Our vision is to create a great public space on Olympia’s Isthmus, the three block area that separates Capitol Lake from Budd Inlet, the southernmost part of the Salish Sea (Puget Sound).
We believe this must be done to protect and perfect the views to and from America’s most magnificent Capitol setting.
When Wilder and White, the original architects of the State Capitol, prepared their plans in 1911, and when the Olmsted Brothers later prepared the landscape plan, they understood the unique natural beauty of the setting. Sitting high on a bluff, the Campus presents views to the North, across Capitol Lake to Budd Inlet, and then on to the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. This is one of the truly great vistas in America.
Wilder and White proposed a Park that would link the Capitol Campus to the water and to the mountains beyond. These plans lay dormant for many years; it was not until 1951 that Capitol Lake’s reflecting pool was completed, and not until the late 1980s that Heritage Park was actually begun.
Unfortunately, much of the Isthmus had been used for commercial buildings. One structure, built in 1965, was allowed to reach a height of nine stories and today sits in the middle of the iconic viewscape that Wilder, White, and the Olmsteds saw. This building has come to be known as the “mistake by the lake.”
Our immediate goal is acquire the parcels of land bounded by Fourth and Fifth Avenues between the Heritage Park Fountain and the Deschutes Spillway, but we intend to transfer the land to city or state ownership at the earliest opportunity.
We intend to remove the”mistake by the lake” and other blighted buildings on the parcels as soon as possible, immediately beautify the area as a green space, and begin a planning process with the community to develop the area as a dynamic focal point for civic activities in the heart of a revitalizing downtown. Visual communications expert Kurt Stiles, and Portico, the landscape architects who designed Heritage Park and the fountain block, have contributed a visualization of one possible design (below). But most importantly, by building the Vista Park, we will perfect and forever protect the views to and from America’s most magnificent state Capitol Campus.