Location: 415 Capitol Way N
Transportation; Diversity: Jewish history

gas plantOlympia Gas Company, Standard Oil Tank Farm, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society Phoenix Inn

Location today (2012), photo by Deb Ross

In the earliest years of Olympia’s history, this part of Capitol Way was waterfront. Stores and maritime businesses lined both sides of the street. Jewish immigrant Gustav Rosenthal’s first store was located at the northwestern corner of Capitol and Thurston (then Main and Second).

In the early 20th century, after a succession of fill operations extended and widened the port area, Standard Oil initiated an effort to dredge Budd Inlet to allow oil tankers to pull alongside the northern part of the port and unload oil. When this was accomplished, creating the Standard Oil dock, huge oil tanks were installed at this site. A railroad line also led to the northern end of Capitol Way, which, among other supplies, carried coal for heating fuel and other energy uses. Thus, this location was an important transportation hub for the port area and supplied fuel of one kind or another to most of Olympia’s resident and businesses.

This was also the location of the Mallory Coal Company, which may have supplied coal to the gasification plant described in the next paragraph; and supplied coal for fuel to residents, businesses, and the City of Olympia. 

Olympia, as one of the most important cities north of the Columbia River, had a gasification plant as early as the 1880s, located near the site of the current City Hall. Here coal or oil was converted to gas for lighting Olympia’s streets and homes. Until well into the early 20th century, gasification was the primary source of gas for heating and lighting. After the establishment of the tank farm, a gasification plant was built here. Early photographs of the port area show a dome erected on the site of the oil tanks which was the storage facility for the Olympia Gas Company, one of the many utilities that merged over the years to form the current Puget Sound Energy Company (see link below). Almost all gas in the United States is now natural gas, piped underground.

The Standard Oil dock, now the site of Fiddlehead Marina, is the last visible remnant of the large facility that once filled this location. A wooden plaque at the marina marks the spot.

Additional resources:

Washington State Historical Society photographs (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box), 1981.94.487; C1986.36.124; 2010.149.38.2 (Mallory Coal)

Digital Archives, photograph of port area, showing dome of gasification plant at left

Copyright © 2022  Deborah Ross