This People's History of Louisa Boren Junior High School is taken from Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 by Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr. That book, published in 2002 by Seattle Public Schools, compiled profiles of all the public school buildings that had been used by the school district since its formation around 1862. The profiles from the book are being made available as People's Histories on HistoryLink.org courtesy of Seattle Public Schools. It should be noted that these essays are from 2000. Some of the buildings profiled are historic, some of recent vintage, and many no longer exist (new names and buildings not included in these profiles from 2000 have been added), but each plays or has played an important role in the education of Seattle's youth.
Louisa Boren Junior High School
Louisa Boren, perhaps more than any other Seattle founder, symbolizes the pioneer ideals of courage, selflessness, and ingenuity. A teacher in Illinois, at the age of 24 she headed west by wagon train with her mother and stepfather. After arriving at the point they named Alki in 1851, she made the Puget Sound country her home until her death on August 31, 1916.
Boren married fellow pioneer David Denny and raised a family in the fledgling settlement. Throughout her life, Louisa Boren Denny showed an unusual interest in studying the "unfeminine" subjects of chemistry, philosophy, botany, and astronomy. She is remembered for her kindness to neighbors and her sympathy for newly arrived Chinese workers. She also worked hard for the cause of women's suffrage in Washington Territory.
The site of Louisa Boren Junior High School is not far from where the Denny party landed. In the early 1960s, the West Seattle community needed a junior high school because of overcrowding at local elementary and high schools. In September 1963, Boren opened its doors to over 800 students in grades 6-9. Constructed at a cost of over $2,000,000, the school had 40 teaching stations. A special guest at the dedication of the new school was Victor Denny, grandson of Louisa Boren, who presented a portrait of his grandmother. The portrait is now in the Seattle School District Archives
In the winter of 1964 or 1965, the first principal, Robert Nelson, was refereeing a Boren Bobcats basketball game in the school gym. At half-time, someone rushed up to tell him there was a dead bobcat on his office floor. Nelson responded that he would have to handle it after the game was over. Returning to his office, he indeed found a dead bobcat in a cardboard box. The animal had been hit by a car and was brought in by someone who thought the school might want it. After spending the weekend in the Home Economics freezer, the bobcat was stuffed and placed on display in a trophy case.
In 1978, the school became Louisa Boren Middle School with grades 6-8. A bilingual teaching staff taught English as a Second Language, and many students enrolled in bilingual classes.
A decline in enrollment to 550 and shrinking financial resources forced the district to close Boren in June 1981 and assign students to Madison and Denny. In September Boren became the home of Indian Heritage School, an alternative middle and high school that teaches basic curriculum with an emphasis on Indian cultures. Also located at Boren was a bilingual program for students over 18 and a high school reentry program. The building has housed a number of Seattle School District departments, including Transportation, Compensatory Education, Archives, and a satellite kitchen.
In September 1987, students from High Point moved to Boren for one year while their new school was being constructed. About 300 elementary students shared the building with the Indian Heritage School, which occupied the north wing. In October 1988, the school board approved a request by the United Indians of All Tribes to use part of Boren for a private, all-Indian kindergarten.
Cooper was the next school in need of temporary quarters and they moved into Boren in September 1989. At this time, the Indian Heritage School was moved to a leased building at 315 22nd Avenue S and subsequently to Wilson. For one school year (1993-94), Alternative Education IV made its home at Boren and then moved to Genesee Hill. The Cooper children moved to their new building in fall 1999.
Students from West Seattle High School will move to Boren in September 2000, while their school is being renovated. Soon Boren will have been used longer for special programs and as a temporary site than it was as a junior high and middle school. West Seattle students are scheduled to return to the newly renovated West Seattle High School in September 2002.
Name: Louisa Boren Junior High School
Location: 5950 Delridge Way SW
Architect: Naramore, Bain, Brady & Johanson
Site: 15.05 acres
1962: Named on November 28
1963: Opened in September
1978: Became Louisa Boren Middle School
1981: Closed in June
1981-89: Special programs site
1987-: Temporary site
Louisa Boren Junior High School in 2000
No enrollment figure given
Current Use: Interim site