Location: 200 Union Ave SE
Women’s History, Schools, Popular culture; State register (Central School building)
Central School, around 1882, photo from State Library Photograph Collection, Digital Archives
Mowell House today (2012), photo by Matthew Kennelly
In the 1850s a school was erected at the corner of Union and Washington at this location, serving for a short time as the original location of the Puget Sound Wesleyan Institute. When that institution moved to larger quarters on Olympia’s east side (see Olympia Collegiate Institute site), the building was used for a time as the Thurston County courthouse. This proved impractical since the building was some distance from downtown Olympia and roads were unpaved and muddy. The building was then leased to Pamela Case Hale and Carrie Churchill for a school; starting in the 1870s, the building was again used as a public schoolhouse, the Central School.
For a time, this building was also the home of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) clubhouse and its successor, Sons of the Veterans.
Dr. John Mowell and his wife, prominent women’s advocate Ada Sprague Mowell, acquired the property and moved the schoolhouse building to its current location at Union and Adams, where it is now an apartment building. The building is on the state register. The Mowells built the above home, a classic Foursquare, about 1907.
For more information follow these links:
Washington State Historical Society photographs (enter catalog numbers in Collections Search box): C1959.267x.10 ; C2017.0.70 (Sons of Veterans); C2013.18.176
Story map, Thurston County courthouses
Bird’s Eye View of Olympia, 1879 (item no. 2 at Union and Washington)
ThurstonTalk article about the Grand Army of the Republic, accessed Oct 6, 2022