Washington State Capital: Olympia

The state of Washington does not refer to our nation's capital, the District of Columbia. Washington formed from a portion of the Oregon Territory, which became part of the United States in 1846. Subsequently, Oregon Territory split in two in 1853, forming the area that would become the state of Oregon and the area that would eventually split again to form the states of Washington and Idaho. As of 2021, no other state carries the name of a United States president. Washington's capital, Olympia, sits south of Puget Sound.

Founding of Olympia

Claiming the location in 1846, Levi Lathrop Smith and Edmund Sylvester, the first two American settlers, originally named their town Smither, Smithster, and eventually, Smithfield, after themselves. Not until 1850, when Sylvester platted the town, did its name change to Olympia, referring to the iconic view of the Olympic mountains to the north. When Washington joined the United States in 1889, Olympia became the official capital.

Early Economy

Besides the importance of the fur trade to the region, Olympians farmed oysters and dairy cattle and brewed beer and other alcoholic beverages. Locals also caught and canned salmon and other fish, and most important to the early economy, locals engaged in the timber industry.

Famous Washingtonians

From burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee to controversial grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, Washington has spawned a number of famous entertainers, including guitarist Jimi Hendrix, whose screaming electric guitar version of The Star-Spangled Banner shocked the world at Woodstock in 1969. The state of Washington also spawned Dyan Cannon, Carol Channing, and Bing Crosby, as well as cartoonist Hank Ketchum and Apple's Bill Gates.

Olympia's Food Heritage

Olympia boasts six types of Pacific salmon: Chinook or king, coho, and sockeye grace tables at fine restaurants. The less common chum tastes best in curries and chowders, while cans of pink salmon fill supermarket shelves across the entire country. The sixth, known as steelhead, contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than Atlantic salmon. In addition, Olympia's beer industry depends on Washington's production of hops.

Olympia Attractions

Head to the Percival Landing boardwalk to enjoy the Olympia Farmers Market, or visit the Hands-On Children's Museum. Enjoy hiking and camping in Mount Ranier National Park and spot great blue heron, American bittern, and peregrine falcons. Find box turtles and pronghorn antelope along mountain trails and watch migrating orcas, also known as killer whales, breach the waters in Puget Sound.

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Washington State Capital: Olympia