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Olympia Bar Art Walk

Browsing antiques from Olympia barstools

A Mount St. Helens Jack Daniel's bottle blows every day at McCoy's in downtown Olympia. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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Originally, this article was supposed to be an overview of the funky antique stores around Olympia and beyond. And while I love Finder's Keeper's, Sanford and Son and Yard Birds, my timing this week for visiting those shops was off, and I was unable to do proper research.

So, feeling sorry for myself, I chose to nurse on a Greyhound at Hannah's Bar and Grille. And looking around aimlessly, as solo drinkers often do, I realized there was a huge, badass poster of Bettie Page hanging on their wall. And while this poster was only about 20 years old, I realized that most bars have really cool, really old shit on display - and hence, a new article was born.

My first stop was McMenamins Spar Café in downtown Olympia. Built in 1935, the club was originally a bustling cigar room. Now, many of those antique cigar boxes are on display above the bar.

"My favorite to show people," said employee Heidi Smith, "are the original barstools. They have hooks in the backs for hats - isn't that cute?"

Cute indeed, and so was the trend of men wearing snazzy hats - can we bring that back please?

Anyway, down the road at King Solomon's Reef, many of the fixtures and artwork have made it through two fires, and while they may not be antique, they are as old as bartender Fred Kirschnick's beard. The lucky lobster is a prized possession, not only making it through all the Reef's fires, but theft, too. And there are cool, old ceramic lady heads on the back bar, as well as a map of the Puget Sound next to the jukebox, dating back to 1973.

At the Eastside Club Tavern, another of the oldest bars in Olympia, there are remnants of the original owner's boat from the mid-'50s. Old copper lanterns, propellers and a life preserver with the boat's name, "Beacon Lite," adorn the walls. There are also lots of cool photographs from the owner's heyday.

At McCoy's Cavern, there is plenty of rock and beer memorabilia, including a display case full of Olympia Beer paraphernalia. But, according to bartender John Boyce, (and this author) one of the coolest things on display is a Mount St. Helens Jack Daniel's bottle that used to hold ashes from the great eruption in 1980. The bottle has a great design, shaped like the mountain, an awesome nod to the area's history.

Heading to The Brotherhood Lounge, a few greyhounds deep, I tried to decide what to highlight - the whole place is like an antique store. John F. Kennedy carpets on the wall, velvet matador paintings and ceramics, and of course the old kung-fu posters and mid-century modern lamps.

Then I remembered the bar recently remodeled the bathrooms, and in demolition, found an old medicine bottle in the wall. It's a Dr. Charles Fletcher Castoria bottle from 1870. It now sits nestled on display next to a giant Old Crow whiskey bottle. Perhaps the neon sign behind the bar stating "prescriptions" has more connotation then we know.

What cool old things are in your neighborhood bar?

>>> The Bettie Page poster at Hannah's Bar & Grille sparks ideas. Photo credit: Nikki McCoy

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