Location: 202 4th Ave E
National Downtown Historic District; Wohleb; Popular culture;  mid-Century modern

courthouse-columbiahallThurston County Courthouse-4th Avenue, 1905, postcard private collection State TheaterState Theatre today (2003), photo by Ed Echtle

The northeast corner of Fourth and Washington was once occupied by a wooden structure built in about 1853, at a time when the center of Olympia was north of State Avenue. At one time that building was the home and business location of saloonkeeper Charles Burmeister, see Looking Back photo linked below. Burmeister later moved his saloon to the corner of State and Capitol (see Burmeister Saloon). (Confusingly, a C. Burmeister later owned a cigar store across the street at the southwest corner of Fourth and Washington; the relationship between this C. Burmeister and the saloonkeeper is unclear, as the saloonkeeper died in 1885.)

The wooden structure was moved at the turn of the 20th century to make way for the building shown at above left,  the second purpose-built Thurston County Courthouse and jail. It was erected around the turn of the 20th century after the county sold the  Old State Capitol Building to the state in 1902. The building also replaced the existing deteriorating county jail and featured state of the art security systems. As can be seen in the photograph, it was also conveniently located next to the Columbia Hall, and was close to the heart of downtown Olympia. In 1930 a new courthouse was built on Capitol Way (the Old Thurston County Courthouse-Capitol Way building) and this building was abandoned.

The Art Moderne-style State Theater currently at this location was built in 1949 and designed by local architect Joseph Wohleb. It was converted from a movie theater into a performing arts center in the 1990s. The building is included as a contributing building in the Downtown National Historic district.

The wooden structure that originally stood on this spot was moved to the area now occupied by the Martin Building, and was torn down when that building was erected.

Additional resources:

Looking Back image of the original Burmeister saloon at this location

Olympia Heritage inventory

Olympian Downtown National Historic District

Cinema Treasures listing

Washington State Historical Society photographs (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box), C1950.1330.1,  C2019.0.145 (Burmeister saloon)

Olympia Lore article, accessed April 25, 2014

Sapp, Olympia 100 years ago

Copyright © 2022  Deborah Ross