Location: 1616 Capitol Way S
South Capitol National Historic Neighborhood
Mead House, 1939, Thurston County Assessor, Southwest Regional Archives
Mead House today (2014) Photograph courtesy of Deb Ross
Until 1908, when the current Governor’s Mansion was built, Washington’s territorial and state governors had to find their own lodging, typically by renting a suitable home from one of Olympia’s citizens. Hence, the Gowey House, Percival Mansion, Stevens Mansion, and others have all been dubbed “governor’s mansions” over the years. (Even the Egbert-Ingham House has been called the governor’s mansion, since Governor Evans and his family lived here while the Governor’s Mansion was being renovated.)
The Mead House, a well-preserved Queen Anne style home in the then-tony Maple Park neighborhood, is the last gubernatorial residence Washington governor before the construction of the Governor’s Mansion, in 1908. The city’s inventory does not provide a construction date nor its builder or any owners, but the house is shown elsewhere as being built in the 1890s. Governor Albert Mead and his family lived here some time during his one-term tenure in office. The chronology in the city’s inventory is confused, so it is not clear which year or years he lived here. The family, like most households here in the days before commercial dairies, maintained a cow and chickens in a shed in the back yard. During Mead’s tenure, he successfully lobbied to have a state-owned mansion built, finding it impossible to raise five children, maintain a household, pay rent, and entertain, all on a salary of $333 a month. The Governor’s Mansion was completed in 1908, but by then Mead had been defeated in the primary, so never occupied the mansion (an anecdote in the city’s inventory about the Meads refusing to live in the official mansion is probably confusing the Meads with a later governor, Lister).
The home experienced a fire in the 1980s and is now converted to apartments. However, its original Queen Anne exterior features are well maintained.
Links to more information:
South Capitol National Historic District
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross