Location: 600 Capitol Way N
National Register, Wohleb, mid-Century modern

georgia pacific thenGeorgia Pacific building in 1950s, photo from DAHP georgia pacific nowGeorgia Pacific building today  photograph from DAHP

The plywood industry was an essential part of Olympia’s economy in the early to mid-20th century. Plywood was not only decorative, but used in construction of airplanes during the war. The two factories in this area, Olympia Veneer and Washington Veneer, thrived in the years leading up to World War II and afterwards. East coast based Georgia Pacific entered into the plywood business after World War II and bought the Washington Veneer Company to serve as its central manufacturing base. In 1952 the company decided to make Olympia its operational headquarters. It retained the noted Seattle firm of Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson (NBBJ) to design a building that would  embrace the emerging post war modern aesthetic now known as mid-Century modern (and which made extensive use of plywood in furnishings and construction). The company chose to showcase its line of plywood products by creating interiors and exteriors featuring its line of decorative plywood veneers. Each office is decorated in a different kind of veneer with built-in cabinetry, identified by a plaque (click on links below for additional images).

Two years after the building was completed, the company decided to move its headquarters to Portland, and the building was sold to the Game Department (now Department of Fish and Wildlife). The state expanded the building, hiring the noted local firm of Wohleb and Wohleb to design the extension. The Port of Olympia later acquired the veneer manufacturing sites, and today the only remaining vestiges of this important industry are this building and a few smaller structures scattered throughout the port area.

The building was accepted into National Register of Historic Places in 2007. It is considered to be “endangered” by mid-Century enthusiasts, as the state has indicated a desire to demolish the building.

Additional links:

WEWA-Docomomo (mid-Century modern enthusiasts) 

Olympia Heritage inventory

DAHP mid-Century Modern Walking Tour

City of Olympia mid-Century modern context statement, page 23

Listing, National  Register

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross