Location: 509 4th Ave E
Popular culture, Transportation

olympia theaterOlympia Opera House, 1895-1910, State Library Collection accessed via Digital Archives  

orca booksOlympia Automotive building today (2012), photo by Matthew Kennelly

The Olympia Opera House (or Olympia Theater) was built in 1890 by Washington Standard publisher John Miller Murphy and featured the latest developments in theater construction. The theater featured electric lighting, a seating capacity of 1,000, and several lounges and refreshment opportunities. At the time it was built, it was adjacent to the Swantown Slough and the foot of Budd Bay (see photograph of Union Block which was located just to the east of the theater). As shown in the photograph at upper left, the trolley went by the opera house, providing easy access for local citizens as well as visiting legislators and lobbyists. Over its 30 years of existence some of the biggest national names played here, including John Phillips Sousa, Mark Twain, and others, as well as numerous local performers. It was torn down in 1925. 

To the right (west) of the Opera House was the Kaler Market, operated by Charles Kaler who built the Kaler House on Glass Avenue. It was replaced in about 1914 by the current Olympia Automotive Supply Building. The building is now a bookstore.

More information:

Olympia Heritage inventory (Olympia Automotive building)

Washington State Historical Society photographs (enter catalog number in Collections Search box): C1950.3.44 (upper parlor at opera house); C1964.17.1 (interior of theater facing audience); C1964.17.2 (in 1913); Kaler Market 2010.149.19.1

Digital Archives: above photograph; John Miller Murphy on the stage (note the parrot on his hand)

Thurston Talk article

For more information on the Murphy family, see Residents section of this website, and listing for Washington Standard building

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross