Olympia has a rich history, as is evident in the core of the city. Old buildings with incredible architecture line the narrow side streets, giving us a glimpse of the origins of our community. Dotted amongst the newer houses of our neighborhoods, magnificent structures show off the prosperity, hopes and dreams of old town Olympia. One of those buildings, on the Eastside of town, is the Swantown Inn & Spa. Maybe you have driven by it, but chances are you have missed the opportunity to take a glance at this picturesque home. Owned by Casey and Nathan Allen, the house has an incredible history and connection to the area.
The plot of land on which the inn now sits was originally purchased in 1887, two years before Washington became a state and 28 years after Olympia became incorporated as a city. Back then, Olympia was a small town of around 4,000 people, though it saw a jump in population between 1880 and 1890. The home, called the Richard’s Cottage in the original blueprints, was built sometime between 1891 and 1893 but was never completed. In late 1893, William White, a lumberman who had built many homes around Olympia, lost this home to the Oregon Mortgage Company in a mortgage crisis like the one we experienced in the early 2000s.
For decades the William G White house saw many different uses. In the 1940s, it was a boarding house, then welfare housing in the 1950s, eventually transforming itself into a museum full of antiques. In 1997, it was transformed once again, opening as a bed and breakfast. In December of 2004, the Allens purchased the house, naming it the Swantown Inn and opening its doors to the public. The first guests were in town for historical purposes, as they were Seattle Times reporters covering the reopening of the State Capitol after the Nisqually Earthquake.
“The Inn is named Swantown because historically, Swantown was another city, separated from Olympia by the Swantown Slough which was filled in the late 1920s,” Nathan explained. “Every year we learn a little more about the history of the house. We really feel like we are more caretakers of its history than owners.”
Today, the Swantown Inn is one of the iconic buildings in the Capitol City. Standing out from all the others in the neighborhood, the architecture is like something found in a storybook. Spires rise from the multistory building, and fencing adorns the roof to highlight its curves and corners. With a welcoming front porch beckoning you to enter, the house is a perfect mix of imposing and inviting. Built in a Victorian-era style known as the Queen Anne Eastlake Victorian, the house features many more adornments than a typical Queen Anne Victorian.
Nathan and Casey are, like most Olympians, proud of their city. They revel in the fact that Olympia, and the Eastside Neighborhood in particular, have such an eclectic mix of people, homes and culture. Raising their three kids, they love knowing that our local schools are great and the town offers everything they need, but is still small enough that they can get to know a lot of people. The Allens are embracing the region and cannot think of a better place to call home.
Like William White, they are also eager to share their love of the region with others, leading to their work on the Swantown Inn & Spa. The exterior of this historic and gorgeous building may look old fashioned, but the inside blends both old and new.
“Although the inn is a historic structure, it blends in our family’s affinity with technology,” Nathan said. “Great wi-fi is a must, so it has it! We also love our coffee and are in the process of working with Olympia Coffee Roasting Company to install one of their old La Marzocco espresso machines. This is not Grandma’s B&B; it is the home of a family with three vibrant kids, not that you would ever know unless we introduced them during a stay.”
The Swantown Inn is also seeing some work on the outside. The inn is going to be adding a grand Victorian ballroom which will hold about 60 people for events including weddings, intimate dinner events and meetings. The addition, since the building is historic, will be built to modern standards including ADA access, while still honoring the craftsmanship and style of the original building. The Swantown Inn & Spa will also be adding a two-bedroom suite which will be usable as a B&B style nightly room or as a longer term vacation rental for people, such as state employees, who need a place to stay during the legislative session. With all this new work, the Allens are downright giddy about sharing their home with the community.
“The expansion is exciting,” beamed Nathan. “It adds all the things we have had a demand for and it completes our dream for the inn. Once it is complete, we will have the South Sound’s most interesting boutique venue.”
To learn more about the Swantown Inn & Spa visit them online or call 360-753-9123.