Location: 119 Washington St NE
Downtown National Historic District; Wohleb; mid-Century modern; popular culture
Rockway-Leland Building, around 1941, courtesy Michael Houser
Rockway-Leland Building today (2014), photo by Deb Ross
The Rockway-Leland Building was constructed in phases, and is really two buildings. The “ell” on the north side (to the right in the photographs above) was built around 1921 and was a tavern. In 1941, the Olympia Oil and Wood Company hired architect Joseph Wohleb to design the addition that is seen to the left of these photos. It was built by Lacey contractor A.G. Homann. Departing from the earlier stage of his Mission style buildings seen in the adjacent James Martin Warehouse and Olympian buildings, Wohleb used an Art Moderne style and retrofitted the older building to mesh with the newer one. The building incorporates many Moderne features such as the grooved bands on the building’s side, the metal door pulls, and rounded corners, and is an iconic feature of the city’s eclectic downtown architecture. The building is named after the company’s owner O.R. Rockway, and its manager C.H. Leland.
The building was also the second home of Olympia’s first radio station, KGY (see also KGY Building for that station’s current location). Studios on the second floor are acoustically perfect, and still the home of two local radio stations. During World War II it sported a 150 foot tall tower on the roof (remembered through the neon sign in the window of the radio station). The roof also had an air raid siren, which signaled the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is in Olympia’s Downtown National Historic District, where it is listed as Historic Contributing.
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross