Location: 217 Columbia St NW
Transportation; Diversity: Native American history
P.J. O’Brien Blacksmith Shop around 1900, photograph courtesy of Washington State Historical Society
Canoe Journey Mural on side of Les Schwab building (2012), Photograph courtesy of Deb Ross
Even before the 1911 Carlyon Fill project, the Port area north of State Avenue started evolving into an area of light and heavy industrial activity, as well as a zone for less genteel businesses such as brothels and saloons (see also Dead Zone). P.J. O’Brien’s Blacksmith shop, adjacent to Percival Wharf and on the north side of State Avenue, was an example of the former, as was a recent occupant of this location, Les Schwab tires (now demolished). For a time this site was also the home of the Columbia Furniture Company, and a Coca Cola Bottling Warehouse. The Les Schwab building was erected in 1941. The Port area is gradually returning to an area of mixed use, including commercial businesses, residents, and industrial activity.
In 2012, the Olympia Downtown Association and the Olympia Heritage Commission commissioned a mural, pictured above, painted on the side of the Les Schwab building to commemorate the Canoe Journey Paddle to Squaxin event that occurred that year. The mural was demolished along with the Les Schwab building.
The site is currently occupied by an apartment building structure that honors an early resident, Lurana Ware Percival. A recent set of murals, painted in 2022, honors the Squaxin heritage of the site.
Links to more information:
Washington State Historical Society (enter the catalog numbers in Collections Search box): C1956.20.5 (above photo); C19184.108.40.206.8
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross