Location: Capitol Campus 
Schools; located in Washington State Capitol Campus National Historic District

first olympia high schoolFirst William Winlock Miller High School, ca. 1917, State Library Photograph Collection Sunken garden

Sunken Garden today (2013) photo by Deb Ross

Olympia School District was providing high school level classes to Olympia’s youth as early as the 1880s, but in the early 1890s sentiment began to grow to create a separate building for high school students. One of the original proposals was to use the Central School building on Union Avenue. However, others wanted a new building and it was decided that a new building could be built so long as there was no net expenditure of funds. At that point, Mary McFadden Miller offered to donate her property on the site of the current Capitol Campus at no charge, provided that the high school would forever be known as the William Winlock Miller High School, in honor of her late husband. In 1906, the District sold the Central School Building to Dr. Mowell and used the proceeds to build the stone and wood building shown at above left. The architect was James Stephens, of Seattle. In April 1907, the Woman’s Club, ardent supporters of the school, hosted the grand opening.

When the Wilder and White plan for Capitol Campus was approved, the state approached the district and offered to purchase the property and find a new location for a high school, which had in the meantime become overcrowded. A spot was located across the street and plans were made to move the furniture and equipment when it was complete. However, in the summer of 1918, the building burned down, taking all the furnishings with it. So, when the second William Winlock Miller school was built in 1919, it started anew with all new equipment and furnishings.

The area to the west of the site of the original school is now a sunken garden on Capitol Campus, with floral displays changing with the year and the season. It is on the grounds of the Washington State Capitol Campus National Historic District but is not mentioned by name in the nomination form.

Additional resources:

Washington State Historical Society, building under construction (enter catalog number in Collections Search box) C2017.0.37

Esther Knox history of Olympia School District

Digital Archives photograph above

Copyright © Deborah Ross