History of the Lord Mansion
Lord Mansion 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.
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 Washington State Historical Society could no longer find beneficial use for the building so in 2018, the Washington State Legislature transferred stewardship of the Lord Mansion and Coach House to The Evergreen State College. The College intends to honor the public legacy of the building and the intentions of the Lord family when they deeded the property to the State. Evergreen will use the facility to welcome, engage, and support the general public and the greater Olympia community while also promoting the College’s mission as a unique, vibrant, and local destination for teaching and learning across differences.
Historical information courtesy Washington State Historical Society, 2018.