Location: 217-223 5th Ave SE
Women’s History; Transportation

pacific tel and telPacific Tel and Tel Building, ca. 1929, Vibert Jeffers Photograph, Susan Parish Collection, Southwest Regional Archives OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThurston First Building today (2014), photo by Deb Ross

The building at above left was erected by the Pacific Telegraph and Telephone Company in around 1908. The company operated here until it moved to the Fleetwood Building in about 1938. Pacific Tel and Tel was incorporated in California and expanded its territory into Washington by the early part of the 20th century. By 1909 it had acquired the Sunset Telephone Company. While the company had operations in Olympia early on, in the Reed Building and the Talcott Jewelers Building, this is the first building erected for this purpose. Historian Bernice Sapp refers to the building in her essay, “Olympia 100 Years Ago,” linked below, although clearly this building did not exist 100 years before Miss Sapp wrote the essay, in 1951. According to historian Shanna Stevenson, women were a major part of the workforce for the telephone company as they are today in the banking industry.

The site of the Pacific Tel and Tel building is currently occupied partly by a parking lot, and partly by an expansion of the building immediately to the east of here, shown at above right. That building was originally a garage and later converted to a bank. Although the Thurston County assessor shows this building as having been erected around 1919, it has clearly undergone major changes.


Washington State Historical Society, photograph of a reunion of the first subscribers (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box) C2016.0.179

Sapp, Olympia 100 Years Ago

Thank you to Ben Helle for finding the October 1908 article that confirmed the date of construction. 

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross