Butler Cove/The Firs

Location: 3316 Windolph Lp NW
Transportation, Women’s History

butler's coveButler’s Cove, Presbyterian Picnic, 1884, Image courtesy of Washington State Historical Society windolphButler Cove today (2012), Photo by Deb Ross

The French and Brown families were early pioneers in Olympia, who staked out Donation Act claims here, at the far northwestern edge of Budd Inlet, soon after their arrival. Mary Olney Brown was a prominent suffrage advocate, healer, and poet. Her sister, Charlotte, who married George French, was likewise a suffrage advocate. Charlotte was one of the first women to attempt to vote in Washington Territory.

In the 1870s, the City of Olympia was informed that steamships would no longer be able to land at the downtown wharf, due to their larger size and the shallow depth of Budd Inlet. After research, and some political maneuvering, the property of the French and Brown families was selected to build a wharf out to deep water. Here steamships could pull up, load their cargo onto smaller boats called tenders, which would then be able to navigate into Percival Landing, at least at high tide.

Before long, the citizens of Olympia found that the area  near the landing, at Butler’s Cove (now called Butler Cove following current convention), made a wonderful spot for a picnic or campout. Small steamers conveyed church outings, visiting dignitaries, and summer campers to the wharf, often accompanied by the Capital City Band. Eventually Theodore Brown, son of Benjamin and Mary, built a summer cottage on the property, at the end of 27th Avenue, “The Firs,” to which visitors were always welcome. At one point, it was proposed to bring the railroad all the way here, but these plans did not materialize.

With the advent of the automobile and gradual decline of the small steamer as the main form of transport in Olympia, Butler Cove no longer was the mecca for outdoor recreation. It now is a secluded neighborhood of beach homes.

Further information:

Washington State Historical Society photographs

enter the following catalog number in collection search boxC1952.197.13 (above picture)

Olympia Heritage inventory (the Firs)

For more information on the Brown and French families, see the  Residents (B) and (F) sections of this website






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