Tag Archives: Mercer girls

Columbia Manor Apartments/site of John Gowey house/Site of Tilton House

Location: 1009 Columbia St SW
Women’s history; Diversity: African-Americans

gowey houseGowey house around 1891, photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society Columbia Manor

Columbia Manor Apartments today (2012) photograph by
Deb Ross 

The history of the home known as the Tilton House is not completely clear. According to historian Georgiana Blankenship’s account, James Tilton, the first Surveyor General of Washington Territory, built this house on 10th and Columbia in the 1850s. It may have been here that a young boy, Charles Mitchell, was brought either as a servant or a slave. Mitchell’s escape from the Tilton home aboard the Eliza Anderson and to the freedom of British Columbia sparked an international incident. The house was located across from the Catholic Church and can be seen in the 1879 Bird’s Eye view linked below, as well as the photograph linked below.

Lynn Erickson, producer of the Sylvester’s Window series, however, believes that Tilton first lived downtown and only later moved to the 10th and Columbia site. This account would be consistent with an architectural survey that claims the 10th and Columbia house was built about 1865  and later bought by Elwood Evans. It was inventoried by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1954, where it was called the Elwood Evans house. (See also Olympia Federal Savings building, site of Elwood Evans’s first Olympia home). 

Just to the south of the Tilton House is the former site of the John Gowey home. Until the present Governor’s Mansion was built in 1909, territorial and state governors were often obliged to lease their homes from prominent Olympia citizens. This accounts for the large number of homes termed “Governor’s Mansion” in the historical records. One such home was John Gowey’s. This elegant Foursquare style home was built for John Gowey and his second wife, who was one of the original “Mercer girls.” Gowey was an important Olympia citizen, serving in a number of local and territorial or state capacities. Eventually he was named consul general to Yokohama, Japan, where he died. The Gowey home was at various times reportedly occupied by Governors Elisha Ferry and  John R. Rogers, the third governor of Washington State, and was thereafter termed the Gowey-Rogers mansion, or the Gowey-Ferry mansion.

It is not currently known when these homes were demolished. The apartment complex, Columbia Manor Apartments, that currently occupies a spot near the site was built in 1939. It has not been inventoried.

Additional links:

Washington State Historical Society photograph (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): Gowey Home: C1950.3.47; C1964.; Tilton Home 2010.0.342

1879 Bird’s Eye View of Olympia

Georgiana Blankenship, Old Olympia Landmarks

For more information on the Gowey family, see the Residents section of this website.

Article on Charles Mitchell episode













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State Parking Garage/Mark and Ann Conner Hartsuck homesite

Location: 119 10th Ave SW
mid-Century modern; Women’s history; Transportation

No vintage photograph has been scanned either of the Hartsuck home or the State Parking garage. If you have one to share or would like to sponsor scanning of the photograph below, please contact us
State Parking garage today(2014), photo by Deb Ross

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, this part of town was home to many important residences and residents. Mark Hartsuck had his home here on 10th Avenue, just west of Main Steet (Capitol Way). Mark’s wife was Ann Conner, a member of the second Mercer expedition, which brought unmarried women to Washington State in the hope of partly remedying the shortage of marriageable women in the Territory. Georgiana Stevens, another “Mercer Girl,” married John Gowey and lived less than a block away in the Gowey House. Ann Conner Hartsuck was a president of the Woman’s Club and an early suffragist.

Today, this is the location of a State Parking Garage. In the 1950s, the state began expanding Capitol Campus on the west side of Capitol Way to the north and south, erecting the General Administration building in 1956, the State Library (Joel Pritchard) Building in 1959, and the parking garage in 1958. With the expansion, the need for adequate parking for state employees became apparent, and the state leased parking spaces in this, and the adjacent 1972-built garage (now razed) to state employees for reasonable rates.

The garage is one of the earliest examples in the state of the Brutalist style of architecture, featuring rough concrete sides and chunky shapes. The garage is featured in the mid-Century modern Walking Tour developed by the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation and the City of Olympia.


Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation Inventory 

Mid-Century Walking Tour

Washington State Historical Society (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box), C1952.226.73 (not scanned)

For more information on the Hartsuck family, see the residents section of this website.


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