Jump to content
American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Us99 Olympia 1940 And Today

Recommended Posts

It being a quiet Sunday afternoon, I went to downtown Olympia on old US99 for a then and now, or as Steve_Colby calls them , a Deja View . This is 4th street, which now is one way east bound, but in the days when it was US99 and the main highway between Southern California and Canada, it was two way here.


The buildings are unmistakable! [A] shows the US99 shield on the lamp post. The store front is unchanged, down to the hanging awning over the sidewalk. The shinny tile is still part of the store front at [C], and The Spar [D] is still in business today and sporting its familiar sign. Inside it is only a little changed.


The biggest change is the cornice on the corner building at []). It fell off in the earthquake of 1949. There is no mistaking the building at [F]. As we attempt to replicate the Main Street of the past we plant tress....which hide the buildings, and which seldom, to never, existed on real main streets.


I'm dating the photo (from my collection) to 1940 as there is no car in the photo later than 1940, and there are no men in uniform in the photo.


If you ever have occasion to wonder what was on Main Street in 1940, and what by and large is rare or doesn't exist anymore, take a look at the two enlargements. [G] the downtown hardware store selling tackle, the drugstore featuring Kodaks, the [H] public bath, the downtown [J] stationers, the [K] shoe repair shop, and the [L] Cigar Store. And sadly the [M] Olympia beer, Its the water...no more. :(









Link to comment
Share on other sites


Really? "Oly" beer is no more? I well remember the "It's the Water" radio/TV ads way down here in southern AZ back in the 60s/70s (I was too young to drink the stuff back then, but we all knew the ads!). If memory serves, the ads always said "Olympia brewing company, Tumwater , Washington".

You mean it's gone to Falstaff/Burgermeister/Schlitz/Hamm's/probably-too-many-other-defunct-brands-to-name beer heaven?

Guess I assumed it was still around, albeit on a regional basis.

Edited by mga707
Link to comment
Share on other sites



I don't remember when the Olympia brand disappeared, but the brewery stands dark and moldering beside the waterfalls featured in its logo, paint peeling off its windows The warehouses that stored the golden brew and the railroad tracks that carried the cars filled with stubbies are quiet and empty. The small taverns and cafes near the brewery that served the workers and their friends are closing down, and old men give talks at the historical society about what it used to be like to work there.




Keep the Show on the Road

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dave, these are great deja views. It is exciting to see this block still essentially intact. Is that Vitrolite on the second building from the right? jim




The term Vitrolite is new to me, and it sounds like I need to know what it is. Here is an enlargement of that building. Can you determine whether it is Vitrolite from the photo?




Keep the Show on the Road!



Link to comment
Share on other sites


Vitrolite is glass tile. The tiles used for building exteriors were usually 16" x 16" and about 3/8" thick. For more info, go to the Vitrolite Specialist.


Cumberland still has a fair amount of Vitrolite clad buildings downtown.


BTW... The bathroom in my house, circa 1930, is tiled in Seafoam Green Vitrolite and was one of the features that attracted us to the house.

The negative side of Vitrolite is that it is a bear to drill or cut, making bathroom upgrades a challenge. (Like hanging a towel bar...)


~ Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I looked at Dave's original photo, the early facade on building "E" reminded me of a building in Hagerstown, MD. The building had a pre-made cast-iron parapet. One of these days I'll go back and photograph it.


~ Steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice match up on the then & now shot and nice to see the block pretty much intact. In addition, I learned, in a very shallow way, about Vitrolite. Although I've seen the stuff, I don't recall hearing the name before.


Regarding Olympia Beer, Wikipedia says that the brewery shut down in 2003 but that the brand is still made by SABMiller in Irwindale, CA. No word on whether they've changed their slogan or are running tankers down from Tumwater.


Dave, I don't believe that anyone's yet mentioned that the brackets intended to identify the building that lost its cornice to the 1949 earthquake are quite empty. I'm guessing that the letter fell off in the webquake of 2010.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...