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Washington State Normal School opens in Ellensburg on September 6, 1891.
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On September 6, 1891, the Washington State Normal School opens its doors in Ellensburg, located in Kittitas County near the center of Washington state. The school specializes in the education of elementary and junior high school teachers.
The Washington State Normal School was established in 1890 during the Washington state Legislature's first session. Classes began the following fall.
When the school opened it had as yet no building of its own. From 1891 to 1893, classes were held in four classrooms at the Washington Public School in Ellensburg. The state paid no rent for the space, but shared the cost of fuel and lighting with the Ellensburg school board. In 1894, the Washington State Normal School's first building was constructed and given the name Barge Hall. Benjamin Franklin Barge (ca. 1835-1926) was the school's president during its first three years.
Initially, students attended the institution free of charge. This was a common method of enticing students in order to produce qualified teachers quickly to meet the needs of the state's rapidly expanding population. Also, teacher salaries were so low that it was impractical for students to expend large sums for their training.
The so-called Normal School movement began in Massachusetts in 1839. The goal of normal schools was to produce educators qualified to inspire in their pupils a thirst for learning, not just a literate authority figure who listened to recitations and delved out punishment.
In 1937, the name of the institution was changed to Central Washington College of Education, and in 1961 to Central Washington State College. In 1977 it became Central Washington University.
Workers of the Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of Washington, with added material by Howard McKinley Corning, The New Washington: A Guide To The Evergreen State, Revised Edition (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1950), 464; "One-room Schools/The Teachers," Clarke Historical Library website (http://clarke.cmich.edu/); Samuel R. Mohler, The First 75 Years: A History of Central Washington State College (Ellensburg: Central Washington State College, 1967).
Note: This essay was expanded on November 19, 2005.
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