Location: 205 5th Ave SE
Downtown National Historic District; Wohleb; Popular culture
Donald Building, 1964, Thurston County Assessor, Southwest Regional Archives
Donald Building today (2014), photo by Deb Ross
The inventory listing for this building notes: “One of Joseph Wohleb’s finest commercial designs in the Mission Revival mode, and one of the best preserved small commercial structures in the city, the Donald Building … together with the adjacent Jeffers Building, is the most fully developed and best preserved of the architect’s Mission Revival structures downtown.” It was erected in 1924 by James Martin, a prolific developer in the 1920s, who already had two buildings named after himself, the Martin Building just across Washington Street, and the James Martin warehouse, on State Avenue. A newspaper article of the time states that Martin intended to raze over 11 structures downtown and replace them with more up to date commercial buildings, many of which still exist, giving Olympia’s downtown its Mission flavor. Although neither the Olympia Heritage inventory, nor the current owner, report on the reason for the name Donald Building, it may be named after one of Martin’s sons, Donald Martin. (see also the Martin/Tiffany House, which was owned by Martin’s other son, Dewey, and possibly by James Martin before that)
The building and the small businesses occupying it are icons of Olympia’s diverse and quirky downtown. Now (2014) sporting a series of trompe l’oeuil paintings on its northern facade facing 5th Avenue, it still has preserved all the essential features of the original Wohleb design, including carved plaques below the roofline with the date of construction, 1924.
The building is in the Downtown National Historic District where it is listed as contributing.
Thank you to owner Anne Buck for background on the building.
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross