A small but unique piece of Olympia history, located just down the street from Olympia High School, was recently listed for sale. The Cloverfields house was once the centerpiece of a large and (at the time) groundbreaking modern dairy operation.
Hazard Stevens, the son the first territorial governor Isaac Stevens, had spent much of his life residing in either his New England birthplace or Olympia, where he first came as a 12-year-old.
Before building Cloverfields, Stevens was already an institution in Thurston County. He was President of the Olympia Power and Light Company (OP&L) and (in addition to the power utility) encouraged New England investment in the southern Puget Sound. He was also a member of the party that made the first documented ascent to Mount Rainier’s peak.
Cloverfields was to be Hazards’ retirement. The 320 acres were part of the original land grant the Stevens family had taken exactly 70 years earlier. And he quickly set to build a modern dairy operation. In the end, it included a 5,000 square foot barn, two silos, and outbuildings.
And, because Cloverfields was located convenient to Stevens’ OP&L hydroelectric plant on the Deschutes River, the dairy was electrified.
The centerpiece of the dairy is now its last remaining structure: the Dutch Revival style farmhouse. Joseph Wohleb was the architect of the 3,000 square foot home. Wohleb was just getting his start in Olympia when he designed the home.
Wohleb would go on to design 150 buildings in Washington across five decades, centering on the southern Puget Sound. His work, during these years of growth and expansion, set the tone for Olympia’s architectural personality.
Cloverfields was not Wohleb’s first commission as an architect – that had come a couple of years earlier in the form of the Jeffers Photographic Studio on Washington Street. But, it was the juxtaposition of Stevens, the early Olympia promoter and investor, with Wohleb, whose career developed Olympia’s architectural personality that makes the Cloverfields house interesting.
Unfortunately, Hazard Stevens was only able to enjoy Cloverfields for four years, passing away in 1918.
The dairy fell to his sister Kate and her husband, James Bates. Kate Stevens Bates had lived a similar (if less adventurous) life as Hazard, moving back and form between New England and the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband continued to operate Cloverfields, but change was coming to the property.
Spurred by real estate developers like Fred Carlyon (for whom the street in front of the Cloverfields House is named) the acreage that then stood between Olympia and Tumwater became increasingly attractive.
The Bates couple began selling off pieces of the dairy to Carlyon and other developers, with development completely enveloping the house by the 1950s.
Oddly, it was the expansion of the Capitol campus a few miles north that bit off the largest part of the old Cloverfields Dairy, including the portion where the barn stood. In 1949 the Olympia School District bought the 45-acre site that now hosts not only Olympia High School, but also Pioneer Elementary School.
At that time, Olympia High School was on Capitol Way, across the street from the Capitol campus. Expansion of the campus meant the school needed to find a new location. An earlier expansion in the 1920s doomed another Stevens family homestead – the original house Isaac Stevens had built for his family in the 1850s.
Starting in 1958, the district completed the new school about three years later on the purchased piece of land from the Cloverfields.
Cloverfields stayed in the Stevens family until 2002 when the estate of its last family owner sold it. It has had a handful of owners since then.