Governor Hotel/Silsby Grocery/St. John’s Episcopal site

Location: 621 Capitol Way S
mid-Century modern, Religious institutions

governor houseGovernor House, about 1890
Photograph from Digital Archives
governor prideGovernor Hotel today – Pride Weekend (2012), Photo by Deborah Ross

As the capital of Washington State, accommodations have played an important role in the life of Olympia. The photographic record shows the gradual growth and transformation of this downtown hotel, across from Sylvester Park. In 1890 the hotel (variously called the Governor House and the Mitchell Hotel) was a three story structure with columned entryway (see above left). It was developed by William H. Mitchell, a pioneer businessman. In 1928, a larger, seven-story brick structure was built to the south. This building was damaged during the 1949 earthquake but still in existence in 1960.

The current structure, built in 1971 for the Ramada Inn franchise, was designed by Camp, Dresser, McKee, following the “form follows function” philosophy.

This location was also the site of the first St. John’s Episcopal Church building, until 1891, when it moved to its location on 9th and Washington. The site was then sold to John A. Silsby (see Silsby House), who had a grocery store at the corner for many years. He unsuccessfully sued the Northern Pacific Railroad for disruption association with the construction and operation of the 7th Avenue tunnel, which went by his store (and still goes by the hotel).

Digital Archives photo above, photo from around 1945, photo from around 1960

Washington State Historical Society photographs (bold face indicates that a scanned image is available): C1981.30x.8, 1998.81.1 (earthquake damage); 2014.130.1.10; C2017.0.56.21 (Sanatarium Baths in the Mitchell Hotel)

Mid-Century Walking Tour

Bird’s Eye View of Olympia, 1879 (Episcopal church item 9 on map)

Private postcard collection

Miscellaneous Images collection, three images of Governor Hotel 

Looking Back post with photograph of dining room

For more information on William H. Mitchell and John Silsby, see the Residents section of this website.

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