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Olympia WA Historical Landmarks

Virtual History Tour: A Guide to Olympia’s History and Our Favorite Historical Landmarks

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Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, Olympia, Washington is a destination with something for everyone. Olympia sits on the southern edge of the Puget Sound, where the Deschutes River meets the saltwater.  Mount Rainier rises on the eastern horizon, with clear views of the mountain from different spots in the city. 

Though Olympia is compact, it features grand government buildings, including the Washington State Capitol Building and the Washington State Capitol Campus. The city is home to an active waterfront district, historic downtown, and plenty of outdoor activities, offering a destination for everyone to enjoy. 

But when your interests lean toward the historical, here is our list of the top historical landmarks and destinations in Olympia, WA. 

The Capitol Campus and the Legislative Building 

Following Olympia’s official designation as the Washington State capital, the city’s founder gifted the legislator a beautiful 12-acre parcel of land to build government buildings. 

Fast forward a century and change to find the Legislative Building standing tall with an elegant dome and a symbolic 42 steps (representing Washington’s status as the 42nd state added to the Union). 

Leave the Legislative Building and walk around the rest of the Capitol Campus to discover 18 major art installations spread across the grounds with a view of Capitol Lake on the horizon. 

The Old Capitol Building 

Before the state legislature called the Capitol Campus home, it was housed in the grand Old Capitol Building, which featured a 150-foot-high octagonal clock tower with a different clock on each side. 

You can still appreciate the grand architecture of this building (sometimes affectionately called “the Castle”), which was updated in 1983 to remain an attraction for years to come. 

Bigelow House Museum 

Before the Pacific Northwest was a bustling hotspot that drew crowds and residents eager to appreciate the beauty of tall, evergreen trees and high-standing mountains, it was home to pioneers like Daniel R. Bigelow. 

Bigelow and his wife Ann built their house in the 1850s, making it one of the earliest to be constructed in the Pacific Northwest region. Nowadays, the Bigelow House Museum offers a look into the past. The family lived there until 2005, though the structure now stands as one of the oldest homes in Oregon and a celebration of regional history. 

Honorable Mention: The Old Brewery

Okay, this one might not be in Olympia proper, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting this classic example of Mission Revival architecture in action.

The site was originally home to Olympia Beer, and designed by prominent architect Joseph Woleb. A new brewing site was eventually built up the road, and the redbrick building stopped being a major part of the beer company’s operations in 2003. However, you can still drive by this spot on Interstate 5 and watch a video tour that offers an overview of the history of the Old Brewhouse at this link

After visiting these historic landmarks in Olympia, what’s next on your list to explore? If you need some inspiration, head down the road and check out our guide to living in Lacey, WA (our visiting!). And contact our team at Gayteway Apartments at Hawks Prairie if you’re looking for a new apartment near Olympia to call home! 

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