Submitted by Washington State Department of Enterprise Services
A selection of pieces from the USS Olympia’s official presentation silver service are on display this month at Olympia City Hall. The antique silver set was presented to the historic U.S. Navy warship more than 100 years ago following local and statewide efforts to raise funds for the service.
The silver pieces can be viewed between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, in the lobby at Olympia City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.
Featuring the state of Washington seal, oak and laurel leaves and the name “Olympia,” the presentation silver collection is steeped in military history: It was presented to commemorate the 344-foot steel ship’s heroic role in the Spanish-American War’s Battle of Manila Bay, under the command of Admiral George Dewey.
Though most famous as Dewey’s flagship in the Spanish-American War, the USS Olympia served in both military and humanitarian roles in the U.S. Navy into the 1920s. Its last assignment prior to decommissioning was the return the body of the Unknown Soldier to the United States for burial. The vessel is now an exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.
Silver set pieces on display include an ornate 20-inch oval tray and a small tureen with a lid, crafted by Shreve & Company of San Francisco. The pieces are part of a 29-piece collection on loan from the U.S. Navy to the City of Olympia and managed by the Department of Enterprise Services. The full set is usually on display at the Governor’s Mansion on the Capitol Campus, and includes a coffee and tea service, several trays, covered dishes and punch bowl.
“Each piece in the collection is a work of art,” said Marygrace Goddu, cultural resources manager for Enterprise Services. “It was designed to be over-the-top, a showpiece and a status symbol that would attest to Olympia’s culture and means, and lay claim to the city’s heroic namesake ship. Each piece was modeled and engraved by skilled silversmiths.”
A Piece of Community History
After USS Olympia gained status as a legendary American ship in the 1898 Battle of Manila Bay, local and statewide efforts raised money to purchase the set for $8,750. The collection was officially presented to the ship on Sept. 26, 1899. Its assessed value in 2003 was just under $200,000.
“The city of Olympia is extremely proud to display for the public this remarkable piece of our community’s history,” said Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby. “The silver service is a beautiful symbol of our relationship with the naval vessels that have borne our city name over the years and of our ongoing partnership with the state of Washington who has maintained the silver with such care. We are grateful to the state for their stewardship of these pieces.”
The city’s display is coordinated with an upcoming visit by the crew of a more modern vessel that bears the city’s name — the USS Olympia submarine. Crew members of the 362-foot-long fast attack submarine are scheduled to visit its namesake city this weekend to participate in community service projects and other events.