Just east of downtown, heading up 4th Avenue, branching left and right from Puget and Central streets are the Eastside Olympia neighborhoods. These streets are dotted with historical structures, home for massive old trees and alive with a shared appreciation and pride among residents. Neighbors rally to care for their space and celebrate together. The result is a preserved area of mostly single-family homes with character and community members that aim to know each other.
A very noticeable, positive feature is the walkability of the Eastside. Many streets have sidewalks set back by grass strips, but a great number are narrow, quiet and lend themselves to families strolling and walking their dogs. Eastside Olympia streets are lined with mostly single-family homes and a handful of smaller apartments complexes or those that are in subdivided, large houses. Most homes are relatively small in scale and nearly all are different, resulting in house by house, block by block character.
“The houses are all super cool,” Greene Realty Group agent and Eastside Olympia resident Ben Gaubert says. “There’s definitely a certain vibe within the Eastside itself that is different from the Westside or even the northeast neighborhood.”
Neighborhoods are also home to many, mature deciduous trees that are gorgeous in the fall. Bird feeders draw a variety of feathered visitors. Grey squirrels run along branches and even urban deer pass through. In spring, summer and fall, the hilltops are wonderful places to catch a broad view of the capitol building and the Black Hills beyond.
Neighborhood associations in Eastside Olympia rally people together as coalitions for community building and improvement rather than functioning as governing entities. Groups meet up for outdoor work parties, barbeques and block parties. For example, the Eastside Neighborhood Association hosts an annual garage sale, a summer picnic and had a Winter Window Walkabout for neighbors to share illuminated creations.
“We have the coolest Halloween house in the whole neighborhood,” says Gaubert, “and they prepare all year long to do a wild, wild Halloween house. Just around the corner is the Oly Lightstravaganza house, which is the Christmas house. When it snows, everybody comes out to go sledding down these hills. It’s always a really fun day to see everybody out playing on the street.”
Getting Food and Services in Eastside Olympia
One hardly has to leave Eastside Olympia for basic needs and tasks. Pick up dinner, go to the dentist, visit the barber shop or nail salon, take the cat to the vet and get an oil change all within a few blocks. “We’ve got the wonderful Left Bank Pastry,” Gaubert says. “We’ve got State and Central Grill, a little burger-pub spot in our neighborhood. The neighborhood grocery store Ralph’s Thriftway is right there, as well as little Zoe Juice Bar, so no need to hop in your car. You can take a walk with your pup and go to these places.”
For breakfasts, pre-order and pick up Adams Bagels. Lunch and dinner stops include Eastside Big Tom’s and State & Central Grill. For a northeast neighborhood, having coffee and pastries at the San Francisco Street Bakery is a local favorite.
Olympia Symphony Music in Eastside Olympia Parks
Parks are plenty and so is the potential to engage. While all provide an opportunity to enjoy nature, some parks offer an added, audio experience. The City of Olympia and the Olympia Symphony partnered to create Symphony Strolls. Park trailheads at Mission Creek Nature Park, Madison Scenic Park and Yashiro Japanese Garden post signage with QR codes that link to the symphony audio recordings.
Lions Park has space for picnicking, a playground, basketball and tennis, and a new water play structure is planned for 2023. Bigelow Park, atop the hill in the northeast neighborhood, has huge trees towering over its playground, picnic areas and a basketball hoop.
Just a few blocks over, Bigelow Springs Park offers views, an open spread of grass and a pathway to one of the Olympia natural springs. Olympia Community Garden and Capital Vision Christian Church community garden provide opportunities to dig in the soil and grow fresh food.
Olympia Pioneer Settlers Chose the Eastside to Build Early Neighborhoods
The oldest neighborhood in Olympia is the Bigelow neighborhood. Numerous homes, built before 1910, have been well preserved, each shining in true historical character. The Bigelow House Museum is among them. One particular stretch of Olympia Avenue, between Tullis Street and Pear Street has its own designation of being the Olympia Avenue Historic District, a spectacular display of beautifully preserved homes.
In addition to historical houses, First United Methodist Church on Legion Way SE is home to an oak tree brought in as a seedling in 1872 when the plot was part of an early Olympia homestead. Nearby on Eastside Street and built in 1939, the Olympia armory building was recently included in the Olympia Heritage Register and is planned to be a creative center.
After taking in a walk to pick up morning donuts or an evening burger, stop at one of the little library kiosks for some reading material. Wave hello to one of your neighbors walking their dogs. Living in Eastside Olympia harkens back to small town, neighborhood life.
Ready to call Eastside Olympia home? Contact Greene Realty Group by calling 360.528.4160 or visit the Greene Realty Group website.