Location: 119 7th Ave SE
Local register; Women’s History; Popular culture
Laying conduit for Fleetwood Building (in background), 1938, Washington State Department of Transportation photo, State Archives
Fleetwood Building today (2013), photo by Deb Ross
Telephone service was first provided in Olympia beginning in 1889, by the Sunset Telephone Company. Its offices moved several times over the next few decades. By early 20th century the company had been acquired by California-based Pacific Telephone & Telegraph whose first purpose-built building was on Fifth Avenue. The company erected this building in about 1938 on Sylvester Park. It is on the original site of the Redpath House, which was moved to 17th Avenue. Noted Seattle architect Carl Gould designed it in the art moderne style, with decorative art deco features meant to reflect modernity and progress.
The company employed many female operators and is included in the Olympia National Women’s History Multiple Property listing, as well as the Olympia Women’s Walking Tour.
Although officially called the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building, it is known locally as the Fleetwood Building. “Fleetwood” was the first seven-digit telephone exchange in Olympia (popular lore that it was named for the Lacey Fleetwood family cannot be verified). In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a group of Olympia High School students formed The Fleetwoods, named after the exchange, and rocketed to national fame with their hits “Come Softly to Me,” “Mr. Blue,” and many others.
The building is on the local register. It is now subsidized apartments.
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross