Capital of Washington: A Comprehensive Guide

The City of Olympia in Washington State
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The capital of the state of Washington, Olympia, is a charming city with a rich history. Situated at an altitude of 95 feet above sea level, Olympia serves not only as the state capital but also as the administrative seat of Thurston County. With its strategic location on the southern Puget Sound region, 60 miles southwest of Seattle, Olympia is a cultural center that draws in visitors from all over the state and beyond.

As the 18th-largest state in the United States, Washington has an area of 71,362 square miles and a population of over 7.7 million people. The state’s largest city is Seattle, however, it is Olympia that carries the responsibility of being the political hub and center of government affairs. Indeed, the city has played a vital role in the development and progress of Washington since its admission to the Union on November 11, 1889.

Olympia may not be as vast or densely populated as some of the other capitals in the United States, but it certainly offers a unique blend of natural beauty and urban development. The city balances its historic roots with modern infrastructures and amenities, making it an attractive destination for those looking to explore the heart of Washington.

Geographical Location of Washington’s Capital

Situated in Pacific Northwest

Washington’s capital, Olympia, is located in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. This region consists of various states, including Washington, Oregon, and parts of Idaho, Montana, and Northern California. Olympia is positioned at the southern end of Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, connecting it to the global maritime trade.

The city of Olympia has a population of approximately 52,000 people and is the administrative center of Thurston County. Olympia’s strategic location allows it to be in close proximity to other major metropolitan areas, such as Tacoma and Seattle, lying around 30 miles southwest of Tacoma and nearly 60 miles southwest of Seattle.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its diverse and picturesque landscapes, which includes the mountain ranges of the Cascades and the Olympic Mountains, as well as the Puget Sound. The climate in Olympia is characterized as a temperate oceanic or marine west coast climate, which is dominated by mild, wet winters and cool, dry summers.

  • Population: 52,000 (approx.)
  • Area: 71,362 square miles (184,830 km²) for the state of Washington
  • County: Thurston County

Olympia’s geographical positioning makes it a vital hub for transportation and logistics, facilitating connections to Alaska, Asia, and other parts of North America. The presence of Interstate 5 corridor and other major roads ensures seamless connectivity to its neighboring cities and states. In addition, the city is serviced by the Port of Olympia, which is an essential player in international shipping, trade, and commerce.

The location of Washington’s capital contributes significantly to its economy, lifestyle, and cultural fabric, providing an essential connection between the bustling urban centers of the Pacific Northwest and the natural beauty found in the region’s diverse landscapes.

Historical Context of Washington’s Capital

Establishment Timeline

The capital city of Washington, also known as Washington D.C., was authorized in the country’s Constitution. In 1790, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a French-born American engineer and designer, was chosen to plan the new capital city. During the planning phase, surveyor Andrew Ellicott and self-educated free Black man Benjamin Banneker surveyed the 100-square-mile territory.

Classical architecture of Greece and Rome was selected to represent the New Republic’s democratic ideals. The construction of the significant buildings in the capital followed this architectural style.

Statehood Journey

Washington became a state on November 11, 1889. Its capital is Olympia, and the state’s government operates from the legislative building. The legislative building, completed in 1928 after six years of construction, serves as both a working governmental center and a symbol of Washington’s free and democratic government. Designed by New York architects Walter Wilder and Harry White, this building is the centerpiece of the five historic buildings in the area.

The population of Washington state has grown over time, with an estimated 7,785,786 residents in 2022. The current governor is Jay Inslee, a Democrat. Since its establishment, Washington has experienced numerous changes and developments, shaping it into the thriving state it is today.

Olympia: The Capital of Washington

Infrastructure and Architecture

Olympia is the capital city of the U.S. state of Washington and serves as the county seat and largest city of Thurston County. Located 60 miles (100 km) southwest of Seattle, Olympia is a cultural center of the southern Puget Sound region. It was laid out in 1851 as Smithfield, later becoming the site of a U.S. customs house and renamed for the nearby Olympic Mountains.

The Washington State Capitol is situated on a 12-acre plot of land, which was donated by the city’s founder, Edmund Sylvester, after Olympia became the capital of the Washington Territory in 1853. A two-story wood-frame building was initially constructed on the site, where the legislature met starting in 1854. Capitol Campus, managed by Washington State’s Department of Enterprise Services (DES), houses the Capitol building and is visited by locals and tourists alike.

Governance and Administration

As the capital city, Olympia is home to various state government offices and agencies responsible for administering the state’s resources and policies. The various branches of government, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, are all housed within close proximity of Capitol Campus.

In addition to state administration, Olympia also functions as the county seat of Thurston County, lending administrative support to the county government. The people living in Olympia are called Olympians, and as of the 2010 census, the city has a population of 46,478.

Olympia has a diverse economy that supports a combination of public and private sectors, with the state government being the largest employer in the area. The city is well-connected by various means of transportation, including highways and public transport systems, ensuring efficient movement of goods and people within and beyond the city.

In summary, Olympia serves as the center for both state and county government operations, while also striking a balance as a cultural and economic hub for the southern Puget Sound region.

Population and Demographics

Washington State, located in the northwestern corner of the United States, is the 18th largest state in terms of surface area, with a land mass of 71,299 square miles. As of the 2020 census, Washington’s population reached 7,705,281, showing a 14.6% increase since the 2010 census. The state’s capital, Olympia, is a smaller city in comparison to Seattle, the largest city in Washington.

Population Distribution

In terms of population distribution, Washington houses a diverse group of people. Seattle, the state’s largest city, had a population of 737,015 as of the 2020 census. On the other hand, the capital city of Olympia has a significantly smaller population compared to Seattle. The population demographics of Washington state can be further broken down by race, age, and other factors such as gender and ethnicity.

While this section only covers population distribution, it is important to note that there is a wealth of information regarding various other demographic factors for Washington State and its cities, which can be found in resources such as Census data and population reports. Overall, understanding the demographics of the state and its capital helps to provide a clearer view of the people who call Washington home.

Economy of Olympia

Major Industries

As the capital of Washington state, Olympia’s economy relies heavily on the state government. This industry serves as a stabilizing factor for the local economy, being the second-largest industry in the county behind services1. Apart from state government, the city has developed other industries like port facilities, a lumber-based economy, oyster farming, dairying, and brewing2. The harbor supports a large merchant reserve fleet and contains a mixed industrial complex, designed to receive seaborne container freight2.

Employment Status

Despite having somewhat higher living costs compared to other US regions, Olympia maintains a vibrant economy that offers various employment opportunities. The city’s unemployment rate stands at 5.6%, slightly better than the 6.0% national average3. Job market growth has been positive, with an increase of 1.4% over the past year3. With its diverse set of industries and ongoing growth, Olympia continues to be an attractive option for those seeking gainful employment.

Education and Culture

Education Institutions

Washington state’s capital, Olympia, is home to a variety of educational institutions that cater to students from diverse backgrounds. One of the prominent institutions in the city is The Evergreen State College, a public liberal arts college known for its innovative interdisciplinary curriculum and flexible academic programs.

In addition to this, the South Puget Sound Community College provides a range of academic and technical programs, including certificate and associate degree courses for students looking to enhance their skills or transfer to a four-year college.

There are also numerous public and private K-12 schools in Olympia and the surrounding area, ensuring that residents have access to quality education for their children.

Arts and Festivals

Olympia has a thriving arts and cultural scene which reflects the city’s status as a cultural center of the southern Puget Sound region. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts serves as a hub for various artistic performances, from music concerts to theatrical productions, and includes not only local talent but also national and international artists.

Moreover, the city is home to several annual festivals and cultural events that showcase the diverse talents and interests of the community. Some of the prominent events include the Olympia Film Festival, which celebrates independent cinema, and the Procession of the Species, a unique community-based parade that showcases creative expression and environmental awareness.

In addition to these events, the city is home to numerous art galleries, studios, and museums that provide opportunities for residents and visitors alike to immerse themselves in the creative arts and appreciate the local artistic talent.


  1. Olympia: Economy – Major Industries and Commercial Activity, Incentive … source
  2. Olympia | Capital City, State Capitol, Evergreen State. source 2
  3. Economy in Olympia, Washington – Sperling’s BestPlaces. source 2