Location: 521 Capitol Way S
Olympia Downtown Historical District, Diversity: Chinese heritage; mid-Century modern

Turpin HousePeterfield Turpin house, 1891, Olympia Tribune Souvenir Issue, Washington State Library dop buildingSite today (2012), Photo by Deborah Ross

In 1879, the Bird’s Eye View of Olympia (link below) shows that Town Square, now Sylvester Park, was almost entirely surrounded by residences. The only non-residential building was the Episcopal Church, now the site of the Governor Hotel. Pioneer Peterfield Turpin built his home facing the Square, on the northwest corner of Main and 6th (Capitol Way and Legion).

By 1891, this area was solidly commercial, the original buildings having given way to hotels and the new Thurston County Courthouse (Old State Capitol Building). Turpin chose to stay on, despite owning extensive property elsewhere in the county. Considered eccentric, he is reported to have had a Chinese chef, as did other local residents in early Olympia. 

After Turpin’s death, the property passed to a number of commercial developers, including P.H. Carlyon. In the 1920s it was developed as the first site of the M.M. Morris store, and later became a Penney’s store. In 1990 its present “blank” facade was created. The Olympia National Downtown Historic District report notes: “This remodel was the spur for the city to institute downtown design review procedures.”

More information:

Washington State Historical Society photo (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): C2016.0.116

City of Olympia – Mid-century modern context statement – photo of Penney’s store on page 14

Olympia Downtown Historic District – site 33

1879 Bird’s Eye View of Olympia – Turpin House is portrayed on northwest corner of 6th and Main

Looking Back posting with photograph of J.C. Penney Store from 1950s

For more information on Peterfield Turpin see the Residents (T) section of our website.

Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross