Early last week we received the news that on August 3, 2015 the Pritchard Building, on Olympia’s Capitol campus (formerly the Washington State Library) had been named to the National Register of Historic Places. This followed the already exciting designation on July 20th to the list of Washington State Heritage Register of Historic Places.
The Pritchard Building, which opened in January, 1959, was built during the administration of Governor Albert Rosellini, under the guidance of then State Librarian Maryan Reynolds. It was designed by Paul Thiry a renowned architect and principal designer of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair and was the last monumental building to be added to the West Capitol Campus.
“The architect, Paul Thiry, attracted some of the Pacific Northwest’s preeminent artists of the period: Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey and James Fitzgerald. Each created custom murals to adorn the public areas of the building. Kenneth Callahan’s abstract oil on canvas mural depicted the state’s history from the beginning of the Earth’s to an apocalyptic vision of the atomic age and completely wrapped the interior of the elegant Washington Room. The Washington Room served as a repository for rare books and Pacific Northwest history materials separate from the general collections and government publications. Mark Tobey created a compact, 8-by-9-foot mural for the main-floor reading room. James Fitzgerald built a massive, 320-square-foot tile mosaic leading from a stairway to the lower level.”
The building won the 1963 Library Building Award, sponsored by the American Library Association, American Institute for Architects, and the National Book Commission.
The Pritchard Building served as the home of the Washington State Library until the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. You can read more about this history of the Pritchard Building as well as other sites of the State Library on our website.
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