Category Archives: Fall 2011

Fall 2011 Newsletter: Table of Contents

President’s Message

Mark Foutch

Newsletter Editorial Policies

The Honorable Lee Creighton

Mark Derricott

Deb & Lanny’s Excellent Adventures in Tacoma

Lanny Weaver

Revisiting Capitol Lake

Allen Miller & Emmett O’Connell

New Online Options for Donating, Joining, and Renewing

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President’s Message Fall 2011: Olympia History: Alive and Kicking

Mark Foutch, President

Our June newsletter showed us unexpectedly how long-ago events can provoke controversy here and now.

Emmett O’Connell’s article challenged a widely-accepted and cherished principle, that today’s Capitol Lake was a key feature of the Wilder and White plan for our beautiful State Capitol campus.  As part of his argument O’Connell produced a map showing a much smaller Reflecting Pool as proposed in the Olmsted landscaping plan, overlaid on an aerial photograph of the lake as it is today.  That pool would not have required a tidal gate and the rest of the Deschutes Estuary would have been free-flowing.

O’Connell followed this with an extended account of how long it took before the Legislature actually authorized and funded the Lake, and how our local officials finally pushed the project through.  To me that was the most interesting part of the article.   His basic thesis—that the Lake was not part of the final Wilder and White plan– did not cause me much concern.  After all, the Lake is what it is.

I should have known better.

My longtime friend and OHS member Allen Miller is president of the Heritage Park Foundation.  For the past quarter century that group has steadily and skillfully worked with the Legislature to improve the shoreline of Capitol Lake.  Completing the Wilder and White Plan has been the vision they’ve used to help convince successive Legislatures to fund the project.  For anyone to question something so fundamental to their efforts certainly caught his attention.  For his own Olympia Historical Society to publish it seemed outrageous.

He demanded a retraction.

It’s likely that OHS had not faced such a situation before.  Writing about Olympia history, good and bad, has always been a “feel good” enterprise.  To provoke outrage was definitely new territory for us.  But as often happens, crisis produces thought, and thought often produces progress.  Allen’s challenge to our responsibilities as publishers prompted our Board to discuss and adopt formal editorial policies for the newsletter, especially regarding articles submitted by outside authors.   Those policies accompany this column.

Allen had waited patiently until after our September Board meeting for a formal reply to his request.  He then responded with his own short article taking issue with Emmett O’Connell’s thesis, and offering evidence to support his longstanding position that Capitol Lake was indeed envisioned in the Wilder and White plan.  At Mark Derricott’s invitation, Emmett added additional supporting detail to his original article. Both responses are included in this issue of the OHS Newsletter.

Having read the original O’Connell  article in June, Allen Miller’s response and Emmett’s added information, our readers can draw their own conclusions.  This is as it should be.

In that same June newsletter our editor Mark Derricott offered a view of history as a philosophical concept and a very human endeavor, citing Hegel and von Ranke among others.  Probably nothing so academic or esoteric had ever appeared in these pages.   That and the O’Connell-Miller dispute got me thinking about the uses (and abuses) of history.

It’s been said that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.  But as Mark Derricott’s article demonstrated, history in all its detail is probably unknowable and always subject to interpretation.  Those interpretations can be used to justify, or denigrate, current and future plans and actions, large and small.  Wars have been fought over differing interpretations of history.  Locally, an Olympia city council majority was overturned two years ago over height limits on the “Isthmus,” and the Wilder and White plan was cited in opposition to that council’s move to raise building height limits there.

To me it does not matter whether today’s Capitol Lake, or tomorrow’s, was or was not part of a plan produced nearly a century ago.  The future of the Lake must be decided on the basis of costs and benefits as nearly as they can be determined now.  Today’s Heritage Park is a huge improvement on the neglected Capitol Lake shoreline we knew just 20 years ago, although those improvements were not envisioned precisely that way in the Wilder and White or Olmsted plans.  But the current Heritage Park plan, brought forth largely by the Foundation’s dedication and optimism, is very much alive.  The State of Washington and the City of Olympia have more Heritage Park projects ready to complete when funding becomes available.

As for the Lake itself, in these tough economic times the question of its future presents the Legislature with competing  lists of costs, values and effects, informed by six decades of the Lake’s existence and (sporadic) maintenance.  Unlike the Lake today, one thing is crystal clear:  Something must be decided, funded, and done-soon!

Meanwhile, the OHS Board and our readers have been enriched by this rigorous debate on a key question of our city’s history.  We should all thank Emmett O’Connell and Allen Miller for their dedication to that history and their contributions to this scholarly debate.


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The Honorable Lee Creighton

Mark Derricott, Editor


Does Aristotle’s theory of the whole can become greater than the sum of its parts hold true if we apply it to our community? Can something as abstract as a community possibly transcend the totality of its individuals? If so, how does that happen? If the Olympia Municipal Code is any guide, our community has adopted that theory. A municipal ordinance provides that we may name our public buildings after those who have “contributed outstanding civic service to the city”.[i] Though a great honor that may be, it is nonetheless an insufficient gesture of gratitude for any individual on whom it is bestowed. And if that is the so, a newsletter article is altogether unable to comprehend the life of an exceptional individual. Judge Scott K. Ahlf, Olympia Municipal Court Judge summed up the obvious problem when describing the life of his predecessor: “You can’t say enough about Lee Creighton. He gave everything to this court; to this community.” For all of our inability to express it, we can still recognize some of Lee Creighton’s contributions to the success of our own community.

Transition to an Elected Judge

Historical processes that dramatically shape any community often have facially innocuous origins. So it is with Olympia, Washington in 2002. That year, the Court Rules and Procedures Committee, which is a standing committee of the Washington State Bar Association’s Board of Governors,[ii] adopted General Rule 29 which streamlined the procedures for courts of limited jurisdiction, including municipal courts. It mandated that cities elect, rather than appoint, their full time judges.  It also provided for the rules by which municipalities create their own judicial departments mirroring the federal government’s three distinct branches of government.

Up until that time, Olympia’s judges were appointed by the city manager and approved by its city council. The judge was not a full time position and often local attorneys would serve as the judge while devoting the remainder of their time to their practices.  With General Rule 29, Olympia was required to elect its judge for the first time. Thus, the people of Olympia had a direct and final say in the choice of its judge and consequently the administration of its judicial department. This meant a dramatic transition in how the city manages its criminal justice system. Prior to the change, the judicial department had been under the Administrative Services department (i.e. the delegate of the City Manager). The change resulted in a new Court Services department, split off and operated independently under the direction of the judge. This included the budgets, choice of personnel and operations—in fact all decisions but salary and benefits were now under the independent control of the new Court Services department.

To head the transition, Lee Creighton was elected as Olympia’s first municipal court judge. His personality was apparent before he took the bench. During the election season which took the city’s prosecutor, Lee Creighton, to the bench, Steve Hall remembered that Creighton had campaign t-shirts printed. He asked his friend Steve Hall, at the time assistant city manager to wear one during a run that Hall had entered. When Hall refused on the basis that he was a city employee and could not take a position in an election, Creighton rationalized his disappointment with the rejoinder: “Well, you’re so slow no one would see it anyway.”

After Judge Creighton took over, Hall was assigned to assist in the transition to a separate full department in the government. Operating procedures was the primary concern to most of the staff, which approached 20 individuals at the time. Perhaps that is a problem that Olympians can appreciate more than most communities. Hall attributes a relatively smooth transition to Judge Creighton’s leadership. Judge Creighton quickly signed a memorandum of understanding that adopted the existing city policies and procedures concerning employment and operation. While there were certainly other speed bumps along the way, the transition was consummated with relative speed and ease.

As anyone who has been through a transition in the administration of government can attest, it is not an easy process, but time and leadership help. Bonnie Woodrow, Olympia Municipal Court Administrator was present for the transition. “We knew it was coming, so we were able to get ready, but a transition like that doesn’t happen without the cooperation of a lot of people. Information channels needed to be maintained or established so that we were informed of what we we’re all doing. Things that happened naturally before the transition had to be recreated in separate departments.”

For Hall, this was a historic moment in the development of our city. According to Hall, Judge Creighton brought three essential attributes to the position and the city’s government: “1.) His exemplary ethical standards; 2.) His professional management of court staff. Judge Creighton implemented fair and equitable administrative guidelines for dealing with his new staff; and, 3.) His personal attitude toward everyone who came into the courtroom—ensuring they were cared for and respected. Judge Creighton made them feel like city government treated them well regardless of the outcome.”

Judge Creighton’s Courtroom

As one might expect, the courtroom experience began to reflect Judge Creighton’s attitude and personality immediately. It bears mentioning that municipal court is not the easiest place to be a staff person. People are often upset and sometimes even indignant at the idea of taking time off from things they would rather be doing to show up to municipal court and answer for misdemeanors, (crimes punishable by less than a year in jail, e.g. drinking in public or driving with a suspended license). Too often, these frustrations are taken out on the staff given that they are often the most visible individuals. Judge Creighton noticed this and was always attempting to remedy it. At times, when defendants would get belligerent with the staff, they would sometimes notify the judge through their information system between the time they entered the courtroom and were heard. Judge Creighton’s orders often included requiring a defendant to issue an apology to the aggrieved staff person after the hearing.

Judge Creighton’s courtroom accolades are plentiful. Kalo Wilcox, once a city prosecutor, now a judge in Thurston County District Courtextolled Judge Creighton’s strong advocacy for crime victims, his protection of constitutional rights, but also his sense of humor.  “Anyone could see the respect he had for the accused who would appear before him.” Woodrow explained when questioned for examples. “He would listen to them; take the time to talk to them; and to treat them as people. You could see his compassion. People wanted to do well for him, they didn’t want to disappoint him and that came not out of fear, but from the respect that they all knew he was giving them.”

According to witnesses, Judge Creighton found ways to accommodate the necessity of decorum in the courtroom while still appealing to the ironical humor that life always presents. He was a huge X-Files fan; fashioned himself an “X-Filian”; and couldn’t resist giving weekly updates on the series from the bench. Monica Schneider, at the time the Probation Program Manager, recounts an unforgettable example of his courtroom humor: “I was in court on a probation matter and a defendant who I knew from high school was being sentenced.  I was merely a bystander during that hearing and wasn’t paying too much attention when all of a sudden I heard, “I don’t care if you put me on probation, just don’t make me report to Monica.”  I looked up surprised and then looked at Lee, who said, “Why? Did you two go to the prom together with some bad result?”

Options Program

With the judge now responsible for the judicial department of the city, Judge Creighton had a full slate of administrative responsibilities when he wasn’t on the bench. Judicial administration included the probation department in which offenders are often placed after or in lieu of jail time sentences.

One true labor of love Judge Creighton was the Options Program of the Olympia Municipal Jail. Monica Schneider, the probation services manager explains: “The options programs were introduced back in 1996 after the Olympia Jail and Municipal Court contacted a consultant to do a study about jail population management and alternatives to incarceration. Originally, in 1996, when [Judge Creighton] was a prosecutor for the City of Olympia, the initial programs offered were minimal.  I was hired to head the probation department and develop programs to alleviate jail crowding.  The programs focused on enhancing probation services to defendants by providing more intensive supervision (ISP) for some offenders (specifically multiple DUI and DV offenders).  In the first couple of years we offered standard probation services, intensive supervision probation, community service, and had a part time work crew program.

“People want a fair and responsible government, and they want offenders to be held accountable.” Remarked Judge Ahlf, “Jails are often on the third tier to funding from voters, but police officers are first.”  Therefore, there is too little jail space to accommodate offenders. Innovative and creative programs like the Options Program can help bridge that gap by ensuring that people found to have committed crimes remain accountable, but within the voters’ constraints.

As the Options Program was developed, several additional jail time alternatives were introduced including: Electronic Home Monitoring, Day Jail, Work Crew, In-custody work crew, Driving Under the Influence Alternative program, and Community Service.

“Judge Creighton was instrumental in the development and continued success with all of our programs.  He was extremely supportive in lobbying the prosecutors, the police/jail, and the City Council to allow us to be creative and offer new ideas or make changes to the programs to keep them fresh and flexible with the changing times. I very much appreciated working with Judge Creighton for a variety of reasons,” Schneider concluded, “he was supportive, he was innovative, and he promoted creativity in his staff.  He was always open to new ideas and willing to give any reasonable one a chance to develop.  Lee was a champion of the probation department.”

Off the Bench

As Judge Ahlf presciently remarked: The measure of how someone feels about their boss is whether his or her advice is still revered when no longer the boss. His staff still defers to his predecessor. “Even years later, I hear: ‘Lee would do this or that.’”

Charisma isn’t necessary to manage an effective organization, but it can certainly help. While charismatic leaders often crowd the pages of the history books, very few people have been able to describe what it actually means on a daily basis. It’s a much more difficult quality to define on a personal level, but people who knew Judge Creighton well seemed to understand charisma even if it’s not articulable. Hall told the city council on May 10, 2011 “Until tonight I thought I was [Judge Creighton’s] best friend in the whole world. Then I heard that he told [Paul Wohl] and [Judge Ahlf] the same thing.”

“He insisted on being called Lee [in the office].” Woodrow summarized his off the bench demeanor: “With him, it was hard to separate the professional from the personal because he brought you into his family. He cared about you and you knew it.”

Woodrow was quick to remark that “He always treated everyone as an equal. He always used the word ‘we’ instead of ‘I’. Schneider remembers: “Lee had a great personality and was also someone who was easy to get along with.” “There was no one more appreciative than me, when it came to smoothing things over with other departments.”

In what became a common theme that reverberated through any discussion about Judge Creighton, humor was a readily accessible arrow in his trusty quiver. During a particularly contentious dispute over budget allocation between departments responsible for the city’s justice administration, (including flying spreadsheets, angry emails, and the inevitable pep talk, kumbaya speeches, with their subsequent dressing downs) “Judge Creighton stopped us to talk […] and the first thing that came out was ‘Can’t we all just get along….’ There was nothing we could do but laugh.”

When smoothing out wrinkles between departments wasn’t necessary, Judge Creighton was able to keep morale up by being himself. His colleagues recall an uncanny ability to imitate voices as disparate as the characters of a Monty Python sketch, and Elmer Fudd which would certainly have been hilarious until the moment it wasn’t. Woodrow remembers that he would settle into neighboring offices to share a lighthearted moment, even in the face of relentless deadlines. She laughed as she recalled “Sometimes, I could not get him out of my office.” His administrative assistant during his years as a prosecutor knew the secret: “I would yell at him: “Go to your room!” and he would.” Diane Vanderhoof explained proudly.

As all of us living in Olympia well understand, our quaggy winters wax and wane through the long hours that comprise the majority our working lives. The other participants of our office environments typically determine the length of each hour. Those who worked with Judge Creighton universally remember him with fondness and gratitude for the burden he helped to bear. One of the ways particularly fitting for an Olympian was his love of coffee—he was a connoisseur of all the local coffee shops—and he didn’t hesitate to spread those joyful tidings. “On exceptionally bad days,” Woodrow remembers, “[Judge Creighton] would get the one who was having the horrible day a huge mocha coffee.” The remarkable feature here of course is that one must recognize that your office mate is suffering though through a difficult day before attempting to remedy it.

His staff did what they could to repay a professional career that so deeply touched and influenced them. After the diagnosis of an illness, Judge Creighton finally decided to withdraw from the bench though it was personally devastating to leave his work that he found so fulfilling, and the people that he had grown so close to over the years. After he retired, as a testament to his character and commitment, his staff continued to keep in touch with him by, among other ways of expressing their love and gratitude, mowing his lawn.

On May 10, 2011, the Olympia city council voted to call its court buildings and offices, the Lee Creighton Justice Center. Mayor Doug Mah extolled Lee Creighton’s “Service, Dedication, and Respect”as reasons that it is fitting that Olympia’s justice center bears his name. In testimony before the council that day, Paul Wohl who followed Lee Creighton as an Olympia city prosecutor remarked: “I’m not sure our community understands the loss. This seems to me to be the perfect way to honor and show that his principles are still with us.”


We cannot attribute a respectful courtroom, a well-functioning probation program, or an efficient administrative department to one individual. The efforts of many are required to bring about these accomplishments. However, it is difficult to miss that some of those individuals become inspirations to others and that influence cascades through successor generations. Judge Creighton touched many individuals in our Olympia government, and the true to the cause of effective leadership they have carried on his legacy. Judge Creighton’s life is unquestionably an example of this.

Our City Manager summarized the historical significance accurately: “Judge Creighton was an important figure in the history of Olympia.” While perhaps counterintuitive to those who have not considered it, history is relentlessly unfolding before our eyes. It is people like Lee Creighton that give us all an opportunity to remark on that fact which further allows us to comprehend a reconcilliation of past and present.

Thus we return to our initial question. In the lives of certain individuals one can see clearly the typically opaque interaction found between the individual and the community. Communities are the individuals who comprise them. The forces, good or bad, that result from that interaction determine the success or failure of the concept of community. After all, no community appears on any map. There are cities and towns, but they become communities only because its individuals sacrifice their individuality for the spirit of their community thanks to the love they have for their fellow human beings. So it is with Lee Creighton.

The city did not name its justice center after Lee Creighton because he was its first elected judge, because he supervised the transition to a full judiciary under the city’s administration, or because he saw to the effective administration of justice. Our community remembers and reveres him because he committed the better part of his individuality to our city; he committed his time and emotional resources to furthering his vision of a community based on mutual respect and quality of life to all of those with whom he came in contact. Some of us talk about these goals, but Lee was able to personify them and the memories of those who knew him attest to that. In that regard, Lee Creighton was as much as a city pioneer as anyone who lived at the city’s founding and it is appropriate to remember him as such; but perhaps his greatest legacy is the lesson his example taught—each of us has the capability to do the same.

[i] In 2010, the Olympia City Council adopted an ordinance now at 12.62.010 which provides that the city will choose to name its public buildngs after “[a]n individual, living or deceased, who has contributed outstanding civic service to the city and, if deceased, has been so for a period of at least one year.”

[ii] The Washington State Bar Association is the licensing authority for all attorneys in the state of Washington.


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Newsletter Editorial Policies

The following policies were submitted and adopted as the Olympia Historical Society’s newsletter submission and publication criteria.

1.       Articles submitted for publication in the newsletter reflect the research and opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Olympia Historical Society. We do not maintain any position on the interpretation of sources that are submitted for publication.

2.      It is unrealistic to expect the newsletter’s editor to detect and correct errors of historical fact in a documented, footnoted scholarly submission, nor to anticipate and cure through editing any potential controversy arising from the publication of such articles.

3.      If complaints about such an article are received, the complainant will be offered the opportunity to reply, either in the form of a letter to the editor or a full-length article, as s/he prefers.  Alternatively the editor would summarize the complainant’s concerns in the next edition.  We believe and adopt the words of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis “…the remedy (for fallacious information) is more information.”

The Olympia Historical Society gratefully accepts contributions from those who have an interest in researching and writing about our local history.

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Deb & Lanny’s Excellent Adventures in Tacoma

By Lanny Weaver

When Deb and I started going to the Washington State Historical Society a few years ago, archivist Ed Nolan told me that eventually he wanted me to work on the collection of papers from former State Capitol Museum curator Delbert McBride, but he demurred because he thought that the project would be difficult. Last spring I finally got my hands on the collection and found that Ed had not lied. Large in size (19 boxes) and badly arranged (the result of bumbled handling by contractors), the collection posed the greatest challenge for me yet at the Washington State Historical Society, but I have finally completed the arrangement and description, making this worthy set of papers available to the public and easier to use.

Del McBride was a talented man, an artist, educator, and historian with a wide range of interests.  His papers hold a wealth of information on numerous topics and on the man himself.  Of particular interest to people from Olympia is the accumulation of research on Thurston County history during his years at the State Capitol Museum (1966-1982) and after.  He belonged to numerous organizations both nationally and locally, including the Tumwater Historical Association, the Nisqually Delta Association and the Thurston County Child Guidance Association.  From all of the organizations, he kept minutes, newsletters, flyers and newspaper clippings.  The Thurston County Child Guidance Association folders surprisingly contain information on the Association-owned building, the Edmund Sylvester house.

A sizeable portion of the collection contains information on the Nisqually Valley and Dupont, their development and ecology, including the creation of the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and the effect of Weyerhaeuser’s plans on the City of Dupont. Del maintained membership in both the Quinault and Cowlitz tribes.  He kept genealogical records to show his descent from those tribes and from the early Nisqually pioneers. His personal essays contain their stories of early life in Washington and Northwestern Native American myths.   Del obviously liked to clip articles from the newspapers.  The ones in the collection cover topics, not always local in nature, but for the most part relevant to the State of Washington.  Someone interested in the Boldt Decision, for instance, can glean insight into this court case just through Del’s papers.

I enjoyed the opportunity to work with the papers of this extraordinary man.  The finding aid for the collection should be available on line in the near future.

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Revisiting Capitol Lake

Capitol LakeThe previous two newsletters contained articles on the history of Capitol Lake, whose authors maintain divergent conclusions. As our newsletter policies maintain, the Olympia Historical Society welcomes submissions on any subject of local history and does not take positions on the points of view of our contributors.

Mr. Miller submitted the following:

Unfortunately the membership of the Olympia Historical Society was purposefully deceived by an article in the June newsletter by Emmett O’Connell entitled:  “The Myth of Connection between Wilder and White and Capitol Lake.”  The article was false on two counts.  First it is an historical fact that Wilder and White’s 1911 plan for the State Capitol Campus included the reflecting Capitol Lake.  The August 29, 1911, “Report of Group Plan” signed by Wilder and White and which is in the State Archives states:  “A tide lock at the Boulevard would form a lake and the whole effect would be visible from most parts of the city as well as from the sound.” A full copy of the document is attached.  Second, Mr. O’Connell deceptively overlays the 1912 Olmsted Brothers plan, which was rejected by the State Capitol Commission, as if it was the Wilder and White plan for Capitol Lake and the Campus.  This history is clearly laid out in Professor Norman J. Johnston’s definitive book on the subject:  Washington’s Audacious State Capitol, at pages 33-37 and page 124.

Mr. O’Connell submitted the following:

I have two thoughts about the discussion reflecting the piece I submitted earlier this year on the history of Capitol Lake.

First, in “The myth of the connection between Wilder and White and Capitol Lake” I opaquely described the early history of the Wilder and White era of capitol campus design. Based on a master’s thesis by Mark Epstein, I overlayed the Olmsted Brother’s plan for a more limited lagoon with the current Capitol Lake. I don’t think I was wrong in showing that overlay, but I would admit that I didn’t explain it well.

According the Norman Johnston, the Olmsted’s group plan was rejected in 1912 not because of its more limited lake, but because it suggested a new axis for the campus. The axis on which the group would be built was an important consideration for the Capitol Commission, as explained below.

By the time the campus landscape planning was completed in the late 1920s, the Olmsted Brothers were brought back in by the commission, and depending on what history you believe, waterfront improvements either reverted back to the Olmsted’s vision (according to Epstein) or were dropped altogether (according to Johnston).

Second, I find the suggestion that Walter Wilder and Harry White’s “Report of Group Plan” as the last word in any discussion of Capitol Lake’s history troubling. Yes, they did mention a lake in that letter, but its worth exploring the entire letter to see the lake’s context in their minds.

The “Report of Group Plan” is correspondence from Wilder and White to the Capitol Commission dated August 29, 1911. The document is just over 4 pages long and in it Wilder and White quickly lay out three questions to be answered by the letter:

1.  Was Olympia the right place for a permanent state capitol for Washington State?

2.  Can the city express any special character possessed by the state?

3.  Can Olympia’s growth be directed to “enhance the importance of the state.” This was an important question because capitol buildings in many older states had become crowded and overgrown by their host cities.

In terms of the first question, Wilder and White demur because of their limited knowledge of the state. They do point out that a coastal city was a proper choice because the state itself is coastal. And, in terms of Olympia’s small size compared to other cities, Wilder and White point out that the city can be more attentive to the needs of the state government than trying to compete with Tacoma or Seattle.

Wilder and White move quickly from the second question into the third, answering that it is:

…in the possibilities that (Olympia) contains for expressing the character of the state, that the city in general  as well as the site for the capitol is remarkable, and we believe careful development of these possibilities, will result in an effect unequalled by any capitol in the world.

Most of the report (the remaining three pages) deal with answering the third question, how Olympia’s growth could be shaped to emphasis the capitol campus they proposed.

They then discuss the alternative of the north south orientation of the campus that they recommend, the east west orientation which would connect the campus to Capitol Way (Main Street then). Wilder and White criticize this approach, calling it “nothing but an accidental importance, starting nowhere and ending indefinitely…” Changing the approach to the east would also turn the capitol’s back on Olympia and ignore the approach from the water.

More specific recommendations reconnect their vision of the north south axis with the possibilities they earlier mentioned. They go into detail about a new road, which would be a possible extension of 4th Avenue, that would “connect the main ridges contained within the city” and continue to coastal towns. This road would be connected to the campus by another, which would extend along the east shore of what is now Capitol Lake and continue to the then proposed Pacific Highway and then onto Tumwater.

Wilder and White then propose regrading the hill between Water Street and the campus, creating space for a park-like setting for city and “other public buildings.”

Then, they discuss the building of a tide lock at the boulevard first mentioned earlier to “form a lake and the whole effect would be visible from most parts of the city as well as from the Sound.” In the entire document, this is the only mention of a tide lock and a lake.

Then follows a more philosophical discussion of why the city growing the manner they prescribe, while a sacrifice, would benefit Olympia in the long run. They quickly pivot from their specific recommendations about the growth of the city to the benefits that would be created by “any sacrifice made by property owners in the city for the sake of its beauty…”

The sacrifices on the part of the city would, in our opinion, be trifling compared to the advantages that would accrue from them, while the development outlined would facilitate the natural travel through the city and direct it past the most beautiful portions.

They then propose that the “present park” – Sylvester Park as far as I can tell – should be physically connected to their park and civic district proposed for below the campus.

They then cover their opinion of whether a foundation laid during a previous capitol building effort should be employed. Wilder and White write that taking into consideration the entire cost of the capitol campus, the sunk cost of an old set of foundations should not be considered, especially if they interfere with their design.

At the close of the letter, they refer to the need for more detailed plans for the campus.

While Wilder and White do mention a lake in this letter, it is important to put their suggestion in context. The reference is a single sentence in a more than four page long letter. It is also one suggestion of how the city itself should grow.

This is an important point in the discussion of the campus and Capitol Lake. By placing the lake in the discussion of how the city should grow and outside the group plan, they make it secondary. Their primary concern with the letter is the axis upon which the group is oriented. Obviously the city should grow around that axis, but that growth is secondary to the axis itself.

Also, like the grading between Water Street and the campus, the road to Tumwater and the location of a post office and other civic buildings below the campus, very little of what Wilder and White wanted in Olympia’s growth actually happened. In fact, the lake is practically the only thing they advised that was carried through.

Also, by using words like “sacrifice” when talking about the city’s growth, its also questionable whether Wilder and White ever saw these improvements as even part of the capitol campus. It seems likely that the roads, civic buildings and the lake would be constructed by the city itself and be complimentary to the campus.

I’m not trying to point out that Wilder and White didn’t envision a lake at the base of the campus. What I am trying to do is put their vision in its proper context. Their suggestion of a lake wasn’t the first one and the connection between what Wilder and White actually suggested and what eventually came about is tenuous.

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New Online Options for Donating, Joining, and Renewing

We are at last leaving the past and now offer our community the opportunity to join or renew online.

Please follow this link for details.


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