Territorial Capitol Building in 1876: "a sad picture of melancholy dinginess"

[I found this description in Norman H. Clark's Washington, a Bicentennial History (1976)]:

The spirited activities in Seattle in 1876 were conspicuously more newsworthy than those at the  southern tip of Puget Sound, where the town of Olympia numbered perhaps two thousand. The early settlers here had come to pre-empt the water-power at the falls of the Deschutes River and had later-- despite Arthur Denny-- captured the territorial seat of government. For two decades their growing village had been the center of American activity north of Oregon City. In time, however, it was clear to them that steam-powered machines would take from them whatever advantage they had in a small waterfall, and that the railroad, running fifteen miles to the east, had isolated them from the new industries.

Their most prominent landmark in 1876 was the Capitol, a sagging, oblong building of two stories, topped by a bell tower and fronted with a narrow portico-- a sort of midwestern barn with windows, a front porch, and a watchtower. It was clearly not in good repair. The secretary of Washington Territory had recently informed the United States secretary of the interior that the building was approaching "a state of utter decay and wretched worthlessness." The wooden-block foundation, he wrote, had rotted, causing the building to tilt precariously at one end. For more than a decade there had been no paint applied to the exterior, which was, "a sad picture of melancholy dinginess."

Inside, the "faded, soiled, and ragged" carpets could not lend even the appearance of "shabby gentility." The several stoves in the legislative chambers were then in a hazard to those who needed heat, and the five committee rooms consisted of "nothing but the naked walls, uncovered with paint, plaster, cloth, paper, or whitewash." Situated on the edge of town and bordering the forest, the building was even then enveloped by undergrowth, and legislators were demanding a meeting place which would not be "a standing reproach" to their dignity.   


terrcap.jpg162.94 KB
terrcap1856-1901.jpg123.35 KB