Olympia Washington Walking Tour
This tour starts at the Washington State Capitol Building and includes several monuments on the capitol complex before moving north to historic buildings and other landmarks in the city's downtown.
Designed by Walter Wilder and Harry White, the Washington State Capitol Building was completed in 1928. Architect Ernest Flagg laid the foundations in 1893, but work was stalled and did not resume until 1922, under a new team and with a new design. Despite criticism that the building was too costly and ornate, construction was completed after six years and seven million dollars. The building is the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in North America, and the fifth-tallest in the world.
The World War I Monument, “Winged Victory,” was the first of six war memorials/monuments on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington. The classically styled 12-foot tall “Winged Victory,” in bronze, sits atop a 10-foot tall granite base at the entrance to the Washington State Capitol. The winged goddess “Nike” is centered behind a soldier, a sailor, a marine, and a Red Cross nurse. Twenty years in the making, on May 30, 1938, “Winged Victory” was unveiled in a dedication ceremony by Mrs. Charles V. Leach and Mrs. Cordelia Cater, both Gold Star Mothers. The monument stands in honor of the 67,106 men and women of Washington State who served in World War I.
The Korean War Memorial was the fifth of six war memorials in Olympia, Washington. The most somber of the memorials was created by the daughter of a Korean War veteran, Artist Deborah Copenhaver Fellows. Three drab dark figures huddled around a small campfire represent the fatigue, bleak isolation, and harsh conditions soldiers endured during this bloody war that took millions of lives. The three soldiers are backdropped by 22 flags representing the 22 nations of the UN coalition who participated in the Korean War. The dedication took place on July 24, 1993, just three days prior to the 40th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Representatives of all 22 allied nations, Washington State officials, and over three thousand veterans, including four Medal of Honor recipients, and their families were in attendance. The long overdue memorial stands in honor of the 532 Washington State men and women who served and lost their lives in this “Forgotten War.”
The World War II War Memorial was the last of six war memorials on the Capitol Campus in Olympia, Washington. The dedication took place on May 28, 1999, with 5,000 in attendance. The memorial was designed by Simon Kogan, an immigrated artist from Russia of Jewish descent. The most complex of the six memorials, the World War II Memorial was fashioned from raw bronze, stone, granite, and melted torpedo railings of a warship donated from the United States Navy. The memorial stands in honor of the nearly 6,000 men and women of Washington State who served in World War II and lost their lives.
Founded in 1883 by suffragist Abigail Stuart, the Woman's Club of Olympia was the first women's club established on the West Coast. It is housed in this large three-story historic building that was constructed in 1908. The building's design is typical for the early 20th century. It features a hipped roof, dormers, clapboard siding, and a large front porch with Tuscan columns supporting another porch above it. The clubhouse replaced the previous one on this spot which burned down 1907. The current building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The club remains an active and engaged organization today. For those interested, the club's website features an online archive of scanned images of club documents.
This historic marker commemorates the actions of suffragists in the state of Washington who successfully lobbied the state legislature in the early 1900s. Here at the former state capitol, the legislature approved a measure that placed the question of women's suffrage on the ballot. Thanks to the continued efforts of progressive women and men who supported equal suffrage, the male voters of the state approved the ballot initiative on November 8, 1910.
Completed in 1892, the Old Capitol Building is one of the most recognized landmarks in Olympia. It was originally the Thurston County Courthouse before becoming the second capitol building in 1901. It is an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. Built with rock-faced sandstone, interesting of the building include four conical towers, decorative stonework, arched windows, and a pair of gargoyles above the main entrance. It also originally boasted a 150-foot tall clock tower that was later destroyed in a fire (see below). Today, the building houses the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A variety of artwork from around the world is on display in the hallways of building including photographs and paintings. Visitors can take guided tours inside.
This statue of Washington's third governor was completed thanks to the donations of pennies and nickels from residents after John Rankin Rogers died in office on December 26, 1901. Rankin won election to the governor's office in 1896 as a member of the Populist Party and was known for his support of measure to help elevated the condition of workers and their families.
This historic marker is located in the northwest corner of Sylvester Park and features a bronze plaque within a granite boulder. The monument was created by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Sacajawea Chapter, and dedicated in 1913. The monument honors pioneers who arrived in the Puget Sound area after traveling over two thousand miles from Missouri to Oregon. The DAR partnered with Ezra Meeker in this endeavor.
Established in 1921, Olympia's American Legion Hall provided a space for over a thousand World War I veterans in Thurston County to meet. The organization's initial goal was to support local veterans and the community. In addition to providing a place for servicemen to meet in the postwar years, the American Legion grew to become a significant force on the national level and successfully lobbied for veterans' benefits. This building was designed by Joseph Wohleb and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Demonstrating changes in the organization that reflect the declining active membership of fraternal orders and similar organizations, the American Legion stopped meeting at this expansive building in 1999. The structure has been repurposed and is currently occupied by retail businesses and studios.
Built in 1924 to show motion picture and host travelling vaudeville acts, Capitol Theater was the leading movie palace in Olympia during Hollywood's "Golden Age." Shortly after its completion, the owners installed a pipe organ that was later moved to a local church. Sadly, that organ was later sold for scrap. A similar fate might have fallen on this old movie palace, but community leaders came together to save the historic building which is now home to the Olympia Film Society.
This striking building is the historic former Olympia National Bank, which was built in 1915. Designed to resemble an ancient Greek or Roman temple, it is arguably the finest example of Neoclassical architecture in the city. It features a terra cotta exterior with a colonnade of fluted, Corinthian pilasters (decorative features to mimic columns), among other interesting decorative elements. The bank played an important role in the city's history in the early 20th century as it served many prominent businessmen. The building is also significant for its association with Leopold Schmidt, the founder of the Olympia Brewing Company, who bought it in 1912. The building, which is currently home to a bicycle shop, is part of the downtown Olympia walking tour.
This small sidewalk marker indicates where the first legislature of the Washington Territory took place in 1854. Shortly after Washington was incorporated as a territory, and Olympia named as its Capitol, The legislature met in the second story of the Parker Coulter building, a dry goods store built by Edmund Sylvester in the center of town. This initial meeting established not only the members of the territorial Council, but also laid down the framework for future legislation. At the time of the meeting, there were only 4,000 settlers living in the territory and Olympia itself was at best a small frontier town, with a few dry-goods stores and homes and dirt roads. Today the marker sits across the street from the Old City Hall.
Percival Park sits on what was once the main landing for a wide variety of steamships and ferries, known collectively as the Mosquito Fleet. The fleet was named, according to legend, by an office worker in Seattle, who looked out the window and remarked at how the horde of paddle boats and steamships resembled a swarm of mosquitoes. These ships helped to transport people, lumber, and other goods. They went up and down Puget Sound, connecting the great sailing ships of the Pacific Coast to the wharf which was located here and owned by the Percival family. Today, the former wharf has been turned into Percival Landing Park, a public park and maritime recreation area.