Location: 1118 Olympia Ave NE
Local register; Olympia Avenue Historic District; Women’s History

Dunbar House, 1954, Thurston County  Assessor, Washington State Archives Dunbar House now (2013), photo by Deb Ross

The Dunbar House is one of the four homes in this neighborhood occupied by the White family women: the mother, Margaret White Ruddell (Ruddell House) and her three daughters Mary White Byrd (Byrd House) , Ann Elizabeth Bigelow (Bigelow House), and this house occupied by  Clara White Dunbar. Ralph Oregon Dunbar was a distinguished member of the bar, as was his brother in law Daniel Bigelow. While the Bigelow House was built in the very early days of Olympia’s settlement, the stretch of Olympia Avenue occupied by the other members of the White family, as well as several other professional families, was built a few years later. This house is said to date from around 1891.

Ralph Oregon Dunbar had a varied and interesting life, including for a time being a member of the ill-fated Donner party, until his father Rice Dunbar wisely turned north when the Donners took the “cut-off” to California. He was the first Supreme Court Justice of the new Washington State in 1889 and served with great distinction.  Clara White Dunbar was also a distinguished member of the Olympia community. Besides being a member of a prominent family, Mrs. Dunbar served as president of the Woman’s Club and also founded a literary offshoot of the women’s club that met here at the Dunbar House.

Unlike the almost whimsical Queen Anne style of Clara’s sister’s Byrd House, the Dunbar House is a fairly restrained Pioneer style home, although it has decorative features such as shingling and turned posts. It is on the local register as well as being located in the Olympia Avenue Historic District.

More information:

Olympia Heritage inventory

Olympia Avenue Historic District

Youtube video on Olympia Avenue Historic District, including Dunbar House

For more information on the Dunbars and Whites, see the Residents section of this website and the Bigelow House Photograph collection.

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross