AKA: State of Washington, Pritchard, Joel M., Building, Capitol Mall, Olympia, WA

Structure Type: built works - social and civic buildings - libraries

Designers: Holmdahl, Otto E., Landscape Gardener (firm); Kuney-Johnson Company, Building Contractors (firm); Morrison-Knudsen Company, Incorporated (firm); Thiry, Paul, FAIA, Architect (firm); Otto Emil Holmdahl (landscape architect); Lloyd Wallace Johnson (building contractor); Max J. Kuney Jr. (building contractor); Paul Albert Thiry Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1957-1958

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415 15th Ave SE
State Capitol Mall, Olympia, WA 98501

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This was the first stand-alone library housing the collection of Washington State. It had previously been situated in the State Supreme Court's Temple of Justice basement. Its collection consisted of law texts, WA State histories, Federal and state government publications, photographs, newspapers and other regionally significant materials. The Nisqually Earthquake of 2001 damaged the building, requiring the emptying of its collections to another location. Since 2001, the building has been used by the WA State Senate, State Code Reviser's Office and other agencies.

Building History

Seattle architect Paul A. Thiry, Sr., (1904-1993) won the commission for the State Library in 1957. In his design, he followed the site plan for the Capitol Mall done by Wilder and White in 1912. He placed his library on axis with the Beaux-Arts Capitol Building and also conformed to the existing heights and symmetry of preceding buildings. He used a decidedly Modern vocabulary, creating a templar design with a flat roof and no ornamentation.

The original budget for the library came in at $1,355,464 in 10/1957. (See "Contracts for Library," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/25/1957, p. 30.)

The building team included: Otto Holmdahl worked on the State Library as Landscape Architect; William Teeter acted as the Interior Design Consultant; Peter H. Hostmark was the Structural Engineer and Beverly A. Travis and Associates, the Electrical Engineer. Initially, the Kuney-Johnson Company of Seattle won the construction contract for library in 1957 with a bid of $870,083. (See "Contracts for Library," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/25/1957, p. 30.) This firm's partners split up at the time, and Lloyd Wallace Johnson (1910-1991) collaborated with the Morrison Knudsen Company to serve as general contractors.

Legislators set aside 2.5% of the construction budget for artworks to adorn the library, with Seattle sculptor George Tsutakawa (1910-1997) chosen to select the art. The library originally contained sculptures by Everett Du Pen (1912-2005), a sculptural sundial (in the plaza in front) by English-born metal artist John W. Elliott (1883-1971), a Northwest-themed mural (in the Washington Room) by painter Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), an abstract mosaic (behind the main desk) by James Herbert Fitzgerald (1910–1973) and a large canvas (in the library staff offices) by abstract painter Mark Tobey (1890-1976). The very valuable Tobey canvas was relocated to the Tacoma Art Museum in 2003. Creating this percentage of the budget to be spent on art was very innovative for the time, and became common in WA State for public architectural commissions.

The State Library sustained damage in the Nisqually Earthquake of 02/28/2001, necessitating the removal of the heavy paper collections to another location. Repairs were made, and the State Senate used the main floor as its chambers. By the next decade, the Washington State Office of the Code Reviser utilized the Pritchard Building as did other state employees. The State Library relocated to

Building Notes

Other contractors for the State Library included: Plumbing and heating, Lents' Inc., Bremerton, $137,950. Electrical, Carl T. Madson, Inc., Tacoma, $70,144. Equipment, furnishing and office machinery: Graingers' Office Supply of Olympia, $20,635; Del-Teet Furniture, Seattle, $23,988; Bank and Office Equipment, Seattle, $3,899; William Dierick Co., Seattle, $1,007; Lowman, Hanford Co., Seattle, $2076; Capital Business Machine Co., Olympia, $1,565; Remington Rand Co., Seattle and Olympia, $2,029; Recordak Corp., Seattle, $3,255; and International Business Machine Co., Seattle, $980. (See "Contracts for Library," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/25/1957, p. 30.)

Thiry specified the use of local Wilkeson sandstone to sheath the State Library. Many institutional and commercial buildings throughout the state have employed this durable local stone.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the American Library Association (ALA) recognized the State Library with a design award soon after its completion.


Following the Nisqually Earthquake of 02/28/2001, the neighboring Legislative Building had to be emptied for structural reasons. The library served as a legislative office building and a meeting chamber for the state politicians. A cafeteria was also added at this time. The library and its materials was moved to an office building in Tumwater, WA. In 2006, the SRG Partnership proposed a new organization scheme for the building, some aspects of which compromised Thiry's original design. SRG sought to remove some portions of the original library and to make a large addition.


The building, one of Thiry's most notable public commissions, was threatened with demolition in 2020.

Washington Heritage Register (Listed 2015-08-03): ID n/a

National Register of Historic Places (Listed 2015-08-03): 15000501 NRHP Images (pdf) NHRP Registration Form (pdf)

PCAD id: 14965