Location: Capitol Campus, near 11th and Capitol
located in Washington State Capitol National Historic District, but not identified individually
Stevens Mansion in late 1800s or early 1900s, State Library Photograph collection
Site of Stevens Mansion, photograph by Deb Ross (2012)
When Isaac I. Stevens was appointed the first territorial governor of Washington Territory in 1853, he likely lived for a time in the then-center of Olympia, near where the Olympia Center is today. In 1856 or so he began construction of a house that would be situated nearer to the Territorial Capitol, which was a distance from town and not easily accessible. The house was set back from Capitol Way (then Main Street), between 11th and 12th Avenues. Although photographs and Sanborn Maps of this building depict an apparently modest, one and a half story house with a rear ell, the governor invited the entire population of Olympia to a celebratory housewarming party.
The mansion was not owned by the Territory or, later, the State, but was privately owned and later occupied both by governors and prominent citizens over the years, including the first governor of Washington State, Elisha P. Ferry. The house then fell into disrepair, looking quite decrepit in photographs from the late 19th century. However, in the 1920s, Governor Stevens’s son Hazard Stevens rehabilitated the house with a view to preserving its historic importance for posterity. Around that time, in 1924, Governor Stevens’s daughter Kate Stevens Bates wrote a short history of the house, also supporting the notion of preserving the house as the grounds of Capitol Campus were being developed. This was not to be. The planners of the Capitol Campus grounds had different ideas, and the house was torn down in 1928 when the Legislative Building was completed. The northern diagonal way leading to the Legislative building cuts right through the original location of the house. The site of the mansion is not mentioned in the nomination form for the National Capitol Campus Historic District, nor identified in on-line resources describing other monuments on Campus. It is marked only by a marker that was erected in 1924, before the building was demolished. (The original marker was stolen, and then replaced in 2021.)
It is perhaps fitting that the current World War II monument stands on the grounds of the Stevens Mansion, as Governor Stevens was killed in battle during the Civil War. Dedicated in 1999, the monument was one of the first state monuments devoted to veterans of World War II.
Article: Kate Stevens Bates: The Old Stevens Mansion, transcribed on Olympia Historical Society website.
Digital Archives, photograph at above left
Thurstontalk article about plaque replacement and mansion.
Washington State Historical Society (enter the following catalog number in Collections Search box) , C2018.0.116
Bird’s Eye view of Olympia, 1879 (house is across from Territorial Capital building at 11th and Main)
For more information on the Stevens family, see the Residents section of our website
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross