• Main Street Wharf

    Prior to the arrival of American settlers, this was the northern extent of a peninsula; at low tide vast mudflats extended a mile to the north. Edmund Sylvester platted Olympia in 1850 and in 1854 Edward Giddings built the first downtown wharf, extending from the north end of Main Street 300 feet.

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    Main Street Wharf
  • Sylvester Park

    Town founder Edmund Sylvester filed the original plat for Olympia in 1850, setting aside this block as a public square.  For much of the late 1800s the square remained largely undeveloped, used by neighbors as a grazing pasture for livestock.

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    Sylvester Park
  • Crossroads

    Olympia is located at the northern end of the “Cowlitz Trail” the original overland route between Puget Sound and the Columbia River.  For centuries, local tribes used the trail as a primary trade route.

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  • Doane’s Oyster House

    Although found from Mexico to Canada, the Olympia Oyster achieved wide fame in the late 1800s mainly from the reputation of Captain Woodbury Doane’s Olympia Oyster Pan Roast.

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    Doane’s Oyster House

Olympia’s early prominence in the Pacific Northwest made it the site of many key historical events. Founded in 1850, it became the seat of government after Congress created Washington Territory in 1853.

Like most early settlements in the Pacific Northwest, Olympia was home to a diverse population, including the native Squaxin people, French Catholic Missionaries, Yankee seafarers , Oregon Trail families, Asian immigrants and many others.

Olympia’s early society ranged from elite Federal appointees, legislators, business leaders and well-educated social reformers to immigrant laborers, small shopkeepers, artisans and denizens of the “sporting district.” Their stories of success and failure, notoriety and reform, and justice versus injustice makes exploring Olympia’s past a lesson in the variety of individual and group experiences that made the city what it is today.

Visit the sites listed in this project and discover the ways their stories still resonate through Olympia’s people and inform our understanding of place.

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