Olympia is a product of the Gilded Age, with ample evidence of 19th aristocracy. Officers and enlisted men lived in completely different worlds separated only by a bulkhead. The social order of the time would be swept away by WWI and ships built later reflect the change to more democratic surroundings. Rank still has its privileges but they are muted in comparison.
Officers had individual cabins fitted with a proper bunk, chests of drawers, hanging lockers and a desk. Above all an officer had privacy, a precious thing on board a 318’ ship housing 450 men.
The regular crew still slept in hammocks fitted with a thin mattress, slung high above the deck in large, open berthing spaces. The layout of the crew quarters is similar to that of earlier wooden warships, such as the Constitution, in that crew spaces are still multi-purposed, containing duty positions like guns and ash hoists, while also containing the sleeping and messing areas. A crewman’s worldly possessions were stowed in a small “diddy” box and a sea bag. The berthing area was a constant state of disruption. Hammocks were stowed on the spar deck, tables in the overhead between the beams and brought down for meals. Bathrooms were very public. When the ship was coaled, or when ash was removed, all of that passed through the berthing area.
Olympia had some of the first modern luxuries for the entire crew, however, with refrigeration, a fresh water distiller, steam radiators for heat, electric lighting, and a blower-operated ventilation system. These technologies were relatively new and greatly improved life aboard Olympia.
Olympia required a new breed of sailor specifically trained in steam-driven and electrically-powered technology. Some of the first Chief Petty Officers in the Navy called Olympia home. Engineers had their own quarters and division of highly trained and studied men who had to take frequent tests in order to advance through the ranks. Gunners no longer aimed by sight but were trained on range tables, mechanical calculators, and range-finding devices, which enabled them to hit targets much farther away and more accurately. Even the ordinary deckhand now had to understand the importance of steam and how to operate engines that would assist his every day labor. These progressions are uniquely reflected in Olympia's layout and history. Olympia truly is the link between the Navy of old and the Navy of today.