Location: 801 Capitol Way S
National Register, State Register, Local register;  Women’s History; Religious Institutions

olympia hotelOlympia Hotel, ca. 1890, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society dolliverDolliver Building (old Post Office) today (2012), photo by Matt Kennelly

In the 1880s, it became apparent that Olympia was in urgent need of a hotel that could accommodate the numbers of legislators, lobbyists and hangers-on that appeared on a regular basis during legislative sessions. A number of prominent citizens raised the funds to build the grand Victorian-style Olympia Hotel (or sometimes termed Hotel Olympia) that was built on this spot, next to the home of pioneer George H.  Foster, whose small house can be seen just to the left of the hotel in the photograph on the left. As can be seen from the photograph at above left, the building was at the time waterfront property (or mud-front property at low tide). Among the financers of the hotel was Pamelia Case Hale, who at the time was listed as the richest person in Thurston County. Hale also financed a number of other important buildings, including the Jefferson Apartments and Hale Block downtown, and was a board member and prime investor in the trolley system that ran past the hotel. According to the Olympia Heritage inventory, the hotel also served as a meeting place for the Christian Science congregation before it acquired the Gustav Rosenthal home and built the Greek Revival building on 8th Avenue.

Sadly, the hotel burned in a spectacular fire in 1904.

At the time of the fire, it was also apparent that the city required a post office. The leveled ground where the hotel had been seemed a perfect spot, and the current building was completed in 1915. In those days before telephones were in every house, the post office was the lifeblood of communications in Olympia. Mail was delivered twice a day to homes, brought by boat or the train that conveniently stopped just below this location at the Northern Pacific Depot. The building was renamed the Federal Building when it became the home of several federal offices. In 1998, the federal government gave the building to the state for no charge, provided the state would always maintain its historic character. It is now home to the Secretary of State’s Corporations Division and has again been renamed the Dolliver Building in honor of Supreme Court Justice James Dolliver. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as the state and local registers.

Additional resources:

Olympia Heritage inventory

DAHP Report

State Library Photograph Collection, showing the facade of the hotel

Washington State Historical Society photographs enter the following catalog number in Collections Search box: C1945.191.1, 2012.0.345, C1958.173x.8  , C1979.28.2 (post office); George H. Foster home C2013.18.112

Susan Parish Collection, photograph of Post Office Building under construction

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

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross