On a trip to Seattle in May of 2016 to watch my Angels play the Mariners at Safeco Field, we were able to check one more state capitol off our list, the Washington State Capitol in Olympia! I have seriously lost count, but it was really nice to mark this one off our list 🙂 Even though the capitol building isn’t in Seattle, it was only an hour and ½ away, so we made a day trip out of it.
Before I get into the Washington State Capitol building itself, I want to talk about the area and the art outside of the capitol. One of the first things I noticed as we were driving around was Law Enforcement Memorial. It is a lasting tribute to law enforcement officers who gave their lives in the line of duty and a place of remembrance for families, friends, and fellow officers. Overlooking Capitol Lake and the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond. The beautifully designed memorial bears the names of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the state of Washington from territorial days to the present. They have many other memorials, too many to list, but here is a link if you would like to read about other memorials on the Washington Capitol grounds.
After looking at some of the memorials and taking pictures, we made it inside the capitol in time to take a tour. Neither of us knew much about the Washington State Capitol, which I have to say is embarrassing as I had lived in Seattle for a couple of years in the late ’80s. In my defense, I will say I was young and didn’t care much about anything outside of my little world 🙂 I know, pretty sad, but gladly I am not that person anymore.
While on the tour we found out that the dome is 287 feet high, making it the tallest self-supporting masonry dome in the United States, and fourth tallest in the world, surpassed only by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
The building itself has a rectangular footprint and is constructed of brick and concrete and faced on the exterior with limestone quarried from Wilkeson, Washington. The structure consists of four floors with the dome at the center that again reaches a height of 287 feet on the exterior and 175 feet from the floor. As a note of history, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 22, 1978.
Throughout the building they have some amazing and priceless lamps and chandlers. We found out that all the lamps and Roman fire pots in the rotunda were made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of Tiffany and Company. These comprise the largest collection of Tiffany bronze in the world and Tiffany’s last large commission before his death in 1933. They are phenomenal. The highlight is a 10,000-pound chandelier above the rotunda, which is suspended 50 feet above the floor by a 101 feet chain and measures 25 feet tall. It could fit a full-size Volkswagen Beetle if put in sideways and features life-size faces, human figures, and 202 lights. It was truly remarkable and so high that it was hard to believe it was so huge. Definitely one piece of capitol pride.
Another piece of pride would be their state seal. which is featured throughout the buildings. It is on the state flag, tapestries, railing, door handles, and elsewhere. Designed by Olympia Jeweler Charles Talcott, it was made by making two circles and putting a two-cent stamp of George Washington in the middle. There is even a bronze version of the seal on the floor of the rotunda. Over time, George Washington’s nose has worn down due to foot traffic on it and it is now roped-off to prevent further damage.
We had a great tour guide who loved the capitol and made sure we could feel the pride and passion of those who worked there. It is something we are glad we were able to see while in the area. Here is a link to their website and more information.
Washington State Capitol Visitor Information
416 Sid Snyder Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504
Capitol is currently closed, like many thanks to the stupid Wuhan virus, but I will update site once they resume with hours, etc.
Free, walking tours are offered daily and typically last about 50 minutes. You can also wander the Campus and take in the many memorials, gardens, and special events featured on the grounds. When they are running again, you can simply go to the visitor welcome desk inside of the Legislative Building, and one of their helpful volunteers will get you checked in. No prior appointments are necessary.
Governor’s Mansion Tour
Guided tours of the Governor’s Mansion are available by appointment only, and typically only on Wednesdays. Click here for additional information on how to sign up!
From I-5 Southbound:
Take “Exit 105 to State Capitol”, keep left for Exit 105A, and continue .8 miles to the roundabout at Jefferson Avenue. Continue straight through the roundabout and under the tunnel to Capitol Blvd. Continue across Capitol Blvd to the Capitol Building on Sid Snyder Ave SW (14th Ave becomes Sid Snyder Ave).
From I-5 Northbound:
From I-5 Northbound: Take Exit 105 and bear left for the State Capitol/City Center exit. Cross over Interstate 5 and continue .3mi to the roundabout at Jefferson Ave. Continue straight through the roundabout and under the tunnel to Capitol Blvd. Continue across Capitol Blvd to the Capitol Building on Sid Snyder Ave SW (14th Ave becomes Sid Snyder Ave).
For more information, call the Department of Enterprise Services office at (360) 902-8880.
Public transportation is also an option even after you’ve parked your car, and the local bus service (Intercity Transit) in Olympia offers many low-cost routes to the Capitol Campus and other state buildings. Intercity Transit also coordinates with connecting transportation systems in neighboring counties. Following are links to those public transit systems. If you have further questions about public transportation routes to the Capitol Campus or other state buildings, please contact the transit system as listed on the website:
- Department of Transportation Includes options for getting around Washington State and points beyond
- Grays Harbor Transit in Hoquiam, Washington
- Intercity Transit in Olympia, Washington
- Mason County Transportation Authority in Shelton, Washington
DES provides parking for visitors in lots and metered parking spaces at the Capitol Campus. Details can be found on the DES website .
The City of Olympia also provides metered on-street parking just north (toward the water) of the Campus, and throughout downtown. View our interactive parking map on our Downtown Parking Options page.
Warning! Neighborhood Parking is for Residents
To the south of the Capitol is the historic South Capitol Residential Neighborhood. While short-term, on-street parking is available in that neighborhood, it is closely enforced.
We encourage you to respect the residential nature of this neighborhood and to park elsewhere.
FREE Dash Shuttle
The Dash Shuttle, operated by Intercity Transit, runs on 12 and 15-minute schedules from the Capitol to downtown, Monday through Saturday. Get DASH information and other bus schedules at IntercityTransit.com .
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