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Oh, the places you’ll go! (Part 3)

Note: this article is part three of a multi-part series on the Origins and the Historic Locations of the Washington Territorial Library.  If you have not read part one, please click here to access the article. If you missed only part two, click here.

Circa 1875-1877: Tacoma Hall


Tacoma Hall (front & center), circa 1869.

On July 1, 1875, the collection was disrupted again, having been moved to “Tacoma Hall,” a two-story structure located at Fourth Avenue and Columbia Street in Olympia. This was done as a temporary move due to repairs that were needed at the original Capitol Building. Built by Charles Williams in 1861 and originally dubbed the Olympia Building, it was purchased by Capt. D. B. Finch, owner and commander of the mail steamer that delivered between Olympia and Victoria. He donated this building in 1869 for the use of the Good Templars of Olympia, a Masonic fraternal order that advocated abstinence and temperance. Finch also donated a large number of books that would appeal to public reading demands and reserved a portion of the building for use as the first free lending library for the city of Olympia around August of 1868.

Tacoma Hall was the site of several historic events including the first meeting site of the Territorial Supreme Court. It was also the location where Susan B. Anthony spoke on her visit to Olympia on October 17 of 1871 to speak for women’s suffrage and the site of the first Washington Women’s Suffrage Association Convention in 1871. Part of the building was also the first free reading room or library in the city. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union also met here.

This building was known by many names over the course of its life: Olympia Building, Tacoma Hall, Tacoma Lodge, and Knights of the Good Templars Hall. For some period in time, the Territorial Library collection must have also been housed there. In 1875 the Territorial Legislature ordered by joint resolution that Territorial Librarian Frederick S. Holmes relocate the library from Tacoma Hall to the original Capitol Building, which stood on the Capitol Campus near the present-day Legislative Building. Holmes refused to execute this order.

The original Tacoma Hall is no longer. The building was replaced with another building in 1902. This new building then burned down and was subsequently replaced by the Barnes Building (also known as Knights of Pythias Building and Goodfellows Hall), which was built in 1911 and is still standing today.


1877-1891: Territorial Legislative Building 

Inauguration of Governor Ferry, 1889. Image courtesy of WA State Digital Archives.

The Legislature ordered the library’s relocation – again by joint resolution – in 1877.  Speaker of the House Elwood Evans was the author of the resolution and given that he had recently assumed the post of Territorial Librarian following Holmes’ vacating of the office, it was finally relocated to the old territorial Capitol Building.

During the library’s second occupancy of the old Legislative Building, it witnessed the appointment of Eliza Newell, the first woman to hold the office of Territorial Librarian and at the same time served as the residence of our 15th Territorial Governor, William A. Newell. The collection also became the State Library upon our admittance into the union on November 11, 1889. In 1890 the Legislature authorized preparation for the first official catalog of the library’s holdings.  It was prepared by Philip D. Moore, the first official State Librarian, and published in 1891.  At that time Moore cataloged the law collection as separate from the general collection.

Both collections remained at the building until a move to the McKenny Building in 1891. The building served its original purpose until 1901 when the Legislature purchased the building that originally was built for use as the Thurston County Courthouse. The Library relocated from the McKenny block to the new building from the Old Thurston Courthouse (for more information, click here) in 1901 and the Legislature moved in upon completing renovations in 1905.  The Territorial Legislative building was destroyed in 1911 to make way for the new Legislative Building designed by architects Walter Wilder and Harry White, and the new Capitol Campus, as envisioned by landscape design firm Olmstead Brothers.


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One Response to “Oh, the places you’ll go! (Part 3)”

  1. The Barnes building is over 100 years old, that’s incredible. Olympia has incredible rich history with great stories and beautiful buildings. I visited the town a year ago and I loved it.