Olympia Blockhouse (1856-1856) - Three Washington Indian War Blockhouses were established in 1856 in Olympia, Thurston County, Washington. Named Olympia Blockhouse after the location. Abandoned in 1856.
Olympia Washington in 1856 was the Territorial Capitol of the Washington Territory with Issac Stevens as the Governor. The town of Olympia was built on a small peninsula that extended northward into the Budd Inlet surrounding the town on three sides with water and mud flats. The only landside access to the town was a long trek from the south.
In response to Indian attacks over the territory, Olympia established a set of defenses designed to defend the landside approach to the town. These defenses included a stockade that ran the full length of 4th street (waters edge to waters edge) and three blockhouses (4th Street Blockhouse, Sylvester Park blockhouse, 8th Street Blockhouse. The population of Olympia was estimated at 200-300 in January 1954.
In 1872 the New Northwest printed a story about the early history of Olympia during the war; "The town was for a short time in a state of siege. An attack was expected at any minute and the most intense excitement prevailed."
"A stockade or plank fence, about 15 feet high, was built the whole length of 4th Avenue, with bastions at the water's edge. At the junction of Main and 4th, a cannon was placed in a position to repel any assault on the fort. Arms and ammunition were distributed, and men, women, and children were on alert against surprise. The revenue cutter Jo Lane guarded the harbor. The Jo Lane is where they obtained the cannon and ammunition to equip their crude defenses. However, the danger quickly passed, as the hostilities had moved on from the immediate vicinity of the settlements."
Mr. Percival helped build the stockade with lumber from his mill. The lumber was originally to be used for the Marshville Bridge. The stockade was likely built with double-wall construction
4th St Blockhouse
A log and timber Blockhouse with a mounted cannon was built after the White River Massacre at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets in early November 1855 to anchor the 4th street Stockade. It is likely this blockhouse eventually burned down.
6th St Blockhouse
Also known as the Sylvester Park Blockhouse. A large temporary log blockhouse that was erected by Washington Territorial Volunteer troops The blockhouse was reportedly large enough to hold the town's population (200 to 300 people). It was located on the public square at the corner of Main and 6th streets (now Capitol Way S. and Legion Way SE.), today's Sylvester Park (previously known as Capitol Park and Town Square). The square began as Block 16 on Edmund Sylvester's 1850 plat of Olympia and has continued at that location and size, protected by deed restrictions. This blockhouse is where, in times of alarm, the town residents lived off and on for about 22 months until the hostilities ceased. The Sylvester Park blockhouse was later razed.
8th St Blockhouse
A smaller blockhouse at the edge of town probably intended to warn early of an attack. It is likely that this blockhouse eventually burned down.
Abandoned in 1856.
Current Status (2022)
Most of the area containing the 1855-1856 defenses of Olympia is now part of the Olympia Downtown Historic District but there is little to acknowledge the location or the extent of the defenses. While the historic district is a relatively small grid of streets it was initially a grid of numbered and named streets and now it is a grid of streets, avenues, and ways with directional attributes such as southeast and west. This all makes it difficult to translate various accounts of where the defenses lay. The original Town Square has changed names a couple of times and is now known as Sylvester Park and it is reported to have a small plaque where the main 6th Street blockhouse stood.