When congress created Washington Territory in 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Isaac Ingalls Stevens its first governor. Stevens graduated at the top of his class at WestPoint and served in the Mexican War. Trained as an engineer, he and his staff surveyed a potential route for a railroad as they traveled west to Olympia. They arrived in November 1853 and Stevens rented the two-story building at this site for use as an executive office. It served as his headquarters while he traveled throughout the region to negotiate treaties with native peoples.
By 1855, disagreements over treaty provisions led to armed conflict. In Western Washington, warriors led by Nisqually leader Leschi and his brother Quiemuth raided settlers for encroaching on their territory. In 1856, authorities captured Leschi and Quiemuth surrendered soon after to face trial beside him. Settler James Longmire escorted Quiemuth to Stevens’ office late that night where they planned to rest before traveling to Fort Steilacoom. News of Quiemuth’s arrival in Olympia spread rapidly. Before dawn, an assailant entered Stevens’ office and killed Quiemuth. Despite Stevens’ professed outrage, American settlers’ antipathy toward natives forestalled a serious investigation and authorities held no one accountable for Quiemuth’s murder.
In later years, the former governor’s office became the notorious Green Tree Saloon and dance hall, operated by “Big Bill” McGowan. The Green Tree was renowned as a “wide-open” place of entertainment where prostitution, gambling, drinking and drug use were common. It was also frequently the site of violence and police raids. After the Green Tree closed, the building was the last location of the Kwong Hong Yick Chinese store and laundry. In 1915, the building was razed to make way for an auto-parking garage.
Eckrom, J. A. Remembered Drums: A History of the Puget Sound Indian War. Walla Walla, WA: Pioneer Press Books, 1989.
“Executive Office of Governor Stevens is Being Razed” Morning Olympian, 27 March 1915.
[There will be no tears] Morning Olympian, 25 March 1915.
Newell, Gordon R. Rogues, Buffoons & Statesmen; The Inside Story of Washington’s Capital City & the Hilarious History of 120 Years of State Politics. Seattle, Wash: Superior Pub. Co, 1975.
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