Save the Capitol Center Building!

Lakefair is 50 this year. It must've been during the 4th or 5th Lakefair I that I won a little ceramic dog as a result of hitting the required number of balloons with darts, or knocking over wooden pins with a ball. I still have that little dog, and by gosh, I'm going to keep him. Anyway, the exact spot where this prize-winning episode took place was where the Capitol Center Building now stands. Back then it was just a vacant lot.

Sometimes you hear folks describe the Capitol Center Building as "ugly," or an "eyesore." Why, I even felt that way myself until I started researching the history of the place and began to realize what a great asset this structure is to the Olympia area. Both the governments of Thurston County and the State of Washington have had financial fiascos associated with the skyscraper, giving anti-government drum-beaters several years worth of material to complain about. The building has become sort of an unofficial scapegoat in many ways.

But I think the Capitol Center Building should not be torn down, or, as a recent developer has proposed, be remodeled. Keep it just as it is. It is a classic example of the Cesso sullo Paesaggio school of architecture so prevalant around here in the 1960s-1970s.

When one looks into the public architecture of Olympia, all you hear is Wohleb, Wohleb, Wohleb. Yawn. Enough. It is time to look at the public architecture of Olympia from the Cold War era. To do that, you need to know about G. Stacey Bennett (1916-1998).

If you look at a list of the structures in Olympia Mr. Bennett had a hand in designing, you can see he was very influenced by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, hence the use the word "Miesian" one inventory uses to describe the Capitol Center Building.

In addition to the Capitol Center Building, Mr. Bennett was also involved with the design of Goldberg's Furniture (1950) (now Ken Schoenfeld Furniture on 4th and Capitol), the Medical Arts Building on W. 4th Ave. (1966) near the old St. Petes, the Olympia Federal Savings Bank (1967), Pioneer School (1969), and the garage and shop at TESC (1971). These new buildings of the 1960s-early 1970s seemed to be an extension of the sort of designs we saw at the Century 21 exposition in Seattle in 1961-62. In fact, one building from the Seattle World's Fair was even towed down here on the Sound and opened as a restaurant at the end of the port called the Jacaranda.

The Capitol Center Building was built in 1965 for Imperial Properties, an Olympia corporation. Bennett and his partner Robert Olson told the newspaper the building was going to be "modern and open in design with an aluminum and glass exterior." It became Olympia's 2nd tallest structure, after the Legislative Building. It has 9 floors. They were going to build 10, but that's another story. (Sorry, couldn't resist).

There was quite the stir when the Capitol Center Building opened. It was so impressive the word "impressive" is used twice in one sentence in this Oct. 1965 newspaper ad:

"The impressive Capitol Center, now nearing completion, is destined to be the most impressive business address in all of Southwest Washington. The nine-story, two-million dollar building is designed to provide the ultimate in luxurious suites and professional offices for those who seek quarters that will fully reflect their professional achievements."

So, please, don't let them tear it down or change it. Like the twin WPPSS cooling towers on the Chehalis River Valley near Elma that were never used, this building stands as a monument to our failings, to an era of wrecked expectations, to something I can't quite define at this moment because I'm getting hungry now and want to stop typing. But you know what I mean. Save the Capitol Center Building!


S.C.B. Meet-up

Rarely have I felt more moved to action. I propose we establish a S.C.C.B. campaign with decennial meet-ups to discuss strategy and possibly chaining ourselves to this "impressive business address."

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

you should really branch out with your little club

Save the GA Building while you're at it.

in the alley behind the school, 3:45pm, sharp!

You, sir, have made mock of my eminent sentiments. Let it be known that I shall have my vengeance.

"In principle, I am an anarchist. Kurt Vonnegut once said he was an agnostic who respects Jesus Christ. I am an anarchist who loves democracy." - Kenzaburo Oe

weapon of choice

Bring with you your sharpest protractor, let us settle this like architects.


You two need seconds for this duel, I offer to be one. One second. With plans and a point this sounds like blueprint for disaster.

Tear it down!

I think this issue may divide the liberals. I HATE that building. I am one of those people known to have called it an eyesore. Repeatedly. It blocks the view! When I walk around the lake, when I look down on Budd Bay from the Capitol Campus, that darned building is in the way. I want to see gracefully bobbing yachts, dammit, not a big ugly box. Okay, okay, the architecture may have merit (perhaps more historical than aesthetic?), and I wouldn't feel this way if it were situated more inobtrusively. But it's not. It sticks out like a sore thumb, and to add insult to injury, lately it's been empty. I can't even console myself with the thought that there are people inside the building enjoying the view that's been ruined for me.

Tear it down!

I'm With Janet

on this one!  That building needs to go!  Being from out of state, I love to take photos of the inlet and the capitol building and send them home to friends and family.  I have yet to find a spot off the wharf where I can capture the inlet, bobbing yachts & sailboats and the capitol building without that dagblasted ugly building mucking up my shots!

My father was an architect and I truly wanted to be one too.  I have such a love and appreciation for fine and artistic architecture.  I see nothing but an old 60's or 70's looking box blocking what could be a phenomenal view!

Tear it down!


"Do not mistake for conspiracy and intrigue what can best be explained by stupidity and incompetence." - Unknown

Cesso sullo Paesaggio

Update: Fans of the Cesso sullo Paesaggio School of Architecture will be pleased to know the Capitol Center Building will be preserved!

But please, don't change the exterior.  

At the prices quoted I don't

At the prices quoted I don't see anyone other than lobbyists and their interests getting into these units.  Think South Capitol neighborhood all over again.  The legislatures downtown party pad!

I agree with you, save the exterior - love the buildings look.

Camain condos

I wonder how much our South American friends have socked away.

Cozy caiman condos

I certainly don't work for the caimans, I don't even know any personally, but trust me when I state that "they" are taking notes.

Lobbyists and a couple of

Lobbyists and a couple of giddy council members who already sit in a tower so to speak, and want to live in one as well.

I hold a stone in my hand

lol I love that you mention

lol I love that you mention the old cooling towers Steve.


I object to the

I object to the objectification of byldings. This media driven culture glorifys skinny little byldings who stay quiet and unobtrusive. I know many byldings who are beautiful on the inside. People have no right to look down on them for having big parking lots, no wonder so many byldings get plastic remodeling.

Cesso sullo Paesaggio Update

It appears the condo idea is dead. I hope the new revised plans will keep this beautiful building looking just as it is and preserve this amazing Olympia landmark.

More on that beauteous building