Location: 405 Columbia St NW
Transportation, Local register, Popular Culture

percival dockPercival Wharf 1914, by  Robert  Esterly, photo from Digital Archives, State Library Collection percival landingPercival Landing now (2012), photo by Matthew Kennelly 

When Olympia was first settled by Americans, the primary access to the town was by boat, as roads were mostly impassable. Yet boat access was also challenging: at low tide, lower Budd Inlet was a mud flat. Captain Samuel Percival, an early Olympia merchant settler, was the first to build a commercial-scale wharf. The Bird’s Eye View of 1879, linked below, shows the wharf extending into the inlet (note that this view was created well before the Carlyon Fill added several blocks to the north of the wharf). Even so, given the extreme low tides at this end of Budd Inlet, larger ships had to land at the wharf on Butler’s Cove and unload onto the myriad small steamers that were able to handle the shallow water into town, until the mile-long “long wharf” was built in the late 19th century, which extended to deep enough water to allow larger ships to come into town.

In 1877 Captain Sam turned the operation of the wharf and its express offices to his sixteen-year-old younger son John Percival, shown above at left. The “Mosquito Fleet” of hundreds of steamers that transported most visitors to the city landed here, as did the smaller tenders unloading cargo from the ships moored at Butler’s Cove.

Percival Landing has been rebuilt several times over the years and has been a very popular strolling park since 1977; in 2011 a major remodel created new public spaces for meetings, art installation, and public mooring. It is the location for festivals throughout the year. The location is on the local register of historic places.

For more information follow these links:

Olympia heritage inventory

Washington  State Historical  Society photographs (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box):C1964. (circa 1949); 2010.149.39.2; 2010.149.17.2 (same as above left photograph); C1952.226.62

Digital Archives photo above

Looking Back photograph of John Percival in 1940

TCTV/PCTV video on maritime history at the Port of Olympia, accessed via YouTube

Bird’s Eye View of Olympia 1879

For more information on the Percival family, see Percival mansion and Residents section of this website

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross