Location: 220 Legion Way S
Schools; Religious institutions


olympian franklinDaily Olympian (formerly schoolhouse and courthouse) about 1900, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society Selden's

Selden’s Building today (2012), photo by Deb Ross

The northwest corner of Legion and Franklin has one of the more complicated histories in Olympia. On this site stood the first schoolhouse in Olympia. The first classes were held here in 1852 in an existing building. Heavy snows in 1855 collapsed the roof, and a new two story building was erected here, the building shown in the photograph at above left. School historian Esther Knox notes that the building originally faced south (towards Legion Avenue) but was rotated ninety degrees in 1866 to face east (towards Franklin Street). For a time, the First Presbyterian Church congregation met upstairs in the building, until their own church building across the street was erected in 1862.

At the same time, the Puget Sound Wesleyan Institute, founded by Daniel Bigelow and others, was operating at Union and Washington Streets in the building now known as the Central School. When that institute moved to its new location (the Olympia Collegiate Institute building), Thurston County decided to lease that building for its courthouse. This lasted only a few years: judges, lawyers and litigants found ascending Main Street (now Capitol Way) extremely arduous since the street was unpaved and muddy for much of the year. In the early 1870s Thurston County reached an arrangement with the city to swap sites so that it took over the school building downtown and the school moved to Union and Washington and became known as the Central School.

The new location was much handier to the center of town, and the county soon built a brick jailhouse nearby. Thurston County outgrew these modest quarters and in 1892 it built the first purpose-built building, the Old State Capitol Building, which was sold to the state after statehood. The courthouse location has moved three times since then – to Fourth Avenue, back to Capitol Way, and finally to its current location on Evergreen Park Drive.

After the courthouse was moved to the Old State Capitol Building, this building was home to the Daily Olympian for a time. The photograph at above left was taken during this period. (In an interesting twist, the Olympian was for a time located across from the street in this location, at the Sunset Life building)The building was razed some time in the early 20th century. Then in the 1920s a new concrete building was erected here and was a furniture store, according to Sanborn maps of the time. The current occupant of this building has made many alterations, but the building still is operating as a furniture store.

Additional resources:

Mowell House/Central School page recounts history of the courthouse/school swap

Esther Knox, A Diary of the Olympia School District (cover shows the first school at this location, text describes the history of the above building)

Washington State Historical Society photographs (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box), C1951.4.33, C1982.18.30.9

1879 Bird’s Eye View of Olympia (building numbered 10 shows the courthouse)

Thurston County Courthouses through history storymap

Copyright © 2022  Deborah Ross