The roots of this proposal for the Capitol Olympic Vista Park go back to 1911 when Wilder and White, the original architects of Washington’s Capitol, first proposed that a great park sweep down the bluff from the Capitol, across a reflecting lake, and link the Capitol to the water and the mountains beyond. At that time neither the lake nor the Isthmus existed. The Isthmus was first begun in 1915 by partially filling the Deschutes estuary that separated West Olympia from downtown. In 1951 a dam was built to contain the Deschutes and create Capitol Lake.
In the early 1980s community groups began working on Wilder and White’s original vision to build a Park linking the Capitol Campus to the water. This led to the creation of the state’s Heritage Park and the city’s Heritage Park Fountain Block in the 1990s. These facilities replaced a rail switching yard on the eastern shore of Capitol Lake and several obsolete buildings, at a total cost of about $20 million. The planned Isthmus Park would be an extension to Heritage Park and the Fountain Block.
Three of the current board members of the Olympia Capitol Park Foundation were charter members of the Association that promoted Heritage Park. There is a continuity in the evolution of this vision from 1911, through the development of Heritage Park and the Fountain Block, to this next phase which will be the Capitol Olympic Vista Park.