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Check out new edition of Simply Washington!

by Brian Zylstra | September 11th, 2014 11:35 am | No Comments


Several years ago, we unveiled a fun, colorful booklet called Simply Washington, which highlights and explains many aspects of our great state.

Not being ones to sit still, we decided it was time to create a whole different look and feel to this publication, which is popular with teachers, students and tourists. We’re pleased to unveil the new and improved Simply Washington online! It’s available online here for free!

For the revamped edition, we’ve gone with slightly smaller dimensions than the previous SW, while adding more pages to make it a 56-page book.

Like its predecessor, this online book focuses on many facets of WA, from our history going back to pre-territorial days, to profiles on key figures in our state government, the basics of voting, and how laws are passed. We also have fun sections on our internationally renowned companies, agricultural and tech industries, plus sports, arts and entertainment, outdoor recreation and much more.

The new Simply Washington edition was designed and produced by Janet Lee, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design, who volunteered her time and talent to create this wonderful new book.

Simply Washington is a great civics resources for students, WA residents and out-of-state visitors. All of the information is in the public domain, so it’s available for you and others to use as you wish! You can even print it out directly from our homepage.

We will be fundraising to produce a print version for schools.

Drivers beware: I-5 will be mess in Olympia next 2 weekends


This part of Interstate 5 in Olympia will face lane and ramp closures during the weekends of Sept. 12 and Sept. 19. Very long backups are expected. (Photos courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation) 

We normally love to encourage people to come visit Olympia, especially our beautiful Capitol Campus. But if you’re driving on Interstate 5 during the next two weekends, make sure to avoid using the freeway in our state capital during that time.

That’s the word from the Washington State Department of Transportation. The busy I-5/US 101 interchange near Capitol Lake will undergo some much-needed bridge repair work those two weekends. Crews will replace a 171-foot-long bridge expansion joint that spans the width of the roadway. The concrete surrounding the 28-year-old joint has deteriorated where I-5 and 101 merge. The photo below shows how the concrete has become damaged.

Here is how motorists will be impacted this weekend:
• I-5 will be reduced to one lane in each direction between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
• During daytime hours on Saturday and Sunday, I-5 will be open to only two lanes in each direction.
• The Deschutes Parkway Southwest on-ramp to northbound I-5 will close from 10 p.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. Monday.
• The Henderson Avenue/14th Avenue Southeast on-ramp to southbound I-5 also will be closed from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.
• The US 101 on-ramp to northbound I-5 will be reduced to one lane from 10 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday.

Go here to learn more about the maintenance project and how it will affect motorists.


According to WSDOT, more than 276,000 vehicles use this stretch of I-5 on a typical weekend. About 190,000 vehicles travel on US 101 approaching I-5. WSDOT warns of backups as long as 14 miles on I-5 during these two weekends, so if you can avoid I-5 in and near Olympia during these weekends, do it!

WSDOT encourages people traveling between Seattle and Portland to consider taking an Amtrak Cascades train. Amtrak Cascades offers four round trips per day between those two cities.

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From Digital Archives: Classic Rainier climbing photos


(Photos courtesy of Digital Archives)

As the tallest peak in the Pacific Northwest and one that offers both challenging and comparatively easy routes, Mount Rainier is a magnet for mountain climbers near and far, novice or expert. During the summer, it’s common to see groups of climbers trudging up the mountain from Paradise in hopes of reaching the 14,411-foot summit and earning an amazing view of the surrounding mountains, steep valleys and lowlands below.

Our Digital Archives has some classic 1940-era photos of climbers on Rainier. The top photo shows a group of climbers near deep crevasses on Emmons Glacier, located on Rainier’s northeast slopes. The bottom photo features climbers near the foot of a glacier overlooking the Cascades toward Yakima Park.  The photos, both taken by Bert W. Huntoon, are found in the Progress Commission Photographs, 1937-1945.


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Historian to share story behind Capsule Keepers


Secretary of State Ralph Munro (left) and Gov. Booth Gardner with several of the Capsule Keepers during the Centennial Celebration in Olympia on Nov. 11, 1989. Standing behind Gardner is Knute Berger, who will give a talk Monday about  the history of the Capsule Keepers. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

Journalist and historian Knute “Skip” Berger is speaking in Olympia Monday (Sept. 8) at noon about the history and role of the Capsule Keepers, the group tasked with maintaining the state time capsule. The first group of Capsule Keepers was chosen in 1989 at age 10. Now, 25 years later, a new group will take on the responsibility during the celebration of Washington’s 125th anniversary on Nov. 11.

Berger’s talk, which also will cover how the new Keepers are being recruited, takes place at the State Capital Museum, 211 – 21st Ave. SW. The event is free, with a $2 suggested donation.

Our Capitol, now and way back then


The Legislative Building as it currently stands. (Photo courtesy of Katy Payne)

Washington’s Capitol, known as the Legislative Building, is well known for its grandeur and magnificence. As you stand on one of the 42 steps (the significance being because Washington was the 42nd state) leading to one of the massive 2,000-pound bronze front doors and look up, it might astound you how much larger the building is in person than it seems in photographs. Rising to 287 feet, it is the fifth tallest masonry dome in the world, and the tallest in North America.

The buildings on the Capitol Campus were designed in the early 1900s by Walter Wilder and Harry White, a pair of young, talented and inexperienced architects – the Olympia job was their first major commission. The impressive 54-acre landscape was a masterpiece of the Olmsted Brothers, landscape designers of various parks, universities and capitol grounds throughout the country.

The Legislative Building was completed in 1928 after six years of construction and $7,385,768.21 spent. To reconstruct the same building today using the same materials, it would cost over $1 billion – 135 times more money than was spent before!

Fun facts about the building:

-It would take 136 Olympic-sized swimming pools or 28 average-sized water towers to fill the Legislative Building completely with water.

-It would take just over 14 adult male giraffes, stacked on top of one another, to reach the top of the dome.

-The Legislative Building weighs 188,500,000 pounds, which is 10 times as much as Seattle’s Space Needle.

9-3-1924Leg Const 37

Legislative Building construction on September 3, 1924. (Photo courtesy of State Archives)

1-6-26 Leg Const(2)

Legislative Building’s progress two years later, in 1926. Photo courtesy of State Archives)

1926 Dome Const (2)

Dome construction in 1926. (Photo courtesy of State Archives)

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Anniversary for one of WA’s most scenic highways


Governor Dan Evans addresses the crowd at Newhalem at the opening of the North Cascades Highway in 1972. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

One of Washington’s most scenic highways is celebrating its birthday. On Sept. 2, 1972 – 42 years ago – the North Cascades Highway (State Route 20) opened to the public.

While it is relatively young compared to other highways, it was a long time in the making.

In 1895, the project received its first state dollars, and the State Road Commission took to the drawing board. In 1897, repetitive floods took out most of the 40-foot-wide wagon road that had been roughed out along the Cascade River in the previous year. Feeling defeated, no work was added until eight years later, when a road was built along the Methow River from Pateros to Harts Pass. This road remained on the state highway system for nearly four decades, until the end of the 1940s when the Legislature removed it from the system.

In 1956, Ike Munson, who had chosen the path the highway should take after surveying various areas, took the state highway commissioners on a horseback ride along his proposed route. George D. Zahn, a former state senator, tagged along on the trip and fell in love with the landscape surrounding the would-be highway. Zahn then worked relentlessly on getting the highway finished by repeatedly securing funding from numerous public sources.


A marching band of children celebrating the opening of the highway. (Photo courtesy of Washington State Archives)

With financing coming in, work began again in 1959. Workers traveled the length of the highway in groups, building it section by section. One promoter of the highway, Jack Wilson of Mazama, said the crews he helped transport worked 10 days straight and then had four days off. Crews worked tirelessly like this for the next 13 years, battling enemies such as mosquitoes, hornets and rattlesnakes – but they still managed to finish without the loss of a single life.

Over the eight decades it took to transform the highway from an idea into a completed product, an estimated $33 million was spent – but what came from it, a road trip boasting gorgeous scenic views and plenty of recreational opportunities, is probably more than the original planners could have asked for.


North Cascades Highway. (Photo courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation)


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Time’s running out for Capitol botanical tour

Tree Tour photo

Every day, the Washington State Capitol is open to the public for tours of the Legislative Building. Beginning in the middle of August, a cool new tour was added – a botanical tour of the whole lush campus. In a state known for its abundance of trees and plantings, it only makes sense that the Capitol Campus would be a shining example of Washington’s love of nature.

The Olmsted Brothers of Central Park fame were the original designers after all.

Tours are led by state horticulturist Brent Chapman, who knows about most of the 120 tree species that grace the Capitol grounds overlooking Budd Inlet. The trees, as Chapman explains on the tour, tell stories of the Capitol’s history.  Many of the trees have been around since the landscape was first designed in 1928 by the Olmsteds. Chapman helps guests look through a landscape designer’s eye by noting how the trees were intentionally positioned on the grand north side of the Legislative Building to help frame and provide scale for the dome.

Not only popular with the public, this tour has also attracted state workers who are interested in learning more about the Capitol’s history. After taking the tour, Adam Noble of the Office of the Secretary of State, said the biggest takeaway for him was “learning the practice and forethought of what species they planted, as well as the original intent of the Olmsted brothers in placing specific trees where they would fit best around the buildings.”

The botanical tour, like the other tours of the Capitol Campus, are free and open to everyone. But you will need to hurry to experience this fair weather tour – it is only offered through September 26 on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m, departing from the front steps of the Capitol, on the north side.

For those who miss their chance for a tour with Chapman, self-guided tours are always encouraged – and tree tour brochures are available near the gift shop in the Legislative Building.

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Secretary Wyman certifies ’14 Primary

Kim certifies 2014 primary

Secretary of State Kim Wyman, the state’s chief elections officer, has certified the returns of the 2014 Washington Primary.

The 39 counties tallied 1,222,710 ballots, 31.15 percent of the state’s registered voters. That is considerably lower than the 40 percent average of the two previous mid-term primaries, although both of those elections had U.S. Senate races to generate more television ads and spur greater voter attention.

A much larger turnout is expected in the fall, when final winners will be determined and statewide measures, including two rival gun measures and a class-size reduction plan, will be on the ballot.

The returns are here, and will be updated with the handful of districts where a write-in candidate qualified for the November General Election. They include House districts 1, 6, 14 and 16.

Wyman thanked all who voted in the Primary, including those in the military or overseas.  She added:

“As a longtime elections administrator, I love every opportunity for the people to give their opinions on the best candidates and their favored position on ballot measures.  So I throw down a challenge for every registered voter to take part in the fall General Election. Register, do your homework, and get engaged. Self-government works best when we all take part.”




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Why a key road to Capitol is closed


A sign directs drivers where to go while Sid Snyder Avenue is closed during a construction project. 

If you’ve been to the Capitol Campus over the past week and noticed that the road is closed between the Legislative Building and Capitol Way, there’s a reason for it: A construction project is happening.

According to the Department of Enterprise Services, the work will repair substandard electrical ducts, aged water lines, and other deficient utilities. When complete, the project will deliver a newly paved roadway with new sidewalks, landscaping, drainage systems, and fully functional utility services. The project includes 16 new street trees to line both sides of Sid Snyder Avenue. Work is expected go continue through November.

Four existing trees on the south side of the road were removed earlier this week as part of the project. From a Department of Enterprise Services news release:

Four trees on the south side of Sid Snyder Avenue will be removed as part of a larger project to repair and replace underground utility infrastructure, including 80-year-old water lines. The trees slated for removal include a purple-leaf beech, red oak, red maple and London plane tree. The trees are quite large and are not well suited to the limited space between the street and sidewalk. In addition, it appears the trees may suffer a fungal infestation, making it unlikely the trees could survive the construction project.

The state will plant 16 new street trees that will line both sides of the street. These trees will help create a formal corridor for the southern entrance to the west campus and the Legislative Building, as outlined in the original Olmsted Brothers campus landscape plan.


A view of the construction project from the southeast corner of the Legislative Building. (Photo courtesy of Patrick McDonald)


Workers clear branches and other debris after cutting down several trees along Sid Snyder Avenue as part of the construction project.

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SecState partnering with Karshner Center


Secretary Wyman and crew this week celebrated a new partnership with Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts.

Wyman and her Legacy Washington team traveled to the newly renovated Karshner Center in Puyallup, meeting with Puyallup School Superintendent Tim Yeomans and top officials of the district and the Center that operates one of America’s few district-owned teaching museums.

The stunning museum, with longhouse-style great hall, classroom, gallery and natural history and performing arts spaces, is housed in a repurposed pioneer brick schoolhouse.  References to teaching/learning, culture and the arts, and history are everywhere.

The original museum, the gift of Dr. Warner and Ella Karshner, has operated since the 1930s. A major make-over will be on view to the public and school groups, starting with re-opening on Sept. 3 and a grand opening at 1 p.m. Oct. 10.

The main gallery currently features an exhibit first developed by Wyman’s Legacy team for her office lobby in the Capitol in Olympia, a celebration of the women “firsts” in elective politics in Washington. The display, called “Moving Forward, Looking Back: Washington’s First Women in Government,” begins with female legislators and state school superintendent elected in 1912, the first year women could vote in the state, following approval of suffrage. Washington was the fifth state to allow women to vote.

After a successful exhibit launch in Olympia that included then-Gov. Chris Gregoire and other women firsts, the panels were a popular draw for an estimated 40,000 schoolchildren and other visitors to the Capitol.  Then, under an agreement with Karshner Center, the exhibit moved to Karshner lock, stock & lesson plans.  Over the years, other Legacy Washington exhibits will move on to Karshner (and other sites).  Next up: “Grand Coulee to Grunge: Eight Stories that Changed the World,” and  “We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians.”

The Legacy exhibits are financed with private funds, and use images and resources from the Washington State Archives and Washington State Library.

Said Wyman:

“We are delighted to partner with the amazing Karshner Center and to join our diverse resources to help schoolchildren and adults of all ages experience the joy of learning more about the stories of Washington, its rich history, culture and arts.  We and the Center share a vision of making it fun and accessible!”









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A key anniversary for our State Seal

sealAs state history buffs and many others know, this year marks the 125th anniversary of Washington reaching statehood in 1889.

Several key events that year led up to the historic date of November 11 when we became the 42nd state. Among those events happened on August 19 that year when the Constitutional Convention approved one of three designs for the State Seal. The convention members had trouble choosing the motto. They rejected “Our varied industries invite you,” “Westward the star of empire takes its way,” “Welcome,” “Put none but Americans on guard,” and “We the people rule.” Finally, the convention members approved a state seal design without a motto.

Last March, Secretary Wyman gladly received the original set of tools used by pioneer Olympia jewelers Charlies, George and Grant Talcott to design the State Seal 125 years ago. Descendants of the Talcotts joined Wyman, former secretaries Ralph Munro and Sam Reed and others for a brief ceremony in our office celebrating the transfer of the historic tools.

By law, the Secretary of State is the custodian of the State Seal, which is attached to official documents and certificates issued by the state. The original die and press for the State Seal are still used by the Secretary of State.

Go here for more history on the State Seal.

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The Washington Office of the Secretary of State’s blog provides from-the-source information about important state news and public services. This space acts as a bridge between the public and Secretary Kim Wyman and her staff, and we invite you to contribute often to the conversation here.

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