History in Olympia, Washington

Surprising to most people outside of the city, Olympia, Washington, is the capital of the Evergreen State. However, it’s more than just the governmental center of the state. Steeped in history and intrigue, the city has something to offer history buffs, the curious, and travelers. If you’re starved for history or just want to boost your skills at pub trivia, check out these historical places around Olympia.

Washington State Capitol

Every city and state’s history begins with the formation of a government. That’s why it should come as no surprise that the Washington State Capitol is one of Olympia’s foremost historical attractions. Built between 1922 and 1928, the capitol building is a stunning example of American Neoclassical architecture and a symbol of the bureaucracy and law of Washington.

Byrd House

A local, state, and national landmark, Byrd House is a stellar example of preserved Queen Anne architecture. Built in the 1890s, this house has been expertly maintained, showcasing the buildings of the time. Today, it’s a residence, so you can’t go inside. But a stroll by this magnificent structure shows some insight into the housing of Olympia over 100 years ago.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Opened in 1987, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial pays homage to the brave men who died in the Vietnam War. The beautiful memorial mimics the one built in Washington, D.C., but on a smaller scale. Here you can view the names of those who gave their lives in a brutal conflict.

Bigelow House Museum

Built by Daniel Bigelow in the 1850s, the Bigelow House Museum is a pristine Carpenter Gothic-style building. This type of architecture was the result of skilled carpentry and the abundance of timber in the area. The house remained with the Bigelow family until it was given to the City of Olympia in 1994. In 2005, the house was turned into a museum that showcases original furnishings, accompanied by photos and documents unique to the home.


No, it’s not the famous 2008 thriller that made everyone woozy. Cloverfields is actually a model dairy farm built in 1914 that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in the 1840s, it’s a classic example of the farmhouses that lined the streets of Olympia before it became a port and an industrialized city.

Old Capitol Building

Built between 1890 and 1892, the Old Capitol Building in Olympia is one of the city’s most famous buildings. From 1905 through 1928, the building served as the state Capitol of Washington, housing all of the state’s Congress meetings. In 1949, a massive earthquake damaged much of the building, but thanks to generous donations for the citizens of Olympia, the Capitol was restored to its original state. With a stone facade, several spires, and an imposing entry, the Old Capitol building is one of the only structures to feature Romanesque architecture.

Nestled at the southern tip of Puget Sound, Olympia is a lovely, picturesque city. Yet with so much history, the scenic beauty almost takes a backseat. Maybe that’s a bit of its charm.

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