Holiday Tour of Historic Homes Showcases Nine Landmarks of Olympia’s Past

historic home tour
The Woman’s Club, circa 1908, was the first of its kind in the West, and offered women a place to come together. Photo credit: Deborah Ross.

Behind every home is a dream. Far more than brick and mortar, each of the lovingly-preserved dwellings on the 2016 Holiday Tour of Historic Homes tells us a unique tale of Olympia’s history, linking past and present through a charming, history-filled tour.

oly fed sponsorA beloved annual tradition, this year’s tour takes place on Sunday, December 4, from noon – 4:00 p.m. The tour is sponsored by the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum. The 2016 tour features an exciting lineup of nine properties throughout the east side and downtown Olympia, perfect for both the history buff and any local who desires to learn a little more about our city’s past while enjoying a unique outing. You’ve no doubt driven past or seen many of these homes – this is your chance to step inside. Impressively, each building is listed on historical registers.

historic home tour
Built in the 1870’s-1890’s, the Byrd House sits in the Olympia Avenue Historical District, and is a superb example of the ornate Queen Anne style home. Photo credit: Deborah Ross.

Take a step back in time and visit some of Olympia’s most notable buildings, from the Victorian era through the early twentieth century. One neat aspect of the tour is that all the buildings are still occupied by residents or organizations. The tour includes the turn-of-the-century Woman’s Club of Olympia building, where refreshments will be served the day of the tour. Another must-see spot, new to the tour this year, is the Victor and Lena Meyer House on East Bay Drive, recognized nationally for its creative use of artistic concrete block. From the ornate Queen Anne-style touches of the Byrd House to the sensible Foursquare design of the Kearney House (YWCA), you’ll see Olympia’s architecture with new eyes. The Olympia Historical Society website gives a truly rich history of each home and is a great resource to check out before the tour.

I touched base with accomplished local historian and Olympia Historical Society Vice President Shanna Stevenson to learn more about the event. Shanna notes, “The members of the Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum Board coordinate the tour as an all-volunteer group effort. We are also fortunate that we have a large group of community and member volunteers who are docents for the event.”

historic home tour
The eastside’s historic Lybarger House, built in 1887, has been restored over the past decades, and two city council members have called it home. Photo credit: Deborah Ross.

“We believe that it is important to showcase the historic properties of Olympia as authentic elements of our city’s history,” she says. “We also want to honor those who own these wonderful pieces of the past – that ownership requires a lot of commitment. Also, we think it is important to show that families can live in and enjoy historic properties, and they can be used by organizations as well. It’s important for their long-term viability. It is also a chance to showcase the Bigelow House Museum – one of the true treasures of our city.”

You’ll definitely want to stop by the Bigelow House. Newly restored rooms will be on display along with a special holiday tree with decorations created by kids at the Hands On Children’s Museum. You’ll also be charmed by musical performances on vintage instruments.

historic home tour
The influential builder Charles Patnude, who also helped build the Old State Capitol and old Courthouse building, built the Patnude residence in 1893. Photo credit: Deborah Ross.

Did you know that the Bigelow House is the oldest documented home in Olympia, and one of the oldest still-standing homes in the Northwest? It is an important part of local women’s history (the Bigelows were early supporters of female suffrage, and even hosted Susan B. Anthony at a dinner). The home is listed on multiple historic registers, and many of the original furnishings are still in the house. This is just one example of the history-come-to-life that awaits you. All in all, the tour promises to provide an afternoon of knowledge, fun, and beautiful architecture. The tour organizers and residents are excited for you to view these landmarks.

Tour tickets are $20 and include a map and program. There are several options for purchasing tickets. You can buy and reserve them online through the Olympia Historical Society website. Doing some holiday shopping? Pick them up at Drees, Olympia Federal Savings (Olympia or Lacey branches) or Thompson Furniture. On the day of the tour, you can pick up tickets at the Woman’s Club or the Bigelow House Museum.

historic home tour
The building that now houses the YWCA of Olympia was built in 1907 in the Foursquare style, and became the YWCA in 1948. Photo courtesy: YWCA of Olympia.

It takes a community effort to put together the tour. Sponsoring businesses include Olympia Federal Savings, Paul Battan, Attorney at Law, Drees, and Swalling Walk Architects.

For more information about the Holiday Tour of Historic Homes, visit the Olympia Historical Society website. You’ll also find them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also join and share their event page on Facebook.

Holiday Tour of Historic Homes
Sunday, December 4, 2016
12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Throughout Downtown and East Olympia
Find more information here.

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