Olympia, Washington

Olympia, Washington
—  City  —
City of Olympia
Motto: SPIRIT - Service, People, Integrity, Results, Innovation, and Team
Coordinates: 47°2′33″N 122°53′35″W / 47.0425°N 122.89306°W / 47.0425; -122.89306Coordinates: 47°2′33″N 122°53′35″W / 47.0425°N 122.89306°W / 47.0425; -122.89306
Country United States
State Washington
County Thurston
Incorporated January 28, 1859
 - Mayor Stephen Buxbaum
 - Total 18.5 sq mi (48.0 km2)
 - Land 16.7 sq mi (43.3 km2)
 - Water 1.8 sq mi (4.7 km2)
Elevation 95 ft (29 m)
Population (2010)
 - Total 46,478
 - Density 2,608.08/sq mi (1,006.98/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) Pacific (UTC)
ZIP codes 98500-98599
Area code(s) 360
FIPS code 53-51300[1]
GNIS feature ID 1533353[2]
Website www.olympiawa.gov

Olympia is the capital city of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County.[3] It was incorporated on January 28, 1859. The population was 46,478 at the 2010 census. Olympia is a major cultural center of the Puget Sound region.



Old State Capitol Building and Sylvester Park

The site of Olympia was home to Lushootseed-speaking peoples for thousands of years, including Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, and Duwamish. The first recorded visit by Europeans was in 1792 when Peter Puget and a crew from the British Vancouver Expedition charted the site.

In 1846, Edmund Sylvester and Levi Smith jointly claimed the land that now comprises downtown Olympia. In 1851, the U.S. Congress established the Customs District of Puget Sound for Washington Territory and Olympia became the home of the customs house. Its population being steadily expanded from Oregon Trail immigrants, in 1853 the town settled on the name Olympia, at the suggestion of local resident Colonel Isaac N. Ebey,[4] due to its view of the Olympic Mountains to the northwest. The area began to be served by a small fleet of steamboats known as the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet.

In 1896, Olympia became the home of the Olympia Brewing Company, which brewed Olympia Beer until 2003.

A 1949 earthquake damaged many historic buildings beyond repair, and they were demolished. Parts of the city also suffered damage from earthquake tremors in 1965 and the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

In 1967, the state legislature approved the creation of The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Because of the college's presence, Olympia has become a hub for artists and musicians, and was recently named one of the best college towns in the nation for its vibrant downtown and access to outdoor activities.[5]

Geography and climate

Olympia is located at 47°2′33″N 122°53′35″W / 47.0425°N 122.89306°W / 47.0425; -122.89306 (47.042418, -122.893077).[6]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.5 square miles (48 km2), of which, 16.7 square miles (43 km2) of it is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) of it (9.77%) is water.

The city of Olympia is located at the southern end of Puget Sound on Budd Inlet. The Deschutes River estuary was dammed in 1951 to create Capitol Lake. Much of the lower area of downtown Olympia sits on reclaimed land. The cities of Lacey and Tumwater border Olympia.

The climate of Olympia is a Marine West Coast climate (Koppen Csb), though sometimes characterized as Mediterranean. Most of western Washington's weather is brought in by weather systems that form near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It contains cold moist air, which brings western Washington cold rain, cloudiness, and fog. November and December are Olympia's rainiest months. City streets, creeks, and rivers often flood during the months of November through February. Olympia averages 50.8 inches (1,290 mm) of precipitation per year and has a year-round average of 75% cloud cover. According to one MSNBC study, Olympia had more rainy days per year on average over the past 30 years than any city in the lower 48 states.[7]

Snow for the 1971-2000 period averaged 14.7 inches (37.3 cm), but the median was much lower, at 4.3 inches (10.9 cm).[8]

Climate data for Olympia, Washington
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 44.4
Average low °F (°C) 31.8
Precipitation inches (mm) 7.54
Snowfall inches (cm) 4.3
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 19.4 17.7 18.1 15.1 12.5 9.2 5.2 5.4 8.4 13.0 20.1 20.8 164.9
Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.1 2.2 0.7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.7 2.7 8.4
Source: NOAA [8]


Olympia has a wide array of public parks and nature conservation areas. The Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is a 600-acre (2.4 km2) parcel that preserves more than 5 miles (8.0 km) of Puget Sound waterfront along the Woodard and Chapman bays of the Henderson Inlet. Percival Landing Park includes 0.9 miles (1.4 km) of boardwalk along Budd Inlet, as well as a playground, picnic areas and a large open space. Percival Landing closed in 2010 for an extensive remodel after saltwater degradation and opened again to the public in the summer of 2011. The Watershed Park is the site of the former water works for the city, and today features a loop trail with a large second-growth forest. Other parks include Priest Point Park, Burfoot Park, Sunrise Park and Yauger Park, which is home to one of Olympia's public skate parks including Friendly Grove which is nestled in a small Eastside Community, and Trillium Park, which was created by the efforts of adjoining neighborhood associations with the easement of private property. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is located just outside of Olympia, as is the Capitol State Forest.

Artesian water

Olympia was historically dependent on artesian waters. Early settlers in Swantown and Tumwater used artesian springs for their main water supply. The artesian spring at Fourth Avenue and Main Street (now called Capitol Way) was the main community well where settlers gathered to socialize. The artesian well in the Diamond Parking lot at Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street is active, located in the parking lot 421 4th Street. The City of Olympia is purchasing the lot, in part to maintain the well.[9] Another still flows at the corner of Olympia Avenue and Washington Street in the Bigelow Neighborhood. The northeast end of Capitol Lake was the location of an artesian well until the construction of a new park that included changes to the shoreline. McAllister Springs, the main water source for Olympia, is fed by artesian wells, and the former Olympia Brewery is supplied by 26 artesian wells.

In downtown Olympia, current efforts to preserve the use of artesian water at the one remaining public well has been the mission of H2Olympia: Artesian Well Advocates. In 2011, the city of Olympia committed $50,000 towards improvements of an artesian well, located in a parking lot that was recently purchased by the city.[10]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1870 1,203
1880 1,232 2.4%
1890 4,698 281.3%
1900 3,863 −17.8%
1910 6,996 81.1%
1920 7,795 11.4%
1930 11,733 50.5%
1940 13,254 13.0%
1950 15,819 19.4%
1960 18,273 15.5%
1970 23,111 26.5%
1980 27,447 18.8%
1990 33,729 22.9%
2000 42,514 26.0%
2010 46,478 9.3%

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 42,514 people, 18,670 households, and 9,968 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,544.4 people per square mile (982.3/km²). There were 19,738 housing units at an average density of 1,181.3 per square mile (456.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.3% White, 1.9% African American, 1.3% Native American, 5.8% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 1.7% from other races, and 3.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.4% of the population. 15.0% were of German, 11.3% Irish, 10.0% English, 6.0% Norwegian and 5.3% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 91.6% spoke English, 2.9% Spanish and 1.7% Vietnamese as their first language.

There were 18,670 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.6% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.6% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.88.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.5% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,846, and the median income for a family was $54,136. Males had a median income of $41,267 versus $31,515 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,590. About 6.9% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.4% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.

Schools and universities

Olympia's main public school district is the Olympia School District. Olympia School District enrolled 9,231 students in K-12, based on the 2005-06 school year enrollment report. The school district has a total of 18 schools: 11 elementary schools, 4 middle schools and 3 high schools. Its high schools are Olympia High School (originally known as William Winlock Miller High School), Capital High School, and Avanti High School.

In the 2007-2008 school year, Olympia began the new Parent Partnership Program, which provides more opportunities to homeschooling families. Olympia's online high school, Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), is also part of the same program. Private elementary schools include Olympia Waldorf School, Olympia Community School, St. Michael School, Holy Family, and Evergreen Christian. Private middle schools include NOVA Middle School.

In addition to primary & secondary schools, Olympia has a number of institutions of higher learning, including The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and St. Martin's University in adjacent Lacey, Washington.


The Capitol Theater, home of the Olympia Film Society.

Olympia is a regional center for fine arts. A number of theatrical experiences are available with companies such as Capital Playhouse, Olympia Family Theater, Theater Artists Olympia (TAO), Olympia Little Theater, and Harlequin Productions at the historic State Theater. The Olympia Symphony Orchestra performs five regular season concerts at the Washington Center and two pop concerts.

Visual art venues include some of the local coffeehouses, such as Batdorf & Bronson, Burial Grounds, and Caffe Vita in downtown. A gallery called Art House Designs presents works of sculpture, painting, and printmaking and hosts a jazz performance space. Murals and public art installations of sculpture are prevalent in Olympia, and are especially featured on the State Capitol Campus and along Percival Landing on the urban waterfront. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts also presents visual art exhibitions throughout the season in the spacious lobby areas.

Notable art venues near Olympia include Art In Ecology, housed in Washington Department of Ecology's 322,000 square foot, three story building on the campus of Saint Martin's University. Art In Ecology is a long-established art-in-the-workplace venue that features works by numerous northwest artists. Permanent installations by Alfredo Arreguin, commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission, are accompanied by changing solo and group exhibitions throughout the year. Just off I-5. Appointments to view the works are needed; tours take about an hour.

South Puget Sound Community College in Tumwater has a gallery in its Minnaert Center with rotating exhibitions. The Evergreen State College, northwest of Olympia, has a professionally curated gallery with rotating shows in the Dan Evans Library building. To the south of Olympia, Monarch Contemporary Art Center and Sculpture Park offers an 80-acre sculpture garden and art gallery.

Each year the Olympia Film Society (OFS) produces a film festival and fosters film and video education in Olympia. It also shows independent, classic and international films year-round at the art-deco Capitol Theater. A mostly volunteer-powered organization, OFS supports and presents a variety of culture events, including All Freakin' Night, an all-night horror film screening with a cult following.

On the fourth Saturday in April, in honor of Earth Day, Olympia is host to one of the region's largest community celebrations - the Procession of the Species celebration. Held in conjunction with the city's biannual Arts Walk, the Procession is organized by the community-based non-profit organization, Earthbound Productions. Structured around an annual Community Art Studio that is free and open to the public, organizers provide art, music and dance workshops during the preceding seven weeks leading up to the Procession weekend.[11] In its July 2009 Best of America feature, Reader's Digest magazine honored the Procession of the Species with the top spot in its “can’t resist” parades and processions list.[12][13] Open to all, the Procession of the Species attracts up to 30,000 viewers, while its costumed participants of all ages frequently number nearly 3,000. On the Friday evening before the Procession of Species, a Luminary Procession is held.


In 1984, Olympia hosted the U.S. Olympic women's marathon trial. The winner of the event was Joan Benoit who would later win a gold medal at the first women's Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympic games in Los Angeles.

Olympia is the home of the Oly Rollers, the local women's flat track roller derby league whose travel team (the Cosa Nostra Donnas) became the 2009 national champions of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) by winning the national "Declaration of Derby" tournament in Philadelphia, PA on November 15, 2009.[14] Olympia is also home to some of the Pacific Northwests greatest running talents such as the Guerilla Running Racing Club.


Intercity Transit Bus 920 on Route 12 to downtown Olympia, Washington.


Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Olympia-Lacey at Centennial Station. Amtrak train 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, departs Olympia at 11:21am with service to Centralia; Portland; Sacramento; Emeryville, California (with bus connection to San Francisco); and Los Angeles. Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight, departs Olympia at 6:22pm daily with service to Tacoma and Seattle. Amtrak Cascades trains, operating as far north as Vancouver and as far south as Eugene, Oregon, serve Olympia-Lacey several times daily in both directions.


Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and the surrounding area are primarily served by Intercity Transit. Routes from other transit services such as Grays Harbor Transit, Mason Transit, and the Tacoma/Lakewood Express with Pierce Transit. Intercity Transit maintains a free shuttle route called "Dash".[15] Dash runs from the Capitol Campus to the Farmers Market at the far edge of downtown. In 2009 Intercity Transit won an award for Americas best Public Transportation System in the mid size category by the American Public Transportation Association.


The Weekly Volcano has covered Olympia entertainment since 2001. The statewide public access channel TVW is based in Olympia.

Notable residents

Legendary U.S. Soccer goalkeeper Kasey Keller was born in Olympia. He now plays for the Seattle Sounders after having had a long career playing in Europe.

The 90s riot grrrl feminist punk movement, (including bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile), is from Olympia.

The band Sleater-Kinney, which has its origins in the riot grrrl scene is from Olympia and took its name from Sleater Kinney Road, which briefly passes through the eastern part of the city. Kurt Cobain wrote most of Nirvana's Nevermind album while living in Olympia.

Kimya Dawson is also a resident of Olympia.

Novelist Caitlin Kittredge resides in Olympia.

The Fleetwoods were a very popular group in the 50's and all three of them were from Olympia. Gary Troxel & Gretchen Christopher went to Olympia High and Barbara Ellis went to North Thurston High. Their very famous Mr. Blue was on the charts for a goodly time.

Black metal band Wolves In The Throne Room is based in Olympia.

Adam Conley, the 2011 second round pick of the MLB's Florida Marlins was born and raised in Olympia

Youtube make-up artist guru and singer/songwriter Dustin Hunter was born and still resides in Olympia.

Sister cities

Olympia has one sister city – Katō, Japan. There were previous agreements with Olympia, Greece and Samarkand, Uzbekistan but these are no longer in effect.[16]

Fictional references

Master pulp fiction writer Raymond Chandler once sent his pre-Philip Marlowe sleuth Carmady to Olympia, in the short story "Goldfish", which is set in 1936. A Great Depression-era town with government buildings is sketchily described. The yarn ends violently on the extreme tip of the Olympic Peninsula, in a smugglers' nest in Westport.

Influences to music

The Olympia independent record label K Records is legendary in indie music circles. Olympia was the heart of the '90s punk riot grrrl movement, and to the band Sleater-Kinney which hailed from that scene.

The band Hole wrote and recorded a song called "Olympia" (aka "Rock Star") on their album Live Through This (1994).

Olympia was also the heart of the '90s queercore scene, with bands such as the Mukilteo Fairies and Team Dresch calling it home.

The band Rancid wrote and recorded a song called "Olympia, WA" on their album ...And Out Come the Wolves (1995); this song was later covered by the bands NOFX (2003) and Rentokill (2004).

Nirvana lived in Olympia; Kurt Cobain wrote most of the songs released on Nevermind while living in an apartment on Pear Street in Olympia.

Modest Mouse recorded their first full-length album This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About in Olympia.

Bert Wilson, legendary multi-reedist lives and plays in Olympia. He has taught Jeff Coffin of the Dave Matthews Band, and Lenny Pickett of Tower of Power among others.

See also

View from Tumwater Hill


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. http://www.naco.org/Counties/Pages/FindACounty.aspx. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ "CI.olympia.wa.us". CI.olympia.wa.us. 2011-08-15. http://www.ci.olympia.wa.us/en/community/about-olympia.aspx. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  5. ^ (2003) Outside Magazine.
  6. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  7. ^ Thompson, Andrea (2007-05-23). "And the rainiest city in the U.S. is". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18827213. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  8. ^ a b "NCDC: U.S. Climate Normals". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov/climatenormals/clim20/wa/456114.pdf. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 
  9. ^ City of Olympia. "Real Estate Purchase and Sale Agreement for Acquisition of Diamond Parking Lot, June 2010". http://olympiawa.gov/documents/CouncilPackets/20100614/FA_DiamondPkgLotSTF.pdf. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  10. ^ Matt Batcheldor. "City of Olympia Will Protect, Improve Artesian Well.". http://www.theolympian.com/2011/01/13/1504565/city-will-protect-improve-well.html#storylink=mirelated. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  11. ^ About the Community Art Studio — Official Website of the Procession of the Species. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  12. ^ Procession of the Species tops Readers Digest list — June 22, 2009. The Olympian. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  13. ^ 8 People, Places and Things We Love About America — Reader's Digest Website. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  14. ^ Feelgood, Justice (2009-11-22). "Derbynewsnetwork.com". Derbynewsnetwork.com. http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com/2009/11/2009_nationals_capsule_recaps. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  15. ^ Dash[dead link]
  16. ^ Information on Olympia's former sister cities

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Olympia, Washington — Olympia (Washington) Pour les articles homonymes, voir Olympia. Olympia …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Olympia (Washington) — Olympia Kapitol Lage in Washington …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Olympia (Washington) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Olympia. 47° 02′ 33″ N 122° 53′ 35″ W …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Olympia (Washington) — Olympia Ciudad de los Estados Unidos …   Wikipedia Español

  • Olympia (Washington) — La ciudad de Olympia es la capital del estado de Washington en los Estados Unidos de América. Es una ciudad rodeada de belleza natural y conocida por su cultura alternativa. Es el hogar de la universidad Evergreen State (el Estado Verde), muy… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Olympia High School (Olympia, Washington) — Olympia High School Established 1907 Type Public secondary Principal Matt Grant Students 1850 Grades 9 12 Lo …   Wikipedia

  • History of Olympia, Washington — The history of Olympia, Washington includes long term habitation by Native Americans, chartering by a famous English explorer, settlement of the town in the 1740s, the controversial siting of a state college in the 1960s and the ongoing… …   Wikipedia

  • Capital High School (Olympia, Washington) — Infobox Secondary school name = Capital High School motto = established = 1975 type = Public secondary grades = 9 12 principal = Nancy Faaren vice principal = Larry Walsh faculty = students = 1,595 mascot = Cougar colors = Cardinal and Gold city …   Wikipedia

  • List of people from Olympia, Washington — The following is a list of famous Olympians, those people of note who have lived in or around Olympia, Washington:columns list|2 *Christopher Baldwin – cartoonist *Lynda Barry – cartoonist ( Ernie Pook s Comeek ) *Craig Bartlett –… …   Wikipedia

  • Weather of Olympia, Washington — Seasonal weather conditions for Olympia, WashingtonAverage high and low temperatures for each monthJanuary: Hi 44.5 Lo 31.6February: Hi 49.2 Lo 32.4March: Hi 53.4 Lo 33.8April: Hi 59.0 Lo 36.5May: Hi 65.8 Lo 41.6June: Hi 71.0 Lo 46.6July: Hi 77.1 …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.