town was officially platted in 1850 by Sylvester, at which point it was given the name Olympia, as suggested by Isaac N. Ebey, a local resident in recognition of the view of the majestic Olympic mountains seen to the north on a clear day. Sylvester, a Maine native, laid out a town in a New England style with a town square, tree lined streets, land for schools, a Masonic Hall, and capitol grounds.

More about Edmund Sylvester
Edmund Sylvester

Edmund Sylvester is known as the founder of Olympia. A native of Eastport, Maine, Sylvester came to Oregon in 1843 at the young age of twenty-two. He remained in the Astoria-Portland area for two years but, being a native New Englander, he felt that the salt water climate would restore his ailing health. Sylvester took up a claim south of Olympia and his partner, Levi Lathrop Smith, whom he had met in Oregon, settled in what is now known as Olympia.

After Smith’s death in 1848, Sylvester, although owner of the area, did not lay out a town until his return from an ill- fated trip to the California gold fields in 1850.

Sylvester was a far-sighted man visualizing his settlement as a capital and center of timber trade although it did not reach its full potential in his lifetime. Sylvester erected the showplace of early Olympia along Capitol Way between Seventh and Eighth Streets facing the water. The home was the largest in Olympia and Sylvester’s strong-minded wife Clara hosted the first meeting of the Woman’s Club there in 1883 and housed a number of visiting suffragettes during the fight of Washington women for the right to vote. The house remained a landmark for many years but was moved in 1961 and later burned.

 

Drawn to the small peninsula as the first access to Puget Sound from the Columbia River on the Cowlitz Trail, American settlers numbered 996 in the area by 1853. Olympia welcomed the first Custom House on Puget Sound in 1851, and by 1852 was the county seat for the newly organized Thurston County.

More about Thurston County
Thurston County covers 719 square miles at the head of Budd Inlet located at the southern tip of Puget Sound.At the Cowlitz convention in 1851, delegates from the Oregon Territory north of the Columbia River — besides petitioning for a new territory — also asked for a new county to be called “Simmons” in the area then known as Lewis County. The Oregon Territorial Legislature acted on the matter by amended the bill at the request of Michael T. Simmons to memorialize Samuel R. Thurston, Oregon’s first territorial delegate to Congress. Thurston County was created on January 12, 1852. Oregon then encompasses what is now Washington. Thurston was a native of Maine, born in 1816. He attended Maine Weslyan Seminary, Dartmouth and in 1854, graduated from Bowdoin College. He later read law and was admitted to the Maine bar. After he settled for a time in Iowa, Thurston arrived in Oregon in 1847 and began his political life. With the creation of Oregon Territory in 1849, Thurston was elected its first delegate to Congress. He was an ambitious delegate pushing through the Donation Land Claim Law, working to establish mail routes and post offices, lighthouses and procuring a pension for 1812 War veterans, many of whom settled in the territory. He was an eloquent speaker and was tireless in his promotion of Oregon Territory. On his voyage home in 1851 across the Isthmus of Panama, Thurston — just 35 years old — contracted a fever. He died on the steamer California near Acapulco and was buried there. He was later reinterred in Salem, Oregon.

 

The boundaries of the new county encompassed much of what is now Western Washington, reaching from Willapa Bay northward to the Canadian border and from the Pacific Ocean to the summit of the Cascades.

In late 1852, Jefferson, Pierce, and King counties were carved out of Thurston County, and the final boundaries were set in 1877.

In the early 1850’s, as the settler population grew, ancillary businesses developed; stores, brickyards, boast builders, dry docks, hotels and services for summer visitors. Since there were only trails in this land, heavily forested to the water’s edge, the population was supported by the steamboats collectively called the Mosquito Fleet that used the Sound as a watery freeway to move mail, products and passengers.

In 1854, Daniel Bigelow – an attorney – and his wife Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow built their home in Olympia overlooking Budd Inlet (900 Glass Street, Olympia). Today it is a Museum, and it remains as one of the oldest frame buildings in the State of Washington. Visit the Bigelow House Museum website .

In the mid-1850’s, Olympia developed around the waterfront and quickly became a hub of maritime commerce. Federal officers and those seeking the opportunities of the capital flocked to the city which, at one time, boasted the largest population of any town on Puget Sound.

In the early 1850’s, as the settler population grew, ancillary businesses developed; stores, brickyards, boast builders, dry docks, hotels and services for summer visitors. Since there were only trails in this land, heavily forested to the water’s edge, the population was supported by the steamboats collectively called the Mosquito Fleet that used the Sound as a watery freeway to move mail, products and passengers.

In the mid-1850’s, Olympia developed around the waterfront and quickly became a hub of maritime commerce. Federal officers and those seeking the opportunities of the capital flocked to the city which, at one time, boasted the largest population of any town on Puget Sound.

More about Puget Sound
Early Olympia docks overlooking Puget Sound The name currently given to the whole of the inland sea of Western Washington, originally named by Captain George Vancouver of the Royal Navy in honor of Lieutenant Peter Puget. Captain Vancouver sent Lieutenant Puget and a crew to survey the lower part of the sound in May 1792. Puget and his crew spent several days visiting nearly every cove and island in the region. To honor this work, Vancouver named the part of the sound south of the Tacoma Narrows for Puget. Vancouver named the northern part of the sound Admiralty Inlet.

 

Soon after the first Americans settled Olympia in the mid-1840s, Chinese immigrants arrived in the city. Olympia’s first Chinatown was on 4th Avenue between Columbia and Main (Capitol Way) where several buildings housed a hand laundry, stores and lodging for residents.

More about Olympia's Chinatown
Locke Family

Early on, Olympia emerged as a “Locke Town.” Olympia’s Chinese residents were predominantly from the Lok family villages near the town of Seulbo in Toisan County of Guangdong Province in southern China. Most of these sojourners were male and they relied on family surname associations to provide lodging, meals and social life.

Olympia’s earliest China town was on 4th Avenue between Columbia and Main (Capitol Way) where several buildings housed a hand laundry, stores and lodging for residents.

Although there is no Chinatown in Olympia today, many descendants of the original Chinese pioneers still make their homes in the region. In 1996, Gary Locke, grandson of Suey Gum Locke, who came to Olympia in 1890 as a teenager and worked as a servant, was elected Governor of the State of Washington. He was the first Chinese American elected Governor in the United States. In 2007, Doug Mah was the first person of Chinese-American descent to be elected as Olympia’s Mayor.

 

Olympia’s first fire fighting unit, Barnes’ Hook and Ladder Brigade, was organized in the early 1850’s. Columbia Number 1, the first fire engine company to be established in Washington Territory, was formed in Olympia in 1865.

Olympia residents elected the town’s first Mayor in 1873 – William Winlock Miller. Before then, a Town President was selected annually from among the members of the Town Board.

In 1890, one year after statehood, Olympia City Marshal George Savidge was the first in City history to be officially referred to as Chief of Police. Prior to 1890, Olympia has a Town Marshall. In the years from 1889-1892, the Olympia Police Department was comprised of the chief, a captain and six patrolmen.

State of Washington Legislative Building under construction 1925

Capital of Washington State

When Washington Territory was formed in 1853, Olympia was named the provisional territorial capital by Isaac Stevens, Washington’s first territorial governor. In 1855, the designation was confirmed by the territorial legislature. Olympia’s incorporation as a Town occurred on January 28, 1859.

In 1856, the territorial legislature appointed a board of commissioners to oversee construction of a new bridge connecting downtown Olympia with the westside. Lack of funds held up the project until 1868 when Thurston County loaned the City of Olympia $1,500. The first westside bridge was built the following year.

An especially difficult blow fell when Olympia was bypassed by mainline railroads in the 1870s. City residents had to build their own line to connect with the Northern Pacific mainline at Tenino – 15 miles to the south.

Olympia’s title of capital was often contested during the early years, and Olympia townspeople fought challenges by Vancouver, Steilacoom, Seattle, Port Townsend and Tacoma for location of the seat of territorial and, later, state government.

In early 1889, Olympia resident and jeweler Charles Talcott was commissioned to create a State seal in time for the convening of the first State legislature in November of the same year. The simple round design with a copy of the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington in the center and the words “The Seal of the State of Washington, 1889” is still the official seal of Washington State.

More about the State Seal
A short time before Washington became a state in 1889, a committee brought an elaborate design for a state seal to Olympia jeweller Charles Talcott and asked him to complete it in time for the meeting of the first Legislature in November of that year. The design submitted by the committee was very complicated sketch, depicting the port of Tacoma, vast wheat fields, grazing sheep and Mount Rainier. Talcott argued that the design was too complicated and would be quickly outmoded by the growth of the state. Something simple, he suggested, would be timeless. He picked up an ink bottle and drew a circle around its base. Next he placed a silver dollar in the circle and drew an inner circle. Between these circles he lettered the words, “The Seal of the State of Washington, 1889”. In the center he pasted a postage stamp bearing a picture of George Washington. The design was quickly accepted by the Legislature. But making the die from the picture of George Washington on a postage stamp was no easy task.. Under magnification the picture was poorly detailed and would have been unsatisfactory when enlarged. George Talcott was given the job of finding a suitable picture and cutting the die. After reviewing a number of pictures, he finally found what he was looking for — a color drawing of George Washington on a packing box of “Dr. D. Jaynes Cure for Coughs & Colds”! Grant Talcott did the lettering and George cut the die. Over the years, more than two dozen variations of the Talcott design were used. In 1967, Seattle graphic designer Richard Nelms was commissioned to create a new insignia. He selected a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, which was accepted and made the official State Seal by the Legislature. By law, the Secretary of State is the custodian of the Great Seal, which is attached to official documents and certificates issued by the state. The original die and press for the State Seal — now more than 100 years old — is still used by the Secretary of State to impress the seal on official state documents.

 

Washington was given statehood designation on November 11, 1889, as the forty-second (42nd) state to enter the Union.

More about Washington State
On November 11, 1889, Washington was admitted to statehood as the 42nd state of the Union by the United States Congress, with the same boundaries as at present. Washington extends from the Pacific Ocean on the west to Idaho on the east, and from Oregon on the south to the Canadian Province of British Columbia on the north. Prior to statehood, Washington was first part of Oregon Territory, and later became Washington Territory on March 2, 1853. The name Columbia was favored by residents of the Territory and was suggested in Congress by Senator Stephen A. Douglas. However, the name Washington was chosen instead to honor George Washington, the first president.

 

When Washington became a state in 1889 with Olympia as the capital, the city grew and prospered adding amenities such as an opera house, city water system, street car line, street lamps, and a new hotel to accommodate visiting legislators. State government has been housed in a series of buildings in Olympia, including the former county courthouse in downtown.

Aerial view of Olympia 1929

Twentieth Century Growth

Changes were made to the topography of the city in 1911-12, when almost 22 blocks were added to the downtown area in a gigantic dredging and filling effort to create a deep water harbor and fill the sloughs to the north and east of the city.

In 1919, the City awarded a contract to Union Bridge Company to build a more reliable bridge concrete bridge connecting downtown Olympia with the westside. The amount of the contract was $132,750.

With increased growth in state government and the economic stimulus of World War I, the city began to grow in population and development. Olympia became a center of lumber processing and the city boasted as new smokestacks went up on the waterfront. Downtown buildings were constructed and residential areas south and west of the city developed. By the time of the completion of the grand domed legislative building in 1927, the city had become a fitting setting for such an imposing structure.

An earthquake in 1949 damaged or destroyed many historic downtown buildings, which were quickly rebuilt. Today, downtown Olympia is a charming mix of historic, mid-century, and contemporary architecture.

State government grew rapidly in Olympia after World War II, but many state offices were moving to other parts of the State. A Washington State Supreme Court decision in 1954 mandated that Olympia was the seat of government and that state office headquarters must locate here.

The 1950’s ushered in construction of a new freeway through Olympia and her neighboring communities of Tumwater and Lacey. Interstate 5, which runs from the southern tip of California to the Washington State/Canadian border, is a vital transportation link for Olympia and the Puget Sound region.

In the 1960’s the time of smokestacks and plywood mills drew mostly to an end along Olympia’s waterfront when the Simpson, Georgia Pacific, and St. Regis mills closed, victims of changing markets.

Long time residents still mention the “Columbus Day” storm which hit the northwest on October 12, 1962, with seventy-eight mile per hour winds. Two people were killed in the Olympia area and extensive damage was caused to buildings and trees.

A new era began at the close of the 1960’s when The Evergreen State College was authorized by the state legislature on Cooper Point road at the site of historic Athens University, just west of the Olympia City limits. The institution has changed and enlivened the Capital City’s cultural and social climate.

Toward the end of the 20th century, Olympia experienced rapid growth as individuals and families continued to relocate to the Pacific Northwest. In 1994, the Olympia City Council adopted the City’s first Comprehensive Plan produced under the new Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA). The Forward of the 1994 Plan stated that it “reflects the realities faced by Washington’s fast growing counties and cities in attempting to find the balance between planning responsibly for our future population while preserving the qualities our residents so appreciate.”

Credits: 

History of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts

[Captured from Wayback machine that archived deleted City of Olympia pages]

By Ed Echtle

Introduction

WCPA 2014For nearly 90 years, the theater on South Washington Street in Olympia has served as a hub for entertainment, public meetings and social events. Originally built as the Liberty Theater in 1924, it reopened in 1985 after an extensive renovation as the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. Throughout its history, the theater’s programming reflected changing fashions in entertainments as well as the changing fortunes of Olympia’s downtown.

Although it begun as a for-profit venture, the theater’s evolution into an anchor for Olympia’s downtown and as a key cultural space for the larger community parallels the reemergence of Olympia’s historic town center as the South Sound’s principal social space. As the Washington Center for the Performing Arts continues its mission, understanding how the vision for its creation emerged from a combination of the community’s needs and the theater’s past uses is key to understanding its significance in Olympia’s community history.


Grand Theaters for Olympia

The Liberty TheaterBy the end of WWI, movies were a booming industry in the US. In the early 1920s, Olympia had two smaller movie houses, the Rex and the Ray. The Olympia Opera House, built in 1890 on East Fourth Ave. by newspaper pioneer John Miller Murphy, was becoming a relic of the past as its earlier grandeur faded with use and time.  As 1920s audiences nationwide increasingly expected movie-going to be an elegant experience, competing entrepreneurs planned two new larger, more refined theaters to provide Olympia’s moviegoers with more luxurious facilities.

By 1924, a race was on between construction crews to see which of the two new theaters would open first.  The Zabel Family, owners of the Rex and the Ray, were behind the Capitol Theater project on 5th Avenue, designed by prolific local architect Joseph Wohleb. Nearby, the Reed-Ingham Investment Co. developed the Liberty Theater as part of a larger project that included an adjoining indoor garage to help accommodate Olympia’s increasing numbers of automobiles. Situated across Washington Street from the Hotel Olympian and less than a block from what was then the State Capitol, the Liberty Theater and Garage was poised to take advantage of the influx of people and cars that arrived for legislative sessions.

 


Family Business

The site of the new Liberty Theater was formerly the location of the Thomas Milburne Reed family home. Reed arrived in 1857 as a Wells Fargo agent, just a few years after Olympia’s founding. By the 1860s he was elected to the Washington Territorial Legislature where he served as speaker of the house in 1862-63. He later served in a number of appointed positions in Washington and Idaho Territories and won election to the legislature again in 1878-79, serving as president of the Council (Senate). Reed was also an astute businessman and developed the Reed business block adjoining his home in 1891 which housed Olympia’s post office until 1914.

By the time Reed died in 1905 his son, Mark Reed, was manager of the Simpson Timber Co. in Shelton, Washington and was married to Irene Simpson, daughter of company founder Sol G Simpson. Mark Reed also later served in the Washington State legislature during the 1910s. As his business interests expanded, he formed the Reed-Ingham investment Co in partnership with Dr. George W Ingham of Olympia. Ingham was married to Emma Reed, Mark’s sister, and was an avid local investor with interests in the South Sound oyster industry and the Olympia Knitting Mills. Among their many projects, they decided to redevelop the site of the old Reed family home on South Washington Street, adjacent to the Reed Block and increasingly surrounded by Olympia’s expanding business district.

 


Accessible Elegance

The Reed-Ingham investment Co retained Mark Purvis of Seattle as architect for the new facility. Purvis was an accomplished theater designer with decades of experience including Murphy’s 1890 Opera House. Among Purvis’ other projects were the Columbia and the Mack Theaters in Longview and Port Angeles Washington. Reed-Ingham also hired the Seattle firm of Jensen and Von Herberg to build and operate the new facility. Jensen and Von Herberg were renowned in the field of theater building, having managed construction of Liberty theaters in Portland Oregon and Seattle, as well as the Neptune, also in Seattle.

By August 1924 it was apparent the Liberty Theater would open first, beating the Capitol by nearly two months. A two-page feature in the Morning Olympian newspaper lauded the new facility’s fine interior finish and included ads placed by many of the subcontractors and suppliers congratulating the Liberty’s management and touting their own involvement in the construction of the theater.

The well-appointed theater drew lavish praise in the local press. Primary colors of the Liberty’s interior design theme were blue and bronze. Upholstered seats, a new feature in Olympia’s movie houses, offered new levels of comfort to patrons. The Liberty also installed “thick velvet carpet [that] will yield to the tread like beds of moss.” Like its counterparts in larger cities, the Liberty also employed uniformed ushers to escort patrons to their seats.

The grand opening on Saturday August 30, 1924 featured “The Last Hour” a silent melodrama, as well as five vaudeville acts and “two concerts given by premier organist Esther Stayner, from Chicago and Spokane.” The affair brought out large crowds and the opening was standing room only.

The Liberty’s managers intended Stayner’s performance to showcase their impressive Wurlitzer organ. Jensen and Von Herberg made such organs integral parts of their theater designs. The theater’s organ was equipped with two keyboards and nine “ranks” or sets of pipes. Installed by Sandy Balcom of Seattle, a large loft above the stage housed the pipes. The organist also controlled a variety of percussion instruments through the keyboard, including a glockenspiel, snare and bass drums and chimes. The organ also produced sound effects including horse-hoof beats and bird twitters to enhance the silent movie experience. Among the early performers on the Liberty’s Wurlitzer was Oliver Wallace who played for the 1924 New Year’s Eve program. Wallace went on to score several Disney studio features including Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland. Together with collaborator Frank Churchill, Wallace won an Oscar in 1941 for his work on Dumbo.

Shortly after its opening, the Moore Amusement Co of Seattle assumed management of the Liberty Theater as part of a chain of Liberty Theaters in Oregon and Washington. Afterward, the Liberty settled into a routine cycle of programs, mainly movies and vaudeville acts. However, its cache as a well-appointed venue attracted other uses as well. After Roland Hartley was elected Governor, state building engineers raised concerns that the old capitol building on Legion Way and Washington Street was structurally incapable of supporting the crowds expected for the inauguration. Event planners quickly booked the nearby Liberty Theater, where Hartley took the oath of office in January 1925, beginning the theater’s decades-long career as a site for public events.

As the movie industry grew, the Fox Theater Chain acquired the Moore Amusement Co. and later merged with West Coast Theaters becoming Fox West Coast in 1929. That year, the Liberty featured On With The Show, the first ever feature-length color film with sound.

 


The Great Depression and Wartime

Theater ad replicaWhile feature films were the Liberty’s main offering, from early on, weekend matinees for children were a staple at the theater. Former Olympia Mayor Bill Jacobs recalled attending the Liberty as a child, to catch the weekly cartoon lineup billed as “Popeye Theater.” While vaudeville performances were becoming less fashionable, live performances in the theater continued in diverse forms.

One of the more unusual were the midnight “Spook Frolics” presented by performers such as “Francisco” who travelled the west coast in the 1930s and ‘40s. Francisco and similar acts did not claim to be spiritualists but managed to scare audiences with eerie sounds and visual effects, including floating tables, spirit writing, disembodied voices and invoking rapping noises throughout the theater.

Despite its role as a respite from daily life, the realities of the world intruded on moviegoers the afternoon of December 7, 1941. In later years reporter Gus Angelos recalled he and his sister, aged 10 and 11 at the time, were startled when their movie abruptly cut off and the house lights came on. Theater manager Harold Murphy took the stage and announced that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor and that all military personnel were to report to their posts immediately. “We didn’t stay for the rest of the show. We ran all the way home, and home was on the eastside of town, several miles away.”

During the war theater attendees kept abreast of wartime events through newsreels preceding feature films. In addition, the USO broadcast live musical performances from the Liberty over the radio, to entertain troops stationed nearby at Fort Lewis.

 


A New Era

As Olympia entered the postwar years, Olympia’s theater owners prepared for increased numbers of moviegoers as servicemen and women returned to civilian life. Nearby, on Fourth Avenue, a third large downtown theater, The State, opened its doors in 1949. The State sported a modern neon marquee including a large backlit reader board. The Capitol Theater also added a similar lighted marquee trimmed in neon, to advertise its offerings and present a more modern façade.

The Liberty needed refreshing to compete as well. After Wes “Mac” McDonald leased the Liberty in 1948, he invested $75,000 in upgrading the theater. McDonald was an experienced manager and owned another small movie house in Olympia, the Avalon, built in 1928. At the Liberty, workers installed updated heating and ventilation systems while the house received new burgundy damask wall coverings, flower-patterned carpet and the first “self-raising” seats installed in Washington State. McDonald also retained artist Robert Berg who added murals to the stairwells depicting scenes of tragedy and comedy described by the press as “Indo-Chinese” in style. Among the areas most improved in the upgrade was the women’s lounge including walls newly upholstered in chartreuse leatherette. The theater also took on a new name, the Olympic, as well as a new backlit marquee with a large revolving “O” in the style of the Olympia Beer brand logo.

The Olympic also continued hosting special events, as when the Washington Federation of Labor held its 54th annual convention there in 1956. United Churches of Olympia held Sunday services at the Olympic after the 1949 earthquake severely damaged their nearby church, until they dedicated a new church in 1951. Producers of the 1961 film “Ring of Fire” booked both the Olympic and the Capitol Theaters to host concurrent premier showings. Shot in Oregon and Washington, the film’s climax featured the wreck of a steam locomotive in the collapse of a high trestle across the Wynoochee River. At the conclusion of the film the cast including David Janssen, Joyce Taylor and Frank Gorshin appeared on the Olympic’s stage to greet the audience.

Despite improvements to the Olympic, its future was increasingly uncertain. American society was in transition as the automobile became central to daily life and new suburban developments took families farther from downtown. In addition, the advent of television made staying home a more appealing option for family entertainment.

New drive-in theaters in the area offered another alternative to the downtown theaters: the Sunset opened in Tumwater in 1949 and Lacey Drive-In in 1953. Drive-ins not only offered convenience, they promoted themselves as a casual, more private alternative to traditional theater going, inviting young working families to “come as you are.” That same privacy especially appealed to young adults with access to cars, who quickly adopted drive-ins as the preferred destination for romantic dates.

Since the coming of sound film, the aging Wurlitzer organ in the Olympic fell into disuse and was in need of repair and maintenance. In 1962 the Olympic theater management contacted Andy Crow to assess the instrument’s needs. Crow, an accomplished organist in the region, regularly performed at the Music Box, Roxy and Temple Theatres in Tacoma, and the Orpheum and Paramount in Seattle. Crow began maintaining the organ with the help of Les Lehne. In 1971 Andy Crow and business partner Marshall Woodbridge purchased the Olympic for their own, to protect the historic structure and the venerable organ.

 


Downtown Struggles

Olympia theaterBy the 1950s diffusion of state agencies to other cities in Washington created operational difficulties and legislators determined to reconsolidate government in the Olympia area. Washington State acquired property across Capitol Way from the legislative building and began construction of new office space on the site. In the process, the state demolished William Winlock Miller High School (known locally as Olympia High School) including its large 1000+ seat auditorium. Since its construction in 1919, the Olympia High auditorium served as the main large-capacity venue for local arts organizations and its loss left the Olympia area with no similar sized space for local productions.

While the state capitol campus was growing, the opening of the Interstate 5 freeway bypass in 1958 began a period of economic decline for Olympia’s downtown. Exacerbating the loss of drive-through tourist revenue was the closing of industries and the departure of larger “anchor stores” to new suburban shopping centers. Meanwhile, movie going became less formal and patrons dressed more casually than they had in the past. In response, movie houses no longer vied with one another to maintain their former grandeur and often deferred expensive maintenance to cut costs.

By the 1970s, new movie house design was more utilitarian, foregoing decorative refinements typical of earlier theaters. Near Lacey, a six-screen multiplex opened in 1979, close to the freeway. In 1980 the recently completed Capitol Mall on Olympia’s west side added another four-screen multiplex. The combination of easy access, abundant parking and more modern sound and projection equipment further hastened the decline of Olympia’s aging downtown movie houses, including the Olympic. Coupled with the advent of home video movie rentals, the classic movie palaces struggled to stay viable.

Owners of the State theater, the newest of the downtown venues, attempted to keep it profitable by partitioning its large auditorium into three screens and showing second-run movies at reduced prices. The Olympic and Capitol Theaters increasingly relied on special events including live performances and classic movie revivals to generate income.

 

The Movement for a Performing Arts Center

Since the loss of the Olympia High School Auditorium, local arts organizations vied for venue space. While the downtown theaters were capable of accommodating large crowds, their need to generate revenue for their owners often made their use expensive for local arts organizations with tight budgets. However, as competition from suburban movie venues and decreasing attendance caused downtown theaters to struggle for business, they became more affordable and local groups began using them more frequently.

In 1966 local arts advocates including the Olympia Fine Arts Guild (founded in 1942), along with Washington First Lady Nancy Evans, launched the Governor’s Festival of the Arts in Olympia, to bring world class artists and performers to the Capitol City and the Olympic theater served as a principle venue. Performers slated for the six-month event included the Seattle Repertory Players, the Seattle Symphony, and an appearance by actress and singer Pearl Bailey. Afterward the Governor’s Festival of the Arts became an annual event for several years, regularly utilizing the Olympic.

By 1968 local arts supporters founded a new group, Patrons of South Sound Cultural Activities (POSSCA) to take on fundraising for community arts events. As the need for a multi-purpose arts venue grew, local arts advocates also founded The Capital Area Association for the Performing Arts (CAAPA) in 1973. The driving force behind CAAPA was Vern Eke, a 1952 graduate of Olympia High School. Eke went on to earn a doctorate in performing arts at UCLA where he became an instructor. A talented musician, performer and production manager, he returned to the Olympia area in the early 1970s where he managed local productions in smaller venues including the Saint Martin College’s Abbey Theater and the Jade Room in the old Hotel Olympian.

Efforts for a new dedicated performing arts center gradually gained momentum. In response, the City of Olympia agreed to dedicate several acres of surplus land on the Westside for the project in 1976; formerly the city’s solid waste landfill. The site, located near the Black Lake Boulevard entrance to Highway 101, followed the commercial trend of outmigration from downtown. Despite the free land, many supporters found this site remote and preferred a downtown location, presaging the movement for revitalization of Olympia’s downtown.

Meanwhile, CAAPA adopted the name, “Washington Center for the Performing Arts” (WCPA) for the project to underscore their vision of the new facility as a regional venue and garner support from beyond Olympia. While CAAPA’s initial attempt to procure state support in 1977 fell short, in 1979 an endorsement from former Washington first family Dan and Nancy Evans helped persuade the legislature to approve a $1.5 million matching grant for the WCPA project.

That same year, the local architects serving as part of the Regional and Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) weighed in on the project. Founded in 1967 by the American Institute of Architects to offer growth management guidance to cities across America, R/UDAT authored its first assessment of Olympia’s increasingly vacant downtown core in 1979. In addition to their advocacy for a farmers market, new community center and the redevelopment of Percival Landing as a public space, R/UDAT urged the city to support the WCPA project as an anchor attraction for downtown.

Increasing numbers of stakeholders led the City of Olympia to create the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee (CAAC) in 1980 to steer the project. The city also hired Lynn Schrader as coordinator of CAAC which included representatives from POSSCA, CAAPA, R/UDAT and other local arts organizations. CAAC members embraced R/UDATs recommendation for a downtown site and abandoned plans for the Black Lake Boulevard location.

After an unsuccessful attempt by the city to acquire property on State Avenue, the committee turned its efforts toward repurposing an existing theater. The Olympic theater and garage, since purchased from Crow and Woodbridge by the Moyer Theater chain of Portland, seemed to offer the best combination of location and space. However, not everyone was convinced the aging Olympic could meet their needs, including former board member Lynn Brunton who later recalled, “I can remember the first time I walked through this theater and the garage, I thought, no way, this is not going to work!” In 1981 the committee hired architect Richard McCann to study the feasibility of repurposing the site. McCann, whose other projects included refits of the Orpheum in San Francisco, Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theater and the Pantages in Tacoma, endorsed the Olympic refit as the best course of action.

CAAC members also determined that operations at the new performing arts center should follow the model used by other cities and turn management over to an independent non-profit. The city made the new organization official in September of 1982, registering “Washington Center for the Performing Arts” with the Secretary of State and appointed a 9 member board.

From the outset the board was made up of people from diverse career backgrounds. Local attorney Judy Henderson served on the original board and later recalled there was a steep learning curve for the newly appointed members: “We did not know performing arts, so we went on a road trip. We went to Eugene Oregon, we went to Seattle, we went to Yakima, we studied performing arts centers and learned the business of keeping it in the black instead of the red!

By 1982 events were winding down in the Olympic. One of the last performers to take the stage was American folk singer and social justice activist Odetta, serving as an artist in residence at The Evergreen State College in 1981-82. By August the city appropriated funds to purchase the Olympic theater from the Moyers chain and passed an ordinance to sell $1.5 million in bonds to match the state’s grant. On October 12 the Olympic’s final feature showing, Das Boot, played to a small audience, most attending in honor of the theater’s closing after nearly 60 years of service.

Immediately after the movie, WCPA supporters gathered in the theater and toasted the milestone with champagne in paper cups. Organist Andy Crow entertained on the venerable Wurlitzer with a selection of standards including “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Sentimental Journey” and “Tumblin’ Tumbleweed.” In the following weeks Crow also oversaw the removal of the organ’s components to storage, to await reinstallation in the new theater.

 


Building

While demolition of the original theater interior got underway, the WCPA board began fundraising in earnest. In addition, the CAAC and the WCPA board held numerous meetings with local arts groups to determine their needs and develop an operations plan that would facilitate their use of the new theater. Meanwhile the design was taking shape. McCann enlisted acoustic experts Professor Yoichi Ando of Japan and his protégé Dennis Noson of Seattle to consult on the interior design to maximize its acoustic capabilities. WCPA was Ando’s first project in the US. He and Noson proposed an innovative trapezoidal space with hard surfaces to reflect and enhance sound from the stage. 

The facility planners were also concerned with accommodating diverse uses. McCann designed the main stage to be expandable by enabling the orchestra pit to rise to stage level. The design also included a second, smaller rehearsal/conference space connected to the main stage via a shared storage area to facilitate transfer of sets and other materials between stages. This smaller space later evolved into a public performing space, known as the “Black Box Theater.”

As excitement over the project increased among arts supporters, local advocates for historic preservation in Olympia raised concerns over the extent of alterations to the original Liberty theater facade. However, the recently formed Olympia Heritage Commission’s apprehensions were trumped by the fact that the city and architects already made most of the key design decisions and any new changes would result in delays and increased cost. In the final design, the retention of one exterior wall and several architectural elements were intended to allude to the original theater and garage, most recognizably the Liberty’s ornate oval vent ports, which became the symbol for the WCPA. In addition, plans called for the reinstallation of a WWI-era street clock donated by the Kluh Family outside WCPA’s entrance. Previously the historic clock stood for decades outside Kluh jewelers in downtown Olympia.

At the conclusion of the demolition phase, city leaders and WCPA supporters gathered in the gutted building in June 1984 for the formal groundbreaking ceremony. By then the WCPA board’s fundraising efforts passed $1.2 million, well on the way to meeting goals. The city also determined that proceeds from the sale of the surplus land in west Olympia originally proposed as the site of the WCPA be used to create an endowment fund for the new organization.

As construction continued into 1985, Robert Stewart replaced Lynn Schrader as director when Schrader departed to manage Pacific Northwest Ballet. Efforts to complete the facility ahead of its opening date accelerated as workers continued installing new fixtures up through opening day. Longtime volunteer Nancy Walsh later recalled she became involved with WCPA after she saw how much work there was yet to be done just days from opening: “I was horrified when I went inside! There was no carpet, the seats were in the lobby, and I thought, ‘I wonder if they need some help.’ So I went home and I called the number and they said, ‘sure, come on down!’”

Premiere week programs at WCPA commenced on September 28 and lasted through October 7, 1985. Programs included a diverse lineup of performers and offerings including the Olympia Symphony and Masterworks Choral Ensemble, A Salute to Olympia Schools featuring local youth musicians and performers, Olympia Chorale, Ballet Northwest, the Seattle Symphony, and the Modern Jazz Society. National acts included comedian David Brenner and the US Marine Band. Headlining the week was a premier gala and solo appearance by entertainer Ben Vereen on October 1st.

 


Down to Business

WCPA prior to exterior renovationAfter the festivities of premier week, WCPA settled into the day-to-day business of providing the local performing arts venue its supporters envisioned. While nationally famous performers remained a regular part of programming, more local organizations, including Olympia Junior Programs (OJP,) began utilizing WCPA as well. Founded in 1940, OJP introduces South Sound youth to live theater through daytime matinees in partnership with school districts and was among the number of arts organizations displaced by the loss of the Olympia High School auditorium. Harlequin Productions, founded in 1990 by Linda and Scot Whitney, called the Black Box Theater home until they acquired the nearby State theater as their permanent home in 1997.

While theater and music entertainment dominated WCPA’s programming schedule, it also hosted lectures and public meetings such as the April 1990 appearance of renowned primatologist Jane Goodall who updated the audience on her work since she achieved wide recognition through televised National Geographic documentaries. WCPA also served as a venue for major public policy forums as well. In 1989 the US Department of Fish and Wildlife scheduled a public meeting to stem the controversy over the listing of the spotted owl as an endangered species. Environmentalists and supporters of unrestricted old growth logging squared off in the WCPA to discuss the issue.

In the following years locals nostalgic for the original theater turned out to ensure historical continuity between the WCPA and its predecessor theater. In 1995 WCPA finally gathered enough funds for Andy Crow and friend Les Lehne to reinstall the theater’s historic Wurlitzer, updated with a three-keyboard console connected to 23 ranks of pipes, including many components from the 1924 original. With the organ installed, WCPA paid homage to its past by offering silent movie revivals in the late 1990s. Appreciative audiences got a taste of the silent-film era through showings of Charlie Chaplin movies including “Easy Street,” “The Tramp” and “Those Love Pangs” as well as a presentation  of DW Griffith’s “Way Down East,” and Douglas Fairbanks in “The Mark of Zorro,” accompanied by Crow on the theater’s renovated Wurlitzer.

In 2011 Staff, volunteers and supporters celebrated 25 Years of successful performances at the WCPA with a program lineup that included the return of the theater’s inaugural headliner, Ben Vereen. Longtime associates of WCPA also took the opportunity to share their favorite moments in the theater since its opening. Board member Bob Haase recounted Tony Bennett’s performance in 2002 when Bennett asked for the amplification to be switched off so he could demonstrate the exceptional acoustics of the space. Former WCPA director Tom Iovanne recalled Gregory Hines’ appearance shortly before Hines’ death in 2003. Hines’ illness was unknown to the audience at the time but he delivered a memorable performance which included inviting audience members who brought their tap shoes to join him on stage for a number.

 


New Again

Performers at the WCPA dedication 2014In recent years the WCPA facility itself showed increasingly troublesome signs of age. By 2008 its artificial stucco exterior reached the end of its service life and required replacement. Since that time the City of Olympia undertook an extensive renovation of the facility including a new brick and stone exterior. The renovation began in April 2013 with workers replacing the roof, exterior, and the original mechanical systems.

As the WCPA performing arts enters its next phase, it continues to provide the region with a world-class venue for local and nationally-known performers as well as space for community events, lectures and discussions. As of 2013, the number of community arts groups that share use of WCPA has grown to twenty-seven. A new director, Jill Barnes, took on guiding WCPA in spring, bringing her desire to facilitate even more public participation through increased interaction between visiting artists and the community.

Since the opening of the Liberty in 1924, it has been a place where Olympia residents and their friends and neighbors from around the region immersed themselves in an extraordinary diversity of arts and entertainment experiences. The community spirit that led to the creation of the WCPA still inspires the current staff, volunteers and supporters to continue that legacy through ongoing cultivation of programs that transcend the stage, firmly rooted in the community partnerships that made WCPA possible. It’s renewal helps insure it will continue serving as an important cultural anchor for Olympia’s downtown and the surrounding community for generations to come.


Sources

 

History of Olympia Fire Department

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The Beginning

Historic Olympia Fire Department

Olympia’s first fire fighting unit, Barnes’ Hook and Ladder Brigade, was organized in the early 1850’s. Columbia Number 1, the first fire engine company to be established in Washington Territory, was formed in Olympia in 1865. Olympia’s first salaried fireman was hired in November 1889. By 1930, the Fire Department employed nine fire fighters and an electrician.

Growing in Numbers

In 1959, the Olympia Fire Department initiated a three-platoon system to meet the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act and added seven firefighters, for a total of 27. In 1968, 12 more firefighters were hired to staff the Eastside and Westside substations, which opened due to population growth and annexations, bringing the total number of firefighters to 39. In 1975, the Westside Station was closed to reassign personnel to a newly created Fire Prevention Bureau, boost staffing at the Eastside Station, and establish a Fire Mechanic’s position. The Department established the Fire Prevention Bureau to fulfill its legal obligations under the Uniform Fire Code as part of the Washington State Building Code and Standards Act. In 1978 the Westside Station was re-opened with existing staffing.

In 1987, six firefighters were hired to staff an aid unit at the Westside Station, which increased total staffing to 46. To reduce the firefighter workweek to 53 hours and comply with a change in the fair Labor Standards Act, three firefighters were hired in 1988.

Medic One

Early Medic One vehicleThe Thurston County Medic 1 System was initiated in 1974. Through an Intergovernmental agreement, the Olympia Fire Department hired six paramedic firefighters. In 1976 an additional paramedic was hired to improve the supervision of the paramedics. In 1988 an eighth paramedic was hired to comply with the reduction in work hours required by the Fair Labor Standard Act. In 1993 a ninth paramedic was hired to balance the three shifts and eliminate the need for paramedics to float. The Westside SPRINT unit was opened in 2000, and four paramedics were hired due to lengthening response times in the Northwest portion of the county. Following the earthquake, February 28, 2001, the SPRINT unit was temporarily converted to a full medic unit due to the closure of the 4th Avenue bridge. In January 2002 Medic 10 was changed from a temporary status to a permanent status and 3 additional paramedics were hired. At this time Olympia Fire Department currently employs 18 field paramedics, three of which are Paramedic Lieutenants.


OFD Today

Today, the City of Olympia Fire Department (OFD) is an all-career department with 100 members total. The department deploys four engines, one ladder truck, two medic units and a battalion unit. The engines and truck are staffed with three firefighters and an officer, while the medic units are staffed with two firefighter/paramedics. At minimum staffing, there is a full complement of 20 members on duty. OFD covers approximately 25 square miles and in 2019, responded to 13,810 calls for service.

Chronology of Elected Officials

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Historic Headshot collage: Evans, Elwood, Steele

Olympia’s Leadership

Olympia was named the capital city of Washington Territory on November 28, 1853. Incorporation as a Town occurred on January 28, 1859 by act of the territorial legislature. In 1882, the Town of Olympia incorporated as the City of Olympia.

Olympia has changed its form of government several times. What began as a Board of Trustees became a single Mayoral election, followed by a three person Commission and finally the Council-Manager system we use today.

Historical Documents from City of Olympia Archive

 

Board of Trustees | 1859-1871

The Act of Incorporation provided that an election of officers should take place on the first Monday of April each year. Article 8, Section 1, also designated an interim Board of Trustees to serve until the first election.

Members of the interim Board of Trustees for the Town of Olympia appointed by Act of the Territorial Legislature were George A. Barnes, Joseph Cushman, Elwood Evans, T. F. (Thornton Fleming) McElroy, and James Tilton. At the first meeting of the interim Board on February 12, 1859, Cushman was appointed by his fellow trustees to serve as Chairman, and on February 24, 1859, he was elected by his fellow trustees to serve as President of the Board of Trustees until the election in April.

The first election of Town of Olympia Board of Trustees was held April 4, 1859. At the organizational meeting of the first elected Board on April 14, 1859, Elwood Evans was selected by his fellow trustees to serve as Town President for the year. George A. Barnes was selected to serve as Treasurer.

List of Town Board Presidents, 1859-1871:

Mayoral | 1872-1924

According to the City Official Directory for the Year 1904 compiled by then Clerk V. A. Milroy, the Office of Mayor was created November 11, 1873 which replaced the President of the Board position.

However, in official Town Minutes maintained by the City of Olympia Clerk’s Office, W. W. (William Winlock) Miller is shown by the Clerk as being elected “in a municipal election” to the position of “Mayor” on April 1, 1872, and again on April 7, 1873. Town Minutes for officer elections prior to 1872 refer to the position as Town Board “President,” and the appointment to that position was from within and by the Trustees.

List of Mayors, 1872-1924:

 

Commissioners | 1925-1982

On November 16, 1925 the City government was changed to a three-member elected commission composed of the Mayor (Commissioner of Public Safety), Commissioner of Finance, and Commissioner of Public Works.

The Commission originally began serving three 3-year terms. In 1950 their terms were increased to four years.

List of City Commissioners, 1925-1982

1925-1928

1929-1931

1932-1934

1935-1937

1938-1940

1941-1943

1944-1946

1947-1949

  • Ernest Mallory | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Dan L. McCaughan | Commissioner of Finance
  • W.A. Kellogg | Commissioner of Public Works

1950-1953

  • Ralph A. Swanson | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Dan L. McCaughan | Commissioner of Finance
  • *J. Ross Roberson | Commissioner of Public Works
  • J.F. (Jack) Hamilton | Commissioner of Public Works

1954-1956

  • Amanda Benek Smith | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Claude Yount | Commissioner of Finance
  • J.F. Jack Hamilton (Died 10/13/54) | Commissioner of Public Works
  • Thomas Allen | Commissioner of Public Works

1957-1960

  • Amanda Benek Smith | Mayor, Public Safety
  • *Frank McClanna | Commissioner of Finance
  • Dr. Matthew Kast | Commissioner of Finance
  • *Peter F. Skoog | Commissioner of Public Works
  • *Herbert Legg | Commissioner of Public Works
  • Clarence Shain | Commissioner of Public Works

1961-1964

  • Neil R, McKay | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Thomas Allen | Commissioner of Finance
  • Ed Krenik | Commissioner of Public Works

1965-1969

  • Neil R. McKay | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Thomas Allen | Commissioner of Finance
  • Gil Olson | Commissioner of Public Works

1970-1973

  • Thomas Allen | Mayor, Public Safety
  • George Earsley | Commissioner of Finance
  • *Gil Olson | Commissioner of Public Works
  • Keith Kisor | Commisioner of Public Works

1974-1977

  • Thomas Allen | Mayor, Public Safety
  • George Earsley | Commissioner of Finance
  • Keith Kisor | Commissioner of Public Works

1978-1981

  • Lyle Watson | Mayor, Public Safety
  • Ron Rants | Commissioner of Finance
  • Wm. Jacobs | Commissioner of Public Works

1982

  • Lyle Watson | Mayor, Public Safety
  • David Skramstad | Commissioner of Finance
  • Wm. Daley | Commissioner of Public Works
 

Council/City Manager | 1982-Present

On May 18, 1982, the voters of Olympia approved the Council-Manager form of government. A new 7-member City Council was elected on November 2, 1982 and assumed office on November 18, 1982. The first meeting of the newly elected City Council was November 23, 1982. The Mayor was selected by the Councilmembers for a two-year term in January of each even numbered year.

In 1991 the voters approved the selection of the Mayor through election by the citizens, rather than through appointment by the Council. The Mayor is elected to serve a 4-year term.

List of Mayor & Councilmembers, 1982-Present [page removed from City website in 2021]

1982-1985

  • David Skramstad | Mayor
  • Pete Knittle | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Mary Lux
  • Gilbert Carbone
  • William Daley
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Joan Kelly

1986-1987

  • William Daley | Mayor
  • Gilbert Carbone | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Pete Knittle
  • Mary Lux
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Joan Kelly
  • Rex Derr

1988-1989

  • Holly Gadbaw | Mayor
  • Rex Derr | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Gilbert Carbone
  • Pete Knittle
  • Mary Lux
  • William Daley
  • Cora Pinson

1990-1991

  • Rex Derr | Mayor
  • Mary Lux | Mayor Pro tem
  • Gilbert Carbone
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Sandra Romero
  • Nina Carter
  • Cora Pinson

1992-1993

  • David Skramstad | Mayor (Resigned 3/2/93)
  • Bob Jacobs | Mayor (Appointed to replace Romero, Selected to become Mayor post resignation)
  • Mary Lux | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Rex Derr
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Nina Carter
  • Mark Foutch
  • *Sandra Romero (Resigned 1/5/93)
  • Margaret McPhee (Appointed to replace Skramstad)

1994-1995

  • Bob Jacobs | Mayor
  • Mark Foutch | Mayor Pro tem
  • Pat Cole
  • Mary Lux
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Margaret McPhee
  • Jeanette Hawkins

1996-1997

  • Bob Jacobs | Mayor
  • Mark Foutch | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Pat Cole
  • Laura Ware
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Margaret McPhee
  • Jeanette Hawkins

1998-1999

  • Bob Jacobs | Mayor
  • Mark Foutch | Mayor Pro tem
  • Stan Biles
  • Laura Ware
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Margaret McPhee
  • Jeanette Hawkins

2000-2001

  • Stan Biles |Mayor
  • Mark Foutch | Mayor Pro tem
  • Laura Ware
  • Curt Pavola
  • Holly Gadbaw
  • Margaret McPhee
  • TJ Johnson (Appointed 8/15/00 to replace McPhee)
  • Jeanette Hawkins

2002-2003

  • Stan Biles | Mayor
  • Mark Foutch | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Laura Ware
  • Curt Pavola
  • Matthew Green
  • Doug Mah
  • Jeanette Hawkins

2004-2005

  • Mark Foutch | Mayor
  • Laura Ware | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Matthew Green
  • Jeanette Hawkins
  • Joe Hyer
  • TJ Johnson
  • Doug Mah
  • Curt Pavola

2006-2007

  • Mark Foutch | Mayor
  • Laura Ware | Mayor Pro tem
  • Joe Hyer
  • TJ Johnson
  • Jeff Kingsbury
  • Doug Mah
  • Karen Messmer

2008-2009

  • Doug Mah | Mayor
  • Joe Hyer
  • Jeff Kingsbury
  • Joan Machlis (Appointed 1/7/08 to open position when Mah became Mayor)
  • Karen Messmer
  • Craig Ottavelli
  • Jeannine Roe (Elected to open position 11/24/09, replaced Machlis)
  • Rhenda Strub

2010-2011

  • Doug Mah | Mayor
  • Craig Ottavelli
  • Rhenda Strub
  • Karen Rogers
  • Stephen H. Buxbaum
  • Jeannine Roe
  • Joe Hyer (Resigned 4/10/10)
  • Steve Langer (Appointed 5/25/10 to replace Hyer)
  • Jim Cooper (Elected November 2011 to complete term)

2012-2013

  • Stephen Buxbaum | Mayor
  • Jim Cooper
  • Julie Hankins (Appointed 1/10/12 to open position when Buxbaum became Mayor)
  • Nathaniel Jones | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Steve Langer
  • Jeannine Roe
  • Karen Rogers

2014-2015

  • Stephen Buxbaum | Mayor
  • Jim Cooper
  • Julie Hankins
  • Nathaniel Jones | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Steve Langer
  • Jeannine Roe
  • Cheryl Selby 

2016-2017

  • Cheryl Selby | Mayor
  • Jim Cooper
  • Julie Hankins
  • Nathaniel Jones | Mayor Pro Tem
  • Jessica Bateman
  • Jeannine Roe
  • Clark Gilman (Appointed 1/4/16 to open position when Selby became Mayor)

2018-2019

  • Cheryl Selby | Mayor
  • Jessica Bateman | Mayor Pro Tem (2019)
  • Jim Cooper
  • Clark Gilman
  • Nathaniel Jones | Mayor Pro Tem (2018)
  • Lisa Parshley (Elected to open position, replaced Julie Hankins)
  • Renata Rollins (Elected to open position, replaced Jeanine Roe)

Mosquito Fleet

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What is the Mosquito Fleet?

The Mosquito Fleet was the myriad of steamboats that served the Puget Sound’s  shipping and transit needs for the more than 50 years that straddled the dawn of the 20th century. The name, so the story goes, came from a fellow in an office overlooking Elliot Bay and remarking as he observed all the boat activity that it looked like a “swarm of mosquitoes.”

In the early 1850’s, as the settler population grew, ancillary businesses developed; stores, brickyards, boat builders, dry docks, hotels and services for summer visitors. Since there were only trails in this land, heavily forested to the water’s edge, the population was supported by the steamboats collectively called the Mosquito Fleet that used the Sound as a watery freeway to move mail, products and passengers.

Steamship dining roomThe fleet was the lifeblood of the community and commerce that launched the Pacific Northwest. Steamer schedules governed daily lives, and the whistle of an approaching boat was the call to collect the mail, greet friends, or send a package. To ride on a steamboat was an occasion, a chance to visit and enjoy the leisurely, often long passage to the city. Old-timers recall the smooth, gleaming wood on the passenger cabins, the box lunches en route, and the fact that, for a child, the journey enlarged the world.

Mosquito Fleet boats preparing to deploy

About the Boats

In short, a Mosquito Fleet boat was a craft of any size that performed any required task on Puget Sound.

Mosquito Fleet boats came in all sizes

Size

The smallest was less than 40 feet long and the largest nearly 300 feet. As passenger and freight businesses grew, the boats became larger, and there came a distinction in nomenclature. Generally boats over 50 feet were called steamboats; those under that were called launches.

Routes

When they first arrived (the Beaver was the earliest to the Northwest in 1836), these boats ran all over Puget Sound and even into Canada. They simply went where they were needed. By 1880, they began to settle into regular routes, though boats changed hands and moved to different parts of Puget Sound quite often.

Steamer Fleetwood schedule

Fuel

In the beginning, they were steam powered, first by wood, later by coal, and still later by oil. There were experiments: non-steam engines boiled naptha (an idea soon abandoned) and then, more safely, were fueled with gasoline. Boilers sometimes exploded, or heat caused fires with disastrous results. 

Cargo

They fleet delivered passengers, mail, newspapers, produce, fish, eggs, bricks, shingles, brush, logs and more. Basically if there was water access and it could be loaded or towed, a Mosquito Fleet boat took care of it.

So many boats did so many different duties that it was not always possible to define a boat as a tugboat, freight boat, or passenger boat.

 

Historic steamer on Puget Sound

The End of an Era

Mosquito Fleet crewThe Mosquito Fleet era ended as customers switched their allegiance to cars and paved highways. The traditional design of the steamers were outmoded, too, as newer boats came down the ways with gasoline or diesel motors instead of steam, propellers instead of paddle wheels, and steel instead of wooden hulls. To survive, the fleet tried to adapt, the larger boats finding new life as ferries, the smaller ones as tugboats, freighters, or excursion boats. Ultimately, they did not endure. By the 1920’s, car ferries were taking over, and passenger-only patronage was declining. By the 1930s, they were gone.

E.N. Steele

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E.N. Steele

About

E.N. Steele

E. N. (Earl) Steele was born April 19, 1881 in Altoona, Iowa, the son of John and Margaret (Newell) Steele. He married Clara Remdt of Findley, Ohio, on December 25, 1917. They had three children: Margaret Steele Everst, Richard N. Steele, and Bonnie J. Steele Lindsay.

Mr. Steele was public school teacher in Tenino, Washington in 1903-04. A lawyer, he was a member of the Washington State Bar Association engaged in private law practice in Olympia from 1904-45. He was owner and manager of the Oyster Company in Olympia, 1922-50, the Rockpoint Oyster Company at Samish Bay, Washington (1922-50), and past president of the Pacific Coast Oyster Growers Association. He authored two notable books about oysters, The Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster and The Immigrant (Pacific) Oyster.

In 1925, when the City of Olympia changed from a Mayor/Council form of government to the Commissioner form, Steele was elected Commissioner of Finance, a position he held until he was elected Mayor and Commissioner of Public Safety in 1932.

Steele was also elected to the Washington State Legislature as a State Senator representing the Thurston County area. Earl N. Steele died in 1968.  

More information:

The Following is the Forward to Steele’s The Immigrant Oyster. It was written by Charles R. Pollack of Seattle in 1962.

It is only occasionally that a man who starts the development of a new idea or industry, stays with it through the formative stages, meeting problems as they arise; and the fruition of his dreams in a successful industry developed; employing several hundred people; providing profits for not only those who worked with him through the trying periods of small successes, but to others later engaged in the industry; hampered by temporary obstacles and failures, to the achieved goal, such a man is the author of this book.

It has been this writer’s privilege to know the author of this book since his Pacific oyster operations started in 1924, when his company imported the first large cargo of Japanese oyster spat (seed) from the Miyagi Prefecture area of Japan. Previous small shipments of trial spat had been imported for a few preceding years prior to Messrs. Steele and Barnes taking over the program under the name of the Rock Point Oyster Company at Blanchard, Washington.

Earl Newell Steele was born in Altoona near Des Moines, Iowa, April 19, 1881; lived at Perry, Iowa, where he graduated from high school and entered the University of Iowa in 1900; graduated in law the Spring of 1903. It is a recorded fact that Steele traveled from Perry, Iowa, to Iowa City by bicycle, and mainly through his own efforts financed his schooling and graduated in law from Iowa State University in 1903.

Coming to Washington in August, 1903, Steele taught school at Tenino near Olympia for eight months, and then having passed the State Bar examination, he opened his law office at Olympia in 1904, where he practiced his profession for over forty years.

Public spirited and interested in the development of his community, he served as a Director of the Olympia Chamber of Commerce three years and its President two years; elected Olympia City Commissioner of Finance he served seven years, and was appointed Mayor to replace the Mayor who passed away; he served two years in this position; elected State Senator from Thurston County in 1932, he served four years in the Washington State Senate with very considerable distinction.

In 1907 and continuing to this date, being so close to the Oyster operations around Olympia, Steele took a great interest in the practical growing of oysters and with it the scientific development and improvement of the industry. With his summer home on Oyster Bay, the large production area for the Native Olympia Oysters, his interest which might have been called a hobby, developed with the purchase of oyster acreage into a regular profitable business side line.

Jn 1912 he was elected Secretary of the Olympia Oyster Growers Association and held that office until 1941, over 35 years. Principally through his tireless efforts the advertising of the Olympia Oyster Growers Association developed the Pacific Coast demand for these succulent bivalves to the point where the entire available production was sold each year.

On December 25, 1917, Mr. Steele married Clara Ann Remdt in Findlay, Ohio, and their three children, now grown, with families of their own, are Margaret Ann, Richard N., and Bonny Jean. Richard N. and Margaret’s husband, Marshall Hinton, now operate the Rock Point Oyster Company’s plant.

In 1930, it was through his efforts the Pacific Coast Oyster Growers Association was formed. He was president and secretary until 1945, and a Trustee for several years afterwards, as well as a valued consultant to date.

Beginning with the scientific study of the propagation of the Native Olympia Oyster and since early in 1920 pioneering the importation of Japanese transplanted oysters, now known to the trade as the Pacific Oyster, and engaging in the culture of this species for these many years, it goes without Saying that Earl Newell Steele, known to all of us as the Daddy of the Pacific Oyster Industry, after fifty five years, should have a whole book full of interest, information, and observations on oysters for the permanent record.

In 1957, the Olympia Oyster Growers Association published Steele’s book “The Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster”. A story of men’s lives, the life of the oyster which they cultivated, and the Olympia Oyster industry.

Personal and most agreeable contacts over the years since 1924 makes me welcome this opportunity to salute “E. N.” and I feel deeply honored to be asked to provide this foreword.

CHARLES R. POLLOCK
Seattle, May 1, 1962

The following article about E. N. Steele is reprinted from The Olympian newspaper’s Mainly About People series published in 1964.

A new chapter has been added to the long and varied career of E. N. Steele, pioneer lawyer, legislator and businessman from Thurston County.

Eighty-three year old Steele is the author of a book about Pacific Oysters – the oysters that grow from the Japanese seed he was first to import, cultivate and put on the market.

Titled The Immigrant Oyster (Ostrea Gigas), the book is published in cooperation with the Pacific Coast Oyster Growers Association Incorporated, and is being distributed now.

The Immigrant Oyster tells the story of the first planting of the Japanese seed in Bellingham’s Samish Bay 42 years ago, problems with importing the seed to the West Coast, troubles with pollution and the growth of the experiment into a profitable industry.

Steele, who also wrote The Rise and Decline of the Olympia Oyster which was published in 1957, now lives in Des Moines, but spends his summers at Rock Point Oyster Company property on Oyster Bay, where his home is located.

Just beyond the rolltop desk in the study of his home is a window that opens on to a long line of dikes protecting the company’s oyster bed.

Steele remembers when there were no dikes, and oyster growing was mostly an Indian occupation.

That was in 1903, the year the young lawyer named Steele was fresh out of the University of Minnesota and ready to make his mark in Olympia.

Steele and oysters is much a story of friendship. He tasted them, liked them, and by 1904 he was growing them on the same Toten Inlet Tidelands his home overlooks.

Young Steele was to have a colorful career in the Olympia area. In 1925 he became the first City of Olympia commissioner of finance when the city switched from the mayor-council form of government to the commission form.

He served until 1931 in this capacity, and from 1932 to 1934 he was Olympia’s mayor and commissioner of public safety.

But he will likely to be remembered primarily in government circles as the senator from Thurston County who in 1933 wrote the Steele Act. The law provided for the state’s control of liquor sales after the end of prohibition and established the State Liquor Control Board.

But oysters are his first love, and from 1933 to 1945 Steele served as the first president of the Pacific Coast Oyster Gorwers Association, comprised of the leading men in the industry.

A long-time friend, Jay Bolster, of Olympia, says Steele is probably the most widely known oyster grower in the United States.

Caleb Reinhart

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Caleb S Reinhart

About

Caleb Reinhart
Caleb Reinhart was the son of Stephen and Sarah Reinhart, pioneers who crossed the plains in 1852 over the old Oregon Trail. He was born April 5, 1856 in Olympia, approximately ten years after the first western settlers had arrived. Mr. Reinhart died December 10, 1934 at his home in Olympia located at 1112 Olympia Avenue. He is buried in the Reinhart family plot at the Masonic Cemetary in Tumwater, WA.

Caleb Reinhart married Clara Downer, the daughter of Oregon pioneer Joseph Downer who had arrived there in 1847. Caleb and Clara Reinhart had six children, including Anna R. Stanford, a 1900 graduate of Olympia High School, long time art teacher at that school, and the paternal grandmother of Jim Stanford and Jeri Ramsey who provided this biographical information. As of 2009, five generations of Caleb and Clara’s descendents had graduated from Olympia High School.

Mr. Reinhart was a graduate of Williamette University and an attorney who worked as the chief clerk of the Washington State Supreme Court from 1891 until his death in 1934. He was Mayor of Olympia in 1899, 1900, and 1901.

He was a member of the Washington National Guard from its beginning, joining as a noncommissioned officer in Company B, then shortly thereafter promoted to lieutenant and later captain. After four years in that capacity, Company A of the National Guard was formed and Caleb Reinhart was transferred to be captain of that company. Throughout the rest of his life, he was often referred to as “Cap” Reinhart.

William Winlock Miller

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About

The following information is reprinted from a poster on display at Olympia High School (formally dedicated as William Winlock Miller High School).

Before the establishment of Washington Territory, William Winlock Miller arrived in Olympia in 1850, with the first commission as an American official in what was then known as Oregon Territory, north of the Columbia River, or Northern Oregon.

His first duties were as customs surveryor, measuring the trade through the Nisqually docks of the British Hudson’s Bay Company for American tariffs.

Miller served as Olympia’s first directly elected mayor, as a member in the Washington Territorial Legislature, as quartermaster general in Governor Stevens’ Territorial Army, as Superintendent of Indian Affairs in Washington Territory, and as United States tax collector for the territory.

Miller was an accomplished businessman, having interests in savings and lending before banks came to the Northwest. Settlers were generally cash poor, but land collateral was considerable. Miller untimately developed vast real estate holdings throughout Western Washington.

When Washington Territory’s population was under a couple thousand and travel was by overland trails or boat, Miller raised supplies, equipment and treasury among settlers to provision the Territorial Army for the Indian Wars. For purchasing, he could only offer scrip, un-negotiated promises to pay at a later date that were ultimately authorized years later by Congress, at a discounted value of 71 cents on the dollar.

Miller’s counsel and backing were widely sought by leaders in Washington Territory. He helped in the election of many territorial leaders, including his father-in-law, Judge Obediah McFadden, who served as territorial representative to Congress.

Miller married Mary Margaret McFadden in 1869. They had two children, Winlock and Pendleton. William, Mary and Pendleton are buried at the Masonic Cemetery (in Tumwater, Washington) just off Cleveland Boulevard.

More information:

The following information is reprinted from an Olympia High School alumni directory provided to the City by Winnifred Castle Olsen, January 2009.

William Winlock Miller arrived in Olympia from Illinois in 1851 and became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the Washington Territory. He was successful in business as well as politics, serving in the legislature and as quartermaster general to territorial Governor Isaac Stevens during the 1855-1856 Indian uprising. He was later appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs by President Buchanan. Mr. Miller’s popularity in the local community was evident when the people of Olympia elected him Mayor for two terms.

William Winlock Miller was born in Greenbury, Kentucky, January 12, 1822. He died on January 14, 1876 at the age of 54 and is buried in the Masonic Cemetary, in Tumwater, Washington.

In 1853, Mary McFadden came from Pennsylvania to the Washington Territory with her family when her father O. B. McFadden was appointed justice of the Territorial Supreme Court. She married William Winlock Miller in 1869 and raised two sons, Winlock and Pendleton. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Miller carried on and expanded the family businesses and remained active in both philanthropic and social activities. In 1906 she donated land for the first high school building in Olympia with the stipulation that it be named in honor of her husband.

Francis Henry

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Francis Henry

Birth: January 27, 1827, Galena, Il
Death: September 27, 1893, Olympia, WA
Spouse: Eliza B. Henry (Married Yam Hill, Oregon, May 14, 1857)

About

Francis HenryBorn in Galena, Illinois, January 27, 1827, Francis Henry was the first white child born in Galena. His parents, William and Rachel (McQuigg) Henry, were natives of New York and Connecticut respectively. His father took an active part in the War of 1812, being a Lieutenant of Artillery, and was one of the first settlers of Galena in 1825, where he engaged in the mercentile business. In 1836, William Henry moved with his family to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where he passed the remainder of his days.

Francis Henry secured his education in the old proverbial “log school house,” walking several miles to improve the simple facilities then offered by the short winter terms. His early manhood was spent in (?) 1847. He received his appointment from General Cass as a Lieutenant of the U.S. Dragoons for the Mexican War serving at the City of Mexico under General Scott. Henry was one of General Scott’s aides all through the war.

After his discharge he joined his family in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and engaged in the study of law under Judge Dunn. In 1851 started for the gold fields of California via Panama; mined at Hangtown, California, (?) and Plaserville. In 1855 he crossed the mountains to Jacksonville, Or. where he found mining profitable for a time. The discovery of gold in Eastern Washington again setting him going, but the Indian War in 1855 saved him from further disappointment. He was a member of several legislatures and two constitutional conventions 1878-1889.

More Information

The following excerpt is from Pioneer Association of the State of Washington posted on the website as part of historylink.org.

Also at the 1886 meeting (Pioneer Association meeting at Yesler’s Hall in Seattle in 1886), Francis Henry suggested that the new association gather material pertinent to the region’s history. Henry, called Olympia’s “town wit, cartoonist and writer of satirical verse” by historian Gordon Newell, authored a poem titled “The Old Settler,” which was later used by restaurateur and Pioneer Association member Ivar Haglund. It included the famous line: “I laugh at the world and its shams, as I think of my happy condition, surrounded by Acres of Clams.”

Elwood Evans

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About

On January 28, 1859 the Washington State Territorial Legislature adopted Articles of Incorporation for the Town of Olympia, and appointed Elwood Evans to serve on a 5-person interim Town Board until the first Olympia elections were held.

The interim Board convened for its first meeting on February 12, 1859. At that meeting, Evans and fellow Trustee George A. Barnes were appointed as a Committee to draft ByLaws for the Town Board. On February 24, 1859, the committee of Barnes and Evans presented recommended ByLaws to the Town Board, which were unanimously adopted.

On April 14, 1859, Mr. Evans was appointed by the newly elected Board to a vacant position created by the resignation of William Rutledge. At that meeting, Evans was also selected by his fellow Board Trustees to serve as President of the Town Board for 1859.

Elwood Evans Resources

Northwest Illustrations Collection , Washington State University Libraries, A collection of 53 selected illustrations taken from the rare book, History of the Pacific Northwest: Oregon and Washington. Elwood Evans was the main contributor to this series of volumes published in 1889, the same year Washington was granted Statehood.

Thornton McElroy

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Thornton F. McElroy

Born: West Middletown, Pennsylvania, 1825
Died: February 4, 1885 (Buried Masonic Cemetary, Olympia)
Spouse: Sarah Elizabeth (Bates) McElroy (Married October 15, 1847, Pittsfield, Illinois)

About

T.F. McElroyStarted from Pittsfield, Illinois by ox team, date 1849. Arrival on coast at Oregon City, Oregon Territory in 1849. Incidents on way: The ox team “gave out,” the party divided and Mr. McElroy and another man (name unknown) came on to Oregon City. The original desitnation was California, where Mr. McElroy went by sea in a sailing vessel (Barque Diamond, Capt. Reynard) in October and November 1849. Companions in party: Norton Bates (brother-in-law), others unknown.

Mr. McElroy located in Thurston County in the fall of 1852; and with J. W. Wiley founded the first newspaper, The Columbian, in what is now the State of Washington.

Mr. McElroy was the first master of the first masonic lodge in Washington Territory. He was a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Town of Olympia (appointed by the Territorial Legislature, January 28, 1859), as well as its first treasurer (February to April 1859), and held the office of Mayor of Olympia (1875).

Information filed by Harry B. McElroy (only son of Thurston F. McElroy and Sarah E. McElroy), February, 1918.

More information: 

McElroy Family Papers (1847-1927), held by the University of Washington Special Collections, Manuscript Collection # 0027.

Biographical Note from the UW Special Collections website for the McElroy Family Papers:

Pioneer family.

  • Thorton Fleming McElroy, 1825-1885
  • Sara Collins McElroy, 1827-1894
  • Harry Bates McElroy, 1861-1928

Thornton McElroy joined the gold rush to California, journeyed overland by wagon train to Oregon City, OR, to work on the Oregon Spectator, was sent by Thomas Dryer to Olympia, Washington to establish and publish “The Columbian” in 1852; was Territorial printer (1863-1872), and was foreman of the “Pioneer and Democrat.”

Scope and Content of the McElroy Family Papers:

Family papers, including correspondence of Thornton F. McElroy, Washington Territorial Official; his wife, Sara Collins McElroy; and their son, Harry Bates McElroy; papers relate to an overland journey to California in 1849, the newspaper publishing and printing business in Oregon and Washington Territories, politics in Washington Territory, and social conditions in the Northwest during pioneer period: 1847-1927.

George Barnes

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Born: Dundee (Yates County), New York
Died: November 18, 1912, Olympia, Washington.
Spouse: Mary Ann Kandle (Married July 1842)

About

George A Barnes

Started from Fort Wayne, Indiana by team, Spring of 1848. Arrival on coast: Oregon City, Oregon, Fall of 1848. Spent the winter there and then wagoned to the California mines where he stayed until November 1849 when he and his wife took ship for New Orleans via the isthmus and up the Mississippi river to Fort Wayne, Indinana. After passing the winter there, Barnes, his wife, his father, and family came across the plains to Portland, Oregon in 90 days. He arrived in Portland in August 1850 and opened a general merchandise store. In 1852, he sold out the store and came by schooner to Olympia where he continued in the merchandise store business. Later he organized the First State Bank of Olympia and erected Olympia’s first brick building. He continued in business 23 years in all, and then retired to a quiet life.

Mr. Barnes served on the first Portland Council and helped organize the Olympia (Town Board) on which he served several times as well as school boards. Mrs. Barnes was a Pioneer Hostess.

George A. Barnes was appointed to the first Town of Olympia Board of Trustees which convened for its initial meeting on February 12, 1859. At that meeting, he and fellow Trustee Elwood Evans were appointed as a Committee to draft ByLaws for the Town Board. On February 24, 1859, the committee of Barnes and Evans presented recommended ByLaws to the Town Board, which were unanimously adopted.

Mr. Barnes was elected to the Town Board in Olympia’s first general election of Trustees, April 4, 1859. By request of his fellow Trustees, he served as Chairman of the Board for one week, from April 7 – 14, 1859. On April 14, 1859, the Board conducted its first annual election of officers. Elwood Evans was appointed by the Board to serve as Town President for 1859 and George A. Barnes was appointed as Treasurer.

George A. Barnes was subsequently elected by his fellow Trustees as President, Town of Olympia Board of Trustees in 1862, 1866 to 1869, and Mayor in 1880.

Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias – 3/20/22

Fraternal organizations were immensely popular in the latter part of the 19th century. Pictured here are Olympia members of the Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias (KoP). According to a history of the KoP, the Uniform Rank was an auxiliary of the KoP, formed during the Civil War and organized along the lines of a military unit. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

Unknown photographer, around 1885, courtesy State Capital Museum collection, Washington State Historical Society

 

Elizabeth Ayer – 3/13/22

Pictured here is Olympia native and resident Elizabeth Ayer, the first female to graduate from the University of Washington architectural school. Ayer was responsible for several important homes in Olympia and elsewhere, including the endangered Hanson Duplex on Capitol Campus. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

Toone James family – 3/6/22

Pictured here is the James family, including father Toone James (Chinese name approximates to Gim Dune), his wife Nettie Chiang and their five children. Most Chinese in Olympia at the time were from Toisan in southern China. They tended oyster beds, worked in canneries, businesses, and restaurants.  Son Walter James later opened the landmark Nankin Cafe in Minneapolis in 1919. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross and Ron Locke on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Ida Smith photo, around 1900, courtesy State Capital Museum Collection, Washington State Historical Society

Children of Joseph Conner – 2/20/22

Joseph Conner and his family arrived in Thurston County in 1852, the peak year of the Oregon Trail migration. The family settled in what is now Lacey. Joseph was killed in the Puget Sound War of 1855-1856. Pictured here are his four children, Milton, Alice, Jane, and Martha, in a studio photograph taken in the early 1900s. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. Unknown photographer, early 1900s, courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Bordeaux Donkey Engine – 2/13/22

The former logging community of Bordeaux, Washington, located in Capitol Forest, was founded in the late 1800s by two brothers. It grew over the years to include a hotel, school, stores, and over 1,000 residents. Logging crew members and family members are posing here in front of a donkey engine. A donkey engine was a steam-powered winch, once widely used in late 19th to and early 20th century logging operations. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

Dog Show at the Armory – 2/6/22

The historic Olympia Armory is soon to be converted to a city-sponsored Creative Campus. In addition to serving the Washington National Guard, the Armory was a venue for social gatherings, sports events, and fundraisers. This photograph, taken at the 1958 Olympia Dog Fanciers Association competition, shows Frances Rice with her winning  great Dane, Long Crest March Wind. Please submit your own memories of the Armory to the Olympia Armory Storytelling Project, olympiaarmory.org. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Washington Standard – 1/30/22

Shown in this 1910 photo are the office and staff members of Olympia’s Washington Standard, published by John Miller Murphy. The paper espoused progressive causes such as female suffrage, abolition of slavery, temperance, and other reforms. Unlike many publishers of the time, Murphy did not consistently endorse a particular political party’s position – the paper’s motto was “Hew to the line, let the chips fall where they may.” Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org.

 

1/23/22 – Clara White Dunbar

The White family, consisting of William and Margaret White and their children, were among the earliest American settlers in Washington Territory. Margaret and her three daughters later all settled within a few blocks of each other on Olympia’s east side, and were active in the community. Pictured here is Clara White Dunbar. She and her husband Rolph (or Ralph) Oregon Dunbar built the Dunbar House on Olympia Avenue, which is still in existence. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum, olympiahistory.org. See also White Family photographs in the Bigelow House Photograph collection. Charcoal portrait, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Jill Rosenkrantz

Jill was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington and graduated from Weatherwax High School (the historic building that burned down in 2002).  She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in Economics, and followed up with an MBA from Indiana University. Jill’s professional career began at Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, PA as its first outside female sales representative.  She relocated to Chicago and Indianapolis as a sales representative. Later she was promoted to various positions at corporate headquarters in Bethlehem, PA with her last position as Manager, Credit at Bethlehem’s Sparrows Point Plant in Baltimore, MD. She returned to the West Coast to help run the family steel business in Aberdeen in 2003, and worked there until that business was sold in 2019.

While living in Chicago, she became fascinated with architectural history and trained as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, leading walking tours of the Chicago Loop, Frank Lloyd Wright walking tours in Oak Park, and tours of historic homes.  When she moved to Pennsylvania, she volunteered as a docent for Foundation for Architecture in Philadelphia, which provided walking tours of various historic neighborhoods. 

Since moving back to Washington, she has volunteered to lead tours of public art along Percival Landing for the City Olympia’s Park, Arts and Recreation.  She is currently a docent at the Bigelow House and a long-time member of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Greg Griffith

Greg Griffith has worked for over 30 years in the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historical Preservation. In that timespan he has worked as the agency’s historic preservation planner and implementing the Section 106 consultation process for the built environment. He later moved into the position of Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. In that role he manages the work and programs of the Built Environment Unit and is responsible for the SHPO’s development and implementation of the Washington State Historic Plan: Getting the Future Right 2014-19. Greg is a long-time member of the Thurston County Historical Commission and in previous experience in the non-profit sector he has served the Olympia Heritage Commission, Olympia Design Review Board, the Bigelow House Preservation Association, and Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

Before arriving in Washington, Greg worked for county planning organizations in northeast Ohio and metropolitan St. Louis. He has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Ohio State University; a Masters in Historic Preservation Planning from Eastern Michigan University; and a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Miami University

 

1-16-22 – James Madison Alden view of Main Street

The watercolor reproduced here was painted in 1857 by James Madison Alden, nephew of James Alden, commander for the U.S. Coast Survey in the 1850s. It is the oldest known image of Olympia, showing Main Street (now Capitol Way) extending down to Budd Inlet. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 

 

1-9-22 – Chambers Butcher Shop

 

The extended Chambers family were among the earliest settlers in Thurston County. David and Elizabeth Chambers’ sons Andsworth and Walter set up as butchers in Olympia, with a long-running shop, pictured here, at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and Washington Street. Andsworth also served as Olympia mayor and developed the Chambers Block building at Capitol and Fourth. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

Courtesy Washington State Historical Society

 

1-2-2022 – Inaugural Ball 1941

The historic Olympia Armory is soon to be converted to a city-sponsored Creative Commons. In addition to serving the Washington National Guard since the late 1930s, the Armory was a venue for social gatherings, sports events, and fundraisers. This photo portrays Governor Langlie, his wife, and other dignitaries, at the 1941 Inaugural Ball. Please submit your own memories of the Armory to the Olympia Armory Storytelling Project, olympiaarmory.org. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum.

12/26/2021 – Sylvester Mansion

 

 

Throughout 2021 we have been featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. The cityscape project portrays what Sylvester Park and Olympia might have looked like through history, from the vantage point of a window high in the tower of Sylvester Mansion, overlooking the park. For this last image of the year, we show the mansion, this image captured soon after it was built around 1856.  Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 

 

 

12/12/21 – Hazard Stevens

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. Pictured in the 1874 cityscape is Hazard Stevens. He was the son of first Washington Territorial governor, Isaac Stevens. After serving in the Civil War, Hazard returned to Olympia and became a developer and city booster. He established Cloverfields Farm on Carlyon Street, where his house still stands. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

11/28/21 – Mary Ann Bigelow

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. The 2001 cityscape includes Mary Ann Bigelow. Mrs. Bigelow, an artist and author, was named Mother of the Year in 1964, the occasion for the above photograph with her son. The Bigelows sold their home, now the Bigelow House Museum, to the Bigelow House Historic Preservation Association, but continued to live in the home until their deaths. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

 

Dixy Lee Ray – 11/21/21

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. The 1972 cityscape features Dixy Lee Ray, who was elected in 1978 as Washington State’s first female governor. Ray ran as a Democrat, despite having no previous political experience, and her one term was marked by controversy as well as achievement. She is pictured in the cityscape with one of her beloved dogs, whom she always kept with her. Image selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. 1980 Photo courtesy Washington State Historical Society

Amanda Benek Smith – 11/14/21

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. Pictured in the 1950 cityscape is Amanda Benek Smith. In 1953, Smith was elected as the first female mayor of Olympia. She oversaw several civic improvements during her tenure as mayor and was noted for her spirit of openness. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

Susan Parish collection, Washington State Archives

Belle Reeves – 11/7/21

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from artist Robert Chamberlain’s Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. Pictured in the 1933 cityscape is Washington Secretary of State Belle Reeves. First elected as Chelan legislative representative through a write-in campaign, Mrs. Reeves spent her entire career in politics, many years as the only female representative, then as the state’s first female Secretary of State. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross on behalf of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org.

Washington State Archives, general photograph collection

 

Thurston County Courthouse (Old State Capitol) – 10/31/21

 

 

 

 

Throughout 2021 we are featuring events and people from the Sylvester’s Window cityscape project, now available online. The 1899 cityscape features the beautiful building that graces the east side of Sylvester Park. It was built in 1892 to serve as the Thurston County Courthouse. It is now the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The clock tower shown in this photo burned in 1928; several turrets were lost in the 1949 earthquake. Photograph selected and captioned by Deborah Ross, Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. For more information see https://olympiahistory.org/1899-2/

Jeffers photograph, State Library collection

Spring 2022 Printing of Thurston County: Water, Woods and Prairies Now Available

Produced by the Thurston County Board of Commissioners and the Thurston County Historic Commission, and distributed by the Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum, Thurston County: Water, Woods and Prairies is a 290 page, fully illustrated volume containing essays authored by local historians about Native Americans, maritime explorers, loggers, early settlers and farmers, as well as the story of the state capital and contemporary times. The book is fully footnoted, indexed and features 250 illustrations as well as an extensive bibliography.

To order your copy, fill out the form below. If paying ahead with credit card or Paypal Account, be sure to proceed to step two.

Note: For updates to the first printing of Water, Woods and Prairies, please download this document.

Thank you for your support. Questions? Email olyhistory@gmail.com


Thurston County: Water, Woods and Prairies



Bigelow House Photograph Collection

Seven Oars Photo—Women on beachfront holding oars with small girl. Margaret Bigelow at far right.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation., we have been able to scan over 200 items from the Bigelow House‘s collection of family photographs. Over one hundred of these have now been added to our website and convey a sense of the family, home, friendships, and daily life. Click on the following links to be taken to individually-themed webpages. Contact us if you would like more information,  higher resolution images, or other details, or if you have additional identifications or corrections. 

 

Bigelow Family
       Daniel Richardson Bigelow
       Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow
            Tirzah Bigelow
            Evaline Bigelow
            Margaret Bigelow
                  Korean Girls’ Seminary, Hawaii
            Ruth Bigelow
            Duncan Bigelow
            Ray Bigelow
            George Bigelow
                 Daniel Sylvester Bigelow
                 Mary Ann Campbell Bigelow
Bigelow House
Bigelow Garden
Pastimes
       Fun with Friends
       Boating
       Camping
The White Family
Friends and Neighbors

Bigelow House Museum Collections,  © Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information.

Friends and Neighbors

In addition to family photos, the Bigelow family collected dozens of photographs of friends and neighbors in the form of “cartes de visite,”  a type of photographic calling card popular in the 19th century. This page shows a few of these, all Olympia area residents. Each image provides a link to the page of our Who Are We? feature where you can find out more about the person in the photo. 

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

 

 

Korean Girls’ Seminary, Hawaii

In 1916 and 1917, Margaret Bigelow went to Honolulu, Hawaii by boat to teach at the Korean Girls’ Seminary, established by Syngman Rhee in 1916 in the Puunui area on the island.  The school was to improve the educational opportunities for the daughters particularly of those working on sugar plantations in the area. These photographs show Margaret with her students at the school and the Hawaiian area at the time.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

 

 

Pastimes – Camping

Many Olympia families took to campsites in the summertime for fun, recreation, and get-togethers. The images on this page show a beachfront shack that the Bigelows repaired to in the early 20th century summer. 

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Pastimes – Boating

Living close to Budd Inlet and Priest Point Park, the Bigelow family enjoyed waterfront activities.  These images are iconic snapshots of water sports that many families around Olympia enjoyed during the summer.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Pastimes – Fun with friends

The Bigelow children enjoyed a wide variety of friends and social activities. The images on this page show some of the many get-togethers they experienced as young adults in the early 20th century. 

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Bigelow Garden

Daniel R. Bigelow claimed and was granted 160 acres under the Oregon Donation Land Law.  The property included a spring which remains flowing on the property.  Daniel and his wife established the “Bigelow Orchard” and raised a variety of crops and livestock, according to early agricultural census records.  The property had a variety of outbuildings but only one remains. The Bigelows exhibited produce at local fairs and were mentioned in early newspaper articles about their crops.  In later life Ann Elizabeth with her family were noted for the “show place” at their home which included naturalized daffodils and tulips, dahlias and especially roses.  Ann Elizabeth exhibited the prize-wining roses at the local Rose Carnival. Many of the featured photos show the family in the garden, especially during the height of the blooming season and their enjoyment of the property.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Bigelow House

The Bigelow House, listed on local, state and national registers of historic places, was built by 1860 and is a fine example of the Carpenter Gothic style.  The house, which was restored in the 1990s, retains the signature elements of the style on the exterior.  The house interior features authentic furnishings and artwork as well as the records of the long residence of the Bigelow family.  Focused on the territorial period of Washington, the house includes elements the continued residency of the family to 2005.  The house is open to the public for docent guided tours.  The photographs in this collection, on this and other pages, show both the interior and exterior of the house and grounds over the years.

See also Bigelow House in Where Are We? feature; The Story of the Bigelow House

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

The White Family

Margaret Stewart was born in Ohio in 1819, the daughter of Ann McLaughlin (1795-1847) and Reverend William Stewart (1794-1885).  Margaret married William Nathan White in Illinois in 1835.  William Nathan White came over the Oregon Trail in 1850 and Margaret White followed in 1851.  After living in Oregon and then Chehalis area, they moved to Chambers Prairie where White was killed during the Puget Sound Indian War in 1856.  Margaret married Stephen Ruddell (1816-1891) in 1857. 

In 1871, she joined her daughter Ann Elizabeth Bigelow in calling for a Suffrage Convention and attended the Washington Territory Woman’s Suffrage Association convention in Olympia in November 1871.  The Whites had a large family:  Ann Elizabeth, William Nathan, George, Mary Ellen (Byrd), Anson, Clara (Dunbar) and John Lee.  Mrs. White had a son Rigdon after her marriage to Stephen Ruddell. Margaret and Stephen, and Margaret’s three daughters all lived in close proximity on Olympia’s East Side, and their homes are all still in existence. 

See additional photographs of the family in our Who Are We? collection, as well as locations associated with the family: Dunbar House, Byrd House, and Ruddell House

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Mary Ann Campbell Bigelow

Mary Ann Campbell Bigelow 1913-2005

Mary Ann Campbell married Daniel Sylvester Bigelow in 1935 and moved into the Bigelow House sharing it first with Margaret and then for many years with Ruth and her husband.  It was not until Ruth’s death in 1950 that the family lived in the entire house.

Mary Ann and Daniel were stewards of the historic house and were recognized with a statewide preservation award for their care in 1993.

 Mary Ann led her family to Florida as the Washington State representatives in the All America Family Search; in 1964, she was named Washington State Mother of the Year; in 1999 she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Olympia YWCA; and in 2001, she was celebrated as a Living Legend of Thurston County by the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Thurston County.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

Daniel Sylvester Bigelow

Daniel Sylvester Bigelow 1911-2005

Daniel Bigelow was the oldest child of George Royal and Edith Sylvester Bigelow.  He followed in the family tradition of law, graduating from the University of Washington Law School.  He worked for the State of Washington.    He married Mary Ann Campbell in 1935.  They had four sons:  George, John, David and Tim.  They lived in the Bigelow House from the time of their marriage.  Both were active in the Methodist Church. He followed his father’s interest in the YMCA.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

George Royal Bigelow

George Royal Bigelow 1881-1961

The youngest of the D. R. and Ann Elizabeth White Bigelow family attended Tacoma High School (with Margaret) and Ohio Wesleyan University before graduating from the University of Washington Law School.  He married Edith Sylvester (1881-1973) in 1910.  They had four children. He was a long- time attorney in Olympia, including serving as the city attorney for many years.  He was a partner in the firm of Bigelow and Manier for over 50 years.  George Bigelow was very active in the Methodist Church and YMCA, including working for the Y in France in 1918-1919.  Their home was just east of the Bigelow House on Glass Avenue.

See also links at Who Are We?

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Richardson Lee (Ray) Bigelow

Richardson Lee (Ray) Bigelow 1873-1967

Ray Bigelow married Belle Knox (1878-1927) in 1900. They had one child.  Ray was working as a dairyman in 1910 and he worked at Sloan Shipyards in Olympia in World War I.  He was later an insurance agent and built the Bigelow Apartments in 1922 and continued to manage them into the 1940s.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Ruth Bigelow

Ruth Bigelow 1860-1950

Ruth worked at the Territorial Legislature as a “Messenger” in 1879 and was attending Union Academy  also in 1879. She passed teacher exam that same year.  It is unclear if she taught locally.

She married Albert Wright (1860-1953)  in 1910 at the Bigelow House and lived her entire life there.  The Wright Family were local saddle makers.

See additional links in Who Are We?

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Duncan Jotham Bigelow

Duncan Jotham Bigelow 1871-1945

Duncan Bigelow attended the Olympia Collegiate Institute, graduating in 1892.  He later owned a large dairy farm on land near Bigelow Lake where he had an award winning herd and also farmed in South Bay.    He married Sarah Markham (1872-1965) in 1893.  Duncan Bigelow also ran unsuccessfully for Thurston County Sheriff.

See also listing in  Who Are We?

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Margaret Bigelow

Margaret Bigelow 1878 -1937

Margaret was the youngest of the Bigelow daughters.  She graduated from Tacoma High School and taught in several schools locally.  She later graduated from Ellensburg Normal School, attended Ohio Wesleyan University and later attended Columbia University and secured a Master of Arts there in 1914.  She returned to teach in Olympia and then went to Hawaii from 1916 to 1917 where she taught at the Korean Girls’ Seminary in the Honolulu area (a separate page of this Photograph Collection is devoted to her time at the Seminary). 

A musician, she gave piano lessons and was active in local music and theatrics.  Notably, she was part of the “Jubilee” at the Methodist Church in 1910 when Washington women permanently won the vote.

Margaret lived out her life in the Bigelow House.

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Evaline Bigelow

Evaline Bigelow 1858-1959

Evaline attended the Union Academy and taught in schools in several areas of western Washington before her marriage to William Bonney (1856-1945) in 1882.  Both William and Evaline were active in the Washington State Historical Society, where William was a curator. The Bonneys had two children who lived to adulthood.  Zaidee (high school teacher at Lincoln High School in Tacoma) and Victor (government chemist)/ Eva Bonney was Charter member of Nesika Women’s Club in Tacoma and active in the Daughters of Pioneers.

See additional photo in Who Are We? feature

Digitization and posting of these images from the Bigelow House Collection funded through the Pendleton & Elisabeth Carey Miller Charitable Foundation.

©Bigelow House Museum Collections,  Copyright Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. No commercial use of images permitted. Contact olyhistory@gmail.com for rights information

Tirzah Bigelow

Tirzah Bigelow 1855-1927

Tirzah  was the oldest of the Bigelow children.  She attended Union Academy, founded by Daniel Bigelow, and taught in the Olympia and Tacoma area.  She married the Union Academy Principal, Miller Royal (1852-3?-1910) in 1877 and they had two children–Ethel Royal Hardman and Bonnie Royal Gastra. Tirzah and Miller were later divorced and she retook her maiden name. Tirzah owned property in the Bigelow House area and is buried in the Forest Cemetery as Tirzah Bigelow.