The Lord Mansion and Gardens
Above Photograph: The Lord Mansion, circa 1945
The Lord Mansion
The elegant Lord House, located in the historic South Capitol Neighborhood, is one of Olympia's few genuine mansions. It was built in 1923 for banker Clarence J. Lord and his wife, Elizabeth. Lord was a powerful figure in the history of Washington banking. He served as Olympia's mayor in 1902-03 and was a staunch opponent of any attempt to move the state capital.
The Lords married in their home town in New York's Hudson River Valley in 1890 and came west where Mr. Lord founded the Capital National Bank, prospering even during the dark economic conditions of the 1890s. His wife Elizabeth was a founding member of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was active in many public civic organizations, being remembered for her warm and welcoming home and her generosity to children and students in the community. Daughter Helen was born in 1904 and, one year after graduating from the University of Washington, married bank employee William (Bill) Lucas in 1928. Helen is pictured here on her wedding day on the grand staircase of the Lord Mansion.
Lord engaged Olympia architect Joseph Wohleb to design his impressive new home. Raised and trained in California, Wohleb brought a distinct Southwest style to much of his work in south Puget Sound. The Lord Mansion, a Spanish Colonial villa surrounded by lush lawns and evergreen trees, is the grandest of all of Wohleb's stucco-and-tile residential designs. Exterior features include decorative friezes inset in the walls, carved brackets under wide eaves, and an arched formal entry flanked by Doric columns. A matching "coach house" behind the home, complete with chauffeur's quarters upstairs, testifies to C. J. Lord's fondness for large motor cars.
After Lord's death in 1937, the mansion was donated to the state by Elizabeth Lord and her daughter Helen Lord Lucas with the "suggestion" that it be used as a museum. A year-long effort spearheaded by the Daughters of the Pioneers to secure state support for the museum culminated in Governor Arthur Langlie signing a bill creating the Washington State Capital Museum Association as a trustee of the state responsible for operating the Lord Mansion as a museum. The Museum opened to the public on March 5, 1942 with a glittering event and all the state elected officials, including the governor, were on hand to welcome visitors. In 1993, it merged with the Washington State Historical Society and continued as the State Capital Museum and Outreach Center.
As museum standards for proper display and preservation of art and artifacts have evolved, the Lord Mansion was evaluated, and it was determined that renovations to meet museum standards were not cost effective or in the best interest of the building. The Historical Society worked with the State of Washington to preserve and restore the building while adapting it for beneficial use.
Although the home's interior has been altered for its different uses over time, its gorgeously paneled dining room and sweeping central staircase remain splendidly unchanged.
The Delbert McBride Ethnobotanical Gardens
This native species garden at the State Capital Museum and Outreach Center in Olympia is named in honor of the late Delbert McBride, the former Capital Museum's curator emeritus and an ethnobotanical expert of Cowlitz/Quinault descent. It features more than 30 species of native plants.
The garden was created to provide an understanding of the foods, medicines, and other utilitarian functions derived from the native flora by American Indians in western Washington. The garden serves as an educational platform for discussion among environmental organizations, Native American communities, educational institutions, private landowners, and the public. It is a vital part of the Museum's school field trip program. The garden also is a visual reminder of the need to preserve both the ecosystem and cultural heritage of the Northwest landscape. The garden is open year-round, accessible to everyone, and has its best show of plants during the late spring and summer months. The garden is maintained by the South Sound Chapter of the Wasington Native Plant Society.