Location: 728 4th Ave E
|Harbst Service Station building, 1964, Thurston County Assessor, Southwest Regional Archives|
Harbst Service Station today (2015), photo by Deb Ross
In 1916, at the dawn of the automotive age, this part of Fourth Avenue, down to Capitol Way through Olympia was designated part of the Pacific Highway, the main thoroughfare connecting cities in Washington State. The route was re-designated U.S. Route 99 in 1926. John Harbst, a German immigrant, built this service station in 1920 to service the thousands of vehicles that passed through downtown Olympia before Interstate 5 was built to bypass downtown. Harbst also owned the Harbst Tire Company on Columbia Street.
The decline of urban gas stations began in the 1990s, when this building was repurposed into an espresso stand. Greater fuel efficiency, the advent of multi-pump stations, and environmental regulations all served to deplete the margins of small mom-and-pop gas stations. This building represents an innovative way to preserve an art moderne icon of 1920s Olympia.