Olympia’s history is recorded and reflected in its buildings and landscapes, giving our Capital city a character like no other. The City's Heritage Commission and Historic Preservation Officer support Olympians in celebrating, caring for, and finding new uses for the historic places we treasure.
To learn more about historic properties in Olympia and throughout Thurston County, please visit the Thurston Regional Planning Council's interactive Online Historic Properties Map.
Olympia Heritage Register
Hundreds of Olympians have taken the lead to recognize and preserve our historic places by nominating their homes and neighborhoods for the Olympia Heritage Register. In effect since 1983, the program showcases and protects over 400 buildings and 5 districts around the city. These include properties listed on the Olympia, Washington, and National Registers.
Benefits of Being on the Register
Proposing your Building or Neighborhood for the Register
In addition to the pride of living or working in a piece of Olympia history, owners of properties listed individually or in a historic district have access to these benefits:
- Bronze markers for buildings listed individually
- Building code relaxation
- Free advice and educational program
- Tax incentives
Tax Incentive Information
All individually listed Register properties and most buildings in designated historic districts qualify for property tax relief for approved rehabilitation work under the Special Valuation program. This program is managed under a joint effort between the City of Olympia and Thurston County. For more information on how Special Valuation works, contact the Historic Preservation Officer.
Rehabilitation of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places may also qualify for income tax relief under the Federal Historic Tax Credit program. This program is managed by the State of Washington’s Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
Applications to designate a building, site, object, or district on the Register are accepted year round. There is no cost to apply.
Before you begin the application process, you will need to gather the information needed to fill out the application form. Thanks to our proximity to State agencies, help on researching your property is close at hand at the Southwest Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives.
- Submit your completed application form to the Historic Preservation Officer.
- Meet with Historic Preservation Officer for an initial tour of the property.
- Hold a public meeting with the Heritage Commission at the property for initial review.
- Take part in a formal public hearing at a regularly-scheduled meeting of the Heritage Commission.
- If approved, receive formal notice that the property has been listed on the Olympia Heritage Register.
- For individually listed properties, work with the Historic Preservation Officer on the text of the bronze plaque.
Building Permits for Register Properties
Whenever a building permit or other City approval is required for work on a Register property, the application process includes Heritage Review. This review only applies to proposed changes to the exterior of the building to ensure that they don't negatively affect the special historic character. Heritage Review happens automatically when you submit your permit application.
This process uses the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The Historic Preservation Officer is happy to provide free advice on interpreting these standards as well as other questions on rehabilitating historic buildings.
Explore Historic Olympia
Print off one of our traditional walking tour brochures or use the STQRY app to visit Olympia’s historic places for yourself.
Our friends at the Olympia Historical Society & Bigelow House Museum also offer a wealth of information on our city’s past, including interactive maps and historical photos.
Contact Catherine McCoy at 360.570.3776 or firstname.lastname@example.org