Saturday, May 28, 2011
US Capitol Cities: Olympia, Washington
Olympia is the capital city of the U.S. state of Washington and the county seat of Thurston County. It was incorporated on January 28, 1859. The population was 46,478 at the 2010 census. Olympia is a major cultural center of the Puget Sound region.
The site of Olympia was home to Lushootseed-speaking peoples for thousands of years, including Squaxin, Nisqually, Puyallup, Chehalis, Suquamish, and Duwamish. The first recorded visit by Europeans was in 1792 when Peter Puget and a crew from the British Vancouver Expedition charted the site.
In 1846, Edmund Sylvester and Levi Smith jointly claimed the land that now comprises downtown Olympia. In 1851, the U.S. Congress established the Customs District of Puget Sound for Washington Territory and Olympia became the home of the customs house. Its population being steadily expanded from Oregon Trail immigrants, in 1853 the town settled on the name Olympia, at the suggestion of local resident Colonel Isaac N. Ebey, due to its view of the Olympic Mountains to the northwest. The area began to be served by a small fleet of steamboats known as the Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet.
In 1896, Olympia became the home of the Olympia Brewing Company, which brewed Olympia Beer until 2003.
A 1949 earthquake damaged many historic buildings beyond repair, and they were demolished. Parts of the city also suffered damage from earthquake tremors in 1965 and the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
In 1967, the state legislature approved the creation of The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Because of the college's presence, Olympia has become a hub for artists and musicians, and was recently named one of the best college towns in the nation for its vibrant downtown and access to outdoor activities.
Geography and climate
Olympia is located at 47°2′33″N 122°53′35″W / 47.0425°N 122.89306°W / 47.0425; -122.89306 (47.042418, -122.893077).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.5 square miles (48 km2), of which, 16.7 square miles (43 km2) of it is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) of it (9.77%) is water.
The city of Olympia is located at the southern end of Puget Sound on Budd Inlet. The Deschutes River estuary was dammed in 1951 to create Capitol Lake. Much of the lower area of downtown Olympia sits on reclaimed land. The cities of Lacey and Tumwater border Olympia.
The climate of Olympia is a Marine West Coast climate), though sometimes characterized as Mediterranean. Most of western Washington's weather is brought in by weather systems that form near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It contains cold moist air, which brings western Washington cold rain, cloudiness, and fog. November and December are Olympia's rainiest months. City streets, creeks, and rivers often flood during the months of November through February. Olympia averages 50.8 inches (1,290 mm) of precipitation per year and has a year-round average of 75% cloud cover. According to one MSNBC study, Olympia had more rainy days per year on average over the past 30 years than any city in the lower 48 states.
Snow for the 1971-2000 period averaged 14.7 inches (37.3 cm), but the median was much lower, at 4.3 inches (10.9 cm).
Olympia has a wide array of public parks and nature conservation areas. The Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area is a 600-acre (2.4 km2) parcel that preserves more than 5 miles (8.0 km) of Puget Sound waterfront along the Woodard and Chapman bays of the Henderson Inlet. Percival Landing Park includes 0.9 miles (1.4 km) of boardwalk along Budd Inlet, as well as a playground, picnic areas and a large open space.
The Watershed Park is the site of the former water works for the city, and today features a loop trail with a large second-growth forest. Other parks include Priest Point Park, Burfoot Park, Sunrise Park and Yauger Park, which is home to one of Olympia's public skate parks including Friendly Grove which is nestled in a small Eastside Community. The Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge is located just outside of Olympia, as is the Capitol State Forest.
Olympia was historically dependent on artesian waters. Early settlers in Swantown and Tumwater used artesian springs for their main water supply. The artesian spring at Fourth Avenue and Main Street (now called Capitol Way) was the main community well where settlers gathered to socialize. The artesian well in the Diamond Parking lot at Fourth Avenue and Jefferson Street is active, located in the parking lot 421 4th Street. The City of Olympia is purchasing the lot, in part to maintain the well.
Another still flows at the corner of Olympia Avenue and Washington Street in the Bigelow Neighborhood. The northeast end of Capitol Lake was the location of an artesian well until the construction of a new park that included changes to the shoreline. McAllister Springs, the main water source for Olympia, is fed by artesian wells, and the former Olympia Brewery is supplied by 26 artesian wells.
In downtown Olympia, current efforts to preserve the use of artesian water at the one remaining public well has been the mission of H2Olympia: Artesian Well Advocates.In 2011, the city of Olympia committed $50,000 towards improvements of an artesian well, located in a parking lot that was recently purchased by the city.
As of the census of 2000, there were 42,514 people, 18,670 households, and 9,968 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,544.4 people per square mile (982.3/km²).
There were 19,738 housing units at an average density of 1,181.3 per square mile (456.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.3% White, 1.9% African American, 1.3% Native American, 5.8% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 1.7% from other races, and 3.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.4% of the population. 15.0% were of German, 11.3% Irish, 10.0% English, 6.0% Norwegian and 5.3% American ancestry according to Census 2000. 91.6% spoke English, 2.9% Spanish and 1.7% Vietnamese as their first language.
There were 18,670 households out of which 26.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.6% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.6% were non-families. 35.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.5% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 22.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $40,846, and the median income for a family was $54,136. Males had a median income of $41,267 versus $31,515 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,590. About 6.9% of families and 12.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.4% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those age 65 or over.
Schools and universities
Olympia's main public school district is the Olympia School District. Olympia School District enrolled 9,231 students in K-12, based on the 2005-06 school year enrollment report. The school district has a total of 18 schools: 11 elementary schools, 4 middle schools and 3 high schools. Its high schools are Olympia High School (originally known as William Winlock Miller High School), Capital High School, and Avanti High School.
In the 2007-2008 school year, Olympia began the new Parent Partnership Program, which provides more opportunities to homeschooling families. Olympia's online high school, Olympia Regional Learning Academy (ORLA), is also part of the same program. Private elementary schools include Olympia Waldorf School, Olympia Community School, St. Michael School, Holy Family, and Evergreen Christian. Private middle schools include NOVA Middle School.
In addition to primary & secondary schools, Olympia has a number of institutions of higher learning, including The Evergreen State College, South Puget Sound Community College, and St. Martin's University in adjacent Lacey, Washington.
Olympia is a regional center for fine arts. A number of theatrical experiences are available with companies such as Capital Playhouse, Olympia Family Theater, Theater Artists Olympia (TAO), Olympia Little Theater, and Harlequin Productions at the historic State Theater. The Olympia Symphony Orchestra performs five regular season concerts at the Washington Center and two pop concerts.
Visual art venues include some of the local coffeehouses, such as Batdorf & Bronson and Caffe Vita in downtown. A gallery called Art House Designs presents works of sculpture, painting, and printmaking and hosts a jazz performance space. Murals and public art installations of sculpture are prevalent in Olympia, and are especially featured on the State Capitol Campus and along Percival Landing on the urban waterfront. South Puget Sound Community College has a gallery in its Minnaert Center with rotating exhibitions. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts also presents visual art exhibitions throughout the season in the spacious lobby areas.
Outside Olympia city limits, two visual art venues are notable: Art In Ecology is a long-established art-in-the-workplace venue that features works by northwest artists. Housed in Washington Department of Ecology, in neighboring Lacey, solo shows and group exhibitions rotate throughout the year. Permanent installations by Alfredo Arreguin are juxtaposed with works by 20-30 other northwest artists throughout the spacious and light filled building. Appointments are needed to view the 322,000-square-foot (29,900 m2) building, and tours of the whole space usually take about an hour. Also notable is the Gallery in the Library Building at the Evergreen State College, northwest of Olympia.
Each year the Olympia Film Society (OFS) produces a nationally-recognized film festival and fosters film and video education in Olympia. It also shows independent, classic and international films year-round at the art-deco Capitol Theater. A mostly volunteer-powered organization, OFS supports and presents a variety of culture events, including All Freakin' Night, an all-night horror film screening with a cult following.
On the fourth Saturday in April, in honor of Earth Day, Olympia is host to one of the region's largest community celebrations - the Procession of the Species celebration. Held in conjunction with the city's biannual Arts Walk, the Procession is organized by the community-based non-profit organization, Earthbound Productions. Structured around an annual Community Art Studio that is free and open to the public, organizers provide art, music and dance workshops during the preceding seven weeks leading up to the Procession weekend.
In its July 2009 Best of America feature, Reader's Digest magazine honored the Procession of the Species with the top spot in its “can’t resist” parades and processions list. Open to all, the Procession of the Species attracts up to 30,000 viewers, while its costumed participants of all ages frequently number nearly 3,000. On the Friday evening before the Procession of Species, a Luminary Procession is held.
In 1984, Olympia hosted the U.S. Olympic women's marathon trial. The winner of the event was Joan Benoit who would later win a gold medal at the first women's Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympic games in Los Angeles.
Olympia is the home of the Oly Rollers, the local women's flat track roller derby league whose travel team (the Cosa Nostra Donnas) became the 2009 national champions of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) by winning the national "Declaration of Derby" tournament in Philadelphia, PA on November 15, 2009. Olympia is also home to some of the Pacific Northwests greatest running talents such as the Guerilla Running Racing Club.
RailAmtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Olympia-Lacey at Centennial Station. Amtrak train 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, departs Olympia at 11:21am with service to Centralia; Portland; Sacramento; Emeryville, California (with bus connection to San Francisco); and Los Angeles. Amtrak train 14, the northbound Coast Starlight, departs Olympia at 6:22pm daily with service to Tacoma and Seattle. Amtrak Cascades trains, operating as far north as Vancouver and as far south as Eugene, Oregon, serve Olympia-Lacey several times daily in both directions.
Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, and the surrounding area are primarily served by Intercity Transit. Routes from other transit services such as Grays Harbor Transit, Mason Transit, and the Tacoma/Lakewood Express with Pierce Transit. Intercity Transit maintains a free shuttle route called "Dash". Dash runs from the Capitol Campus to the Farmers Market at the far edge of downtown. In 2009 Intercity Transit won an award for Americas best Public Transportation System in the mid size category by the American Public Transportation Association.