History and Renovation of the Old Capitol Building

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The Old Capitol Building continues to serve

The Old Capitol Building, which has been home for the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction since 1906, is located on a full block fronting on Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia. The park contains a statue of Gov. John Rogers, author of the "Barefoot School Boy Law," which "gives to every poor son of this commonwealth a fair education." The building is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The building was constructed of Chuckanut stone from Whatcom County. It was originally built as the Thurston County Courthouse. The completed structure was accepted by the county, and offices opened for business in October of 1892. The West Wing, built in the Richardson Romanesque style prevalent at the time, served as the County Courthouse for 13 years. The building featured a 150-foot-high octagonal clock tower with clocks on each of its eight sides.

The Old Capitol Building has undergone several large-scale disruptions and dislocations over the past decades. In 1901, the building was purchased for $350,000 for use as the State Capitol. The original architect, Willis Ritchie, was commissioned to design a new wing on the east side as a home for the state Senate and House of Representatives. The work proceeded, and the building was dedicated on January 11, 1905, at the inauguration of Gov. Albert E. Mead before a joint session of the State Legislature.

With this addition the building featured three 20-foot-wide domed skylights, 12 conical towers arranged around all sides, and an ornate, wrought-iron elevator, which carried not only passengers but a small "snack bar" as well.

By 1910, the state had purchased the block on which the building stands.

The Old Capitol Building continued to house most of the state agencies until 1919. The Legislature met there until the completion of the present Legislative Building in 1928. In that year a disastrous fire gutted the...
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