Location: 1009 Columbia St SW
Women’s history; Diversity: African-Americans
Gowey house around 1891, photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
Columbia Manor Apartments today (2012) photograph by
The history of the home known as the Tilton House is not completely clear. According to historian Georgiana Blankenship’s account, James Tilton, the first Surveyor General of Washington Territory, built the house at the corner of 10th and Columbia in the 1850s. It may have been here that a young boy, Charles Mitchell, was brought either as a servant or a slave. Mitchell’s escape from the Tilton home aboard the Eliza Anderson and to the freedom of British Columbia sparked an international incident. The house was located across from the Catholic Church and can be seen in the 1879 Bird’s Eye view linked below, as well as the photograph linked below.
Lynn Erickson, producer of the Sylvester’s Window series, however, believes that Tilton first lived downtown and only later moved to the 10th and Columbia site. This account would be consistent with an architectural survey that claims the 10th and Columbia house was built about 1865 and later bought by Elwood Evans. It was inventoried by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1954, where it was called the Elwood Evans house. (See also Olympia Federal Savings building, site of Elwood Evans’s first Olympia home).
Just to the south of the Tilton House site was the site of the John Gowey home. Until the present Governor’s Mansion was built in 1909, territorial and state governors were often obliged to lease their homes from prominent Olympia citizens. This accounts for the large number of homes termed “Governor’s Mansion” in the historical records. One such home was John Gowey’s. This elegant Foursquare style home was built for John Gowey and his second wife, who was one of the original “Mercer girls.” Gowey was an important Olympia citizen, serving in a number of local and territorial or state capacities. Eventually he was named consul general to Yokohama, Japan, where he died. The Gowey home was at various times reportedly occupied by Governors Elisha Ferry and John R. Rogers, the third governor of Washington State, and was thereafter termed the Gowey-Rogers mansion, or the Gowey-Ferry mansion.
It is not currently known when these homes were demolished. The apartment complex, Columbia Manor Apartments, that currently occupies a spot near the site was built in 1939. It has not been inventoried.
Washington State Historical Society photograph (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): Gowey Home: C1950.3.47; C1918.104.22.168.5; Tilton Home 2010.0.342
1879 Bird’s Eye View of Olympia
Georgiana Blankenship, Old Olympia Landmarks
For more information on the Gowey family, see the Residents section of this website.
Article on Charles Mitchell episode
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross