Capital of Washington, in Thurston County, about 80 km/50 mi southwest of Seattle; population (2000 est) 42,500. Located in the west-central part of the state, it is situated on Budds Inlet, on the Deschutes River, at the southwest end of Puget Sound. The city is a deep-water seaport, with fishing, lumber, mining, brewing, and tourist industries. Metalware, farm machinery, and canning equipment are manufactured. Hydroelectric power is supplied from the Deschutes. The major economic sector is the state government. Olympia was founded in 1851, and became state capital in 1853.
The area was first inhabited by Salish groups, American Indian people belonging to the Salishan linguistic group. The city grew from a small lumbering community called Smithfield, established at the end of the Oregon Trail, a pioneer route from Independence, Missouri. It was renamed for the Olympic Mountains, which rise northwest of the city.
The city has 33 entries on the National Register of Historic Place. Features include the State Capitol, built in native sandstone and completed in 1928, which houses the state library; a Romanesque legislative building; and the Evergreen State College (1971). The Pabst (Olympia) Brewing Company, located south of the city at Tumwater, is a major tourist attraction. It is situated on the Deschutes above the Tumwater Falls. Museums include Washington State Museum and the Hands On Children's Museum. An annual festival, the Capital Lakefair Festival, is held in July.