Tag Archives: women’s history

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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Hale Block

Location: 502 4th Ave E
Local register; Women’s history; Religious institutions

hale blockHale Block, 1914, photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society hale block nowHale Block today (2012) photograph by Matt Kennelly

Pamela Case Hale – teacher, superintendant, Unitarian preacher, suffragist, and businesswoman par excellence – built the Hale Block in 1891, during a time of great prosperity for Olympia. This important addition to downtown Olympia was, at the time, on the edge of the Swantown Slough and, more importantly, was near the waterfront and the Springer and White mill (the Hale Block, then under construction, can be seen in the background of the Edward Lange drawing shown on the above-linked webpage). Hale also built the Jefferson Apartments a short distance away. As with the other large buildings in this area (for example, the Union Block), the upstairs rooms were used by a number of organizations and businesses. The Unitarian Society met here after the departure of their last minister in 1893 and the abandonment of their own church building (Hale’s connection with the church was likely a factor in choosing this location).

In the early 20th century this building was the location of the J.E. Kelley Furniture store. The name J.E. Kelley remains incised into the sidewalk in front of the building, confusing historians, as Kelley later moved across the street to the building that bears his name.

This building is on the local register, more for its historic significance than the building’s current characteristics, as it has been significantly altered over the years.

Additional links:

Washington State Historical Society enter the following catalog number in the Collection Search box,  2010.149.1.2 (Robert Esterly photograph)

Olympia Heritage inventory

For more information on Pamela Case Hale, see the Residents section of this website and the Hale House page














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Kearney House/YWCA

Location: 220 Union Ave SE
Local register, Women’s History, Religious Institutions

YWCA (Kearney House) 1961, courtesy Washington State Historical Society Kearney House now, photo by YWCA of Olympia

This fine Foursquare style home is one of several that graced Union Avenue in the early 20th century. Built in 1907, it was owned by the Kearney family, who operated a local grocery store. In 1948, the home was acquired by a local branch of the Young Women’s Christian Associaton (YWCA), spearheaded by Mildred Lemon, a member of the prominent Lemon family. The house is important for its contribution to women’s history of Olympia as well as its fine construction and preservation. It is on the local register and listed as a contributing structure in the National Women’s History of Olympia register.

Additional resources:

Olympia Heritage inventory

Washington State Historical Society (enter the following catalog number in Collections Search box), C1986.





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Olympia Junk/Capital City Creamery

Location: 525 Columbia St SW
Diversity: Jewish heritage; Women’s History; Wohleb

Olympia JunkOlympia Junk Co. 1914, Robert Esterly, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society canvas worksOlympia Junk Co building today (2012) photograph by Matt Kennelly

The building that stands at the northwest corner of Legion and Columbia was built in 1925 to house the Olympia Junk Company. It was designed by famed local architect Joseph Wohleb, with the signature Mission style for which he is known.  The photograph at above left is of a building that stood at this location before the current building was erected. The Olympia Junk Company was founded in about 1906 by local merchant Morris Berkowitz, who is likely pictured in the older photograph. It was purchased by his brother in law Jacob Bean, a member of a prominent Jewish family. The older photograph is part of the historic series of photographs by photographer Robert Esterly taken in late 1914. The successor to Olympia Junk Co. is Olympia Supply, which still operates near this location.

Adjacent to the Olympia Junk Co. (where the parking lot to the north is currently located) was the Capital City Creamery. Founded by F.R. Klumb, the creamery was one of the first in Thurston County. Before the early 20th century, most households kept a cow, even on small city lots, to provide their dairy needs. The establishment of creameries was a result of increased urbanization, and the Creamery introduced sanitary and efficient practices, including pasteurization, as well as delivery trucks. The entire family, including F.R.’s wife Katherine and daughter Minnie, worked at the creamery.  Long-time Olympia historian Winnie Olsen was the daughter of Minnie Klumb.

For more information follow these links:

Olympia Heritage inventory

Washington State Historical Society photograph collection (enter following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): 2010.149.23.1 (above photo); C1993.12.10 (pasteurization process at Capital City Creamery); C1993.12.7; C1993.12.1; 2010.149.23.2 (Esterly photograph of Capital City Creamery)

For more information on the Bean and Klumb families, see our Residents section (B and K)















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Olympia Public Library (Carnegie Building)

Location: 620 Franklin St SE
National, State and Local Register; Women’s History ; Wohleb; Religious Communities

Carnegie LibraryOlympia Public Library ca. 1914, National Register nomination Carnegie Building

Olympia Public Library building today (2012), photograph by Deb Ross

According to the inventory listing for this building, the collection that eventually became the Olympia Public Library was begun in 1896 by the Woman’s Club of Olympia. In 1909 the city took over the collection, which then numbered 900 books. Around that time, Andrew Carnegie instituted his program of endowing communities with funds to build local libraries, subject to certain stipulations. Carnegie’s grant of $25,000 assisted in the construction of this building, which was completed in 1914. The architectural firm of Blackwell and Baker used architect Joseph Wohleb as its principal architect, and this was one of Wohleb’s first important commissions in Olympia after he moved here from California. The building was expanded in 1960, but the collection continued to grow, and the current (2012) library building was constructed nearby in 1978.  Since then the Carnegie building has housed restaurants, bookstores, and a church.

The Olympia Public Library (Carnegie) building is listed on the local, state and national registries.

According to historian Bernice Sapp, this was once the site of the home of Jack Baldwin, pioneer logger, and Captain Hatch.

Additional resources:

Washington  State Historical Society

(enter the following catalog number in Collections Search box): C1986.

Olympia Heritage inventory

Sapp, Olympia 100 Years ago


















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Red Top Taxi building/Site of Cohen’s Confectionary

Location: 113 4th Ave W
National Downtown Historic District, Diversity: Jewish heritage, Women’s History, Popular Culture, Transportation

cohen's pool roomCohen’s confectionary, photo courtesy of Washington State Historical Society Red Top Taxi Building

New Moon  Cafe (Red Top Taxi building) today (2012) photograph by
Deb Ross 

Annie and Barney Cohen operated the confectionary/pool hall at this location in the early 20th century, and lived above the store. It was one of many small, family-owned businesses that stretched westwards from the center of town towards the Fourth Avenue bridge. The photograph at above left was one of the series taken by photographer Robert Esterly in 1914, cataloguing the businesses of Olympia and their owners.

Some time later, the building was demolished, and the current brick building was erected in 1948. It housed the Red Top Taxi and also the Trailways Bus station. The building currently houses a small cafe and is well maintained. Its west side once sported one of the several graffiti murals in downtown Olympia, now obscured by the erection of an apartment building next door.

Additional links:

Olympia Heritage inventory

National Downtown Historic District 

Washington State Historical Society photograph (enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box): 2010.149.6.1














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