Learn About The History Of Olympia WA

The History of Olympia Washington

Aside from being one of the smaller city capitals of a state, Olympia's history is rich with Native American tribes hunting and fishing the land, as well as being one of the leading West Coast shipping ports in America. Olympia's immersion of eccentric culture for independent music and an intricate platform for art has led the city as a standout from other cities nearby. A city that adores its exquisite tree-lines, and coastal water views, Olympia has remained dedicated to preserving the beauty surrounding her for three centuries.

19th Century Olympia

Long before Olympia had become incorporated or established, tribal groups like the Nisqually, Duwamish, Suquamish, and Puyallup tribes used the land for fishing, hunting, and living. The Native Americans referred to Olympia as a "place for the bears," by giving it the name Cheetwoot.
It was around the mid-1800's, when White settlers discovered the beauties and advantages Olympia had to offer as well. Two men, who played a prominent role in establishing Olympia, was Levi Smith and Edmund Sylvester. Both made their claims on the land, however, when Smith unexpectedly died, Sylvester took over the responsibilities. A local by the name of, Isaac Ebey, suggested to Sylvester, that they change the name from "Smithfield," to "Olympia" in 1853.
The following year, Olympia was well on its way to establishing its first legislative session geared towards developing the city and its culture. During those sessions, the founders organized and developed schools, and voted on certain measures like women's right to vote(which they declined).
During those years, coal was discovered, as well as saw mills being built, roads created, and the town had even established its own daily newspaper. Olympia became officially incorporated in 1859.
From 1860-1870, Olympia grew in population from 1,000- 1200 people. Growth and progression wouldn't come easy, however, when in 1872, Olympia's industry and trade took a major hit due to a massive Earthquake that shook the city. Due to the city being in near shambles, the Northern Pacific Railroad decided it would move its end route to Tacoma instead of Olympia resulting in an economic blow.
Around then, people followed NPR's decision to move as well. Olympians remained optimistic and poised due to its geographical advantages. Slowly, Olympia was known as a "saw mill" town.
Olympia's strengths remained in the industries of coal, timber, fishing, and furniture. These goods would be loaded and transported on ships from Olympia Harbor to California.
In 1889, local business-owners successfully staved off efforts from other cities and legislators in moving the capital to another,bigger city. Olympians remained resilient in keeping the capital of Washington in Olympia. This as Washington was officially named as a state that year.
The population grew to 4,700 in 1890 and in that year, telephone lines, light poles, and a street railway system were constructed. It was during that era, when Olympia saw its most prestigious industry thrive, The Olympia Brewing Company.

20th Century Olympia

In 1901, Olympia's courthouse was officially purchased by the state of Washington and was made into the state capitol building. During the 1910's, capitol buildings were granted by legislature to be constructed. The Temple of Justice was used first in 1912, and others followed like, The Insurance Building in 1920, and The Legislative Building, which was first used in 1928. In 1922, the lumber industry saw a boom in mills being built after Olympian voters established the Port of Olympia.
In 1949, Olympia again took another devastating hit by way of an Earthquake. The Earthquake damaged the capitol dome and other state buildings.
Undeterred by mother nature's calamity, Olympians celebrate their 100th year of existence in 1950. In that time, Olympia began flourishing as an industry for radio and entertainment having owned a radio station, a television station, and two daily papers. By 1953, the city's population grew to nearly 17,000 people.
The 1960's saw the shift of lumber mills closing down, but in 1972 Evergreen State College opened its doors on 1,000 acres of land.
By the end of the 1970's, Olympia was becoming one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Much of its growth stemmed from shopping malls, agriculture and the oyster industry.
During the 1990's, a major effort was undertaken to restore and revitalize old buildings within the city. The city also gained notoriety from its music scene, and especially so, thanks in large part from the legendary grunge band, Nirvana, who formed and began their career in Olympia.
By the end of the 20th century, Olympia's population had amassed up to 200,000 people.

Present Day Olympia

Today, Olympia remains one of the fore-running cities for eccentric arts, land conservation and preservation, as well as its uniquely established music scene catered more towards the punk industry.
Thanks to the emergence of Evergreen State College, Olympia has enjoyed a culture of social and political activism hosting annually "Earth Day."
While enjoying its mid-size range, Olympia is one of the few cities to keep its status as a state capitol, as other states have seen different shifts of change. Olympians enjoy the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains, as well as the borders of water that follow the city as one of the more elegant capitol's in this country.