Sunset Life building (Capitol Boulevard)/Site of Carlyon Racetrack and Velodrome

Location: 3138 Capitol Blvd SE
Wohleb, Mid-Century Modern

velodromeVelodrome at Carlyon Park, 1890-1900
Photograph courtesy of Washington State Historical  Society
SunsetLifeInsurance_Olympia
Sunset Life building today (2012)
Photo from Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation

The boundary between Olympia and Tumwater on Capitol Boulevard was not fully determined until well into the 20th century. Just before the turn of the century, the Carlyon family established a racetrack on their property near the corner of Carlyon Avenue and Capitol Boulevard, near or on the border between the two cities. When the bicycle craze hit Olympia around 1890, Olympia Bicycle Club president W.A. Van Epps secured the right to operate a bicycle racetrack here. His next task was to persuade the City of Olympia to improve Main Street so that bicycles could actually reach the location. The velodrome was a popular outing location for residents of both cities.

The park also boasted a baseball park, which hosted a series of baseball clubs, including a professional league as well as the Olympia High School club. A newspaper article from 1893 notes that Olympia Light & Power performed the necessary renovations to establish the ballfield and the track.

In 1920, a group of investors decided to develop this area for residential use, so all of the structures and the ballfield were demolished, and Stevens Field was created to take the ballfield’s place.

The Sunset Life Insurance company moved here from its first location in downtown Olympia. This building on Capitol Boulevard, adjacent to the location of the park (although built after the park was demolished), was erected in 1959 by the firm of Wohleb & Wohleb and is an example of mid-Century Modern design, with its series of connected boxes and exterior curtain walls.

For further information and links, see the following:

Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation mid-Century Walking Tour

Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation inventory listing

O’Connell, Athletic Park: Olympia’s Minor-League Ballpark, posted on Olympia Time Blog

Washington State Historical Society Photos (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): C1950.3.41, C1950.3.42

For more information on the Van Epps and Carlyon families, see Residents (V)  and (C) sections of this website

Thanks to Emmett O’Connell for his research on the location and activities at the park

 

 

 

 

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