Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Green Lake Elementary School

  • Posted 9/07/2013
  • Essay 10516
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This People's History of Green Lake Elementary 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 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.

Green Lake Elementary School

It is hard to imagine that only 150 years ago Duwamish Indians caught perch and suckers with basket traps at Green Lake. The first homesteader in the area was a German immigrant known locally as Green Lake John, who settled on the northwest shore in the late 1860s. A number of families had settled in the area by 1876. A sawmill stood on the northeast shore near the Ravenna Creek outlet, with a logging railroad leading to Fremont. In 1888, Green Lake John sold his land to realtor William D. Wood and electrical engineer Edward C. Kilbourne, who built a trolley line to the lake from Seattle.

From 1879 to 1889, Green Lake residents sent their children a distance to the east to the Weedin School. Then classes moved for a year to a house halfway between that location and Green Lake (see Bryant). The first Green Lake School opened in 1890, also in a private house. The one-room school was located at 5th Avenue NE and (N)E 72nd Street. When the Green Lake area was annexed into Seattle in 1891, an old-growth forest still stood on the southwestern corner, and a rough wagon road circled its shores. Wood, who became mayor in 1897, donated property for a new school to the Seattle School District and the district also purchased the adjoining block from him at a discounted rate in June 1891.

A school building, constructed on the south part of this site, opened in 1891-92 with 36 pupils and one teacher. The staff doubled in 1893 as the student body grew to 56.

In 1898, the two-room building was moved to the southeastern corner of the grounds and two more rooms were added. The number of students continued to grow, making it necessary to establish annexes. During 1901-02, the main schoolhouse held grades 3-8. Grades 1-4 were housed at the first Green Lake Annex located at Ravenna Boulevard and N 68th Street (see Marshall). Three classes for grades 2-5 were held at a second annex in the old I.O.O.F. Hall in back of the Green Lake Bank.

With their children scattered at three locations, residents petitioned the school board for a new school, and a new Green Lake School was constructed on the school property. It was the first of 19 woodframe school buildings based a model plan designed by the district architect, James Stephen. During 1902-03, its first year of operation, the school served 570 students in grades 1 through 8 with 14 teachers. A kindergarten class was added the following year.

A south wing, an expansion provided for in the original plans and construction, was added in 1907. This changed the building from a T-shape to an I-shape and increased the total number of classrooms to 20. The 1891-92 building was then used for manual training and domestic science classes. In 1910, the school board bought the north half of the present school grounds that contained a two-story store building and a small church. Thereafter, the store housed the manual training shop downstairs and the domestic science room on its upper floor. The church, which stood on the northeast corner of the lower grounds, was converted into an auditorium.

In 1910-11, Green Lake School was the first school in the city to initiate a "platoon system". In the platoon system, students moved from their homerooms to attend classes in art, music, physical education, manual training, and domestic science in other rooms. In 1912, Green Lake was one of the first two schools west of Denver to show moving pictures. The first film was an early silent version of "The Wizard of Oz". Green Lake pupils also won numerous athletic awards during this period, including the city Soccer Championship in 1910 and the Class A Football Championship in 1911.

A major regrading, terracing, and retaining wall project was initiated in 1910. As part of the project, the old church building was relocated and placed on a new foundation. On Arbor Day in 1912, each class planted a sycamore tree on the west side of the school. On the building's north side, they buried a bottle containing the names of the teacher and the students.

Enrollment remained at around 650 from after World War I until the mid-1920s, when the school filled up with more than 800 pupils. In 1927, with the opening of John Marshall Junior High, 7th and 8th graders transferred, dropping the enrollment to 628 students. That same year a frame gymnasium building was built in the northeast corner of the upper grounds. In 1929, two classrooms were remodeled into an auditorium, thus taking the role served by the old church.

During the 1940s, enrollment held steady at around 400 students. Green Lake School held after-school care programs for children of working parents. One kindergartner probably held the record for being at the school the longest, putting in a 52-hour week.

In 1949-50, a new entrance to the boys' basement was constructed on the south end of the building, just to the right of the (N)E 65th Street entrance. In 1959, five classrooms were soundproofed and wired for the hard-of-hearing program that transferred from Warren Avenue School. In 1969, the school district began plans for a new school to be built on the upper grounds for K-4 students. The new structure was built very close to the old wooden building, which they intended to tear down upon completion of the new construction. In fall 1970, the K-4 classes and special hard-of-hearing classes moved into the new brick building. However, a last-minute change in district planning kept the 5th and 6th grades at the school, and because there was no room for grades 5-6 in the new building they were housed on the second floor of the wooden building, where they had been. The old 1902 wooden building also housed 130 mentally handicapped children and a program for deaf and blind children.

In 1971, the 6th grade was moved to Hamilton Middle School. An "open concept" alternative program began at Green Lake in 1972. In spring 1973, a new class was added to the special education list: a class for pregnant high school girls who wished to get their credits for high school graduation without attending their area public high school.

In August 1982, newly installed carpeting in the 1970 building brought complaints of odors and irritations. This led to the evacuation of students and staff to the old building. After returning to the building on January 3, 1983, complaints again arose and the district announced that occupants of both buildings would move to temporary quarters at Blaine on Magnolia for the remainder of the school term. In September 1983, the newer facility reopened, but the older building was never again occupied before being demolished in June 1986. A new outdoor playscape was erected in 1994.

In addition to its regular education program, Green Lake maintains special education programs for visually impaired and severely handicapped students. An intervention program serves students who need extra assistance in developing their reading and math skills.


Name: Green Lake School
Location: 1st Avenue NE & N 65th Street
Building: 2-room wood
Architect: James Parkinson
Site: n.a.
1891-92: Opened
1898: Relocated on-site and expanded
1902: Became an on-site annex in fall
1910: Closed

Name: Green Lake School
Location: 2400 N 65th Street
Building: 12-room wood
Architect: James Stephen
Site: n.a.
1902: Opened in fall
1907: Addition (Stephen)
1910: Site expanded to 2.6 acres
1927: On-site annex added (n.a.)
1929: Remodeled
1949-50: Remodeled
1982: Closed in June
1986: Demolished in June

Name: Green Lake Elementary School
Location: 2400 N 65th Street
Building: 1-story masonry
Architect: Manson Bennett
Site: 3.33 acres
1970: Opened on September 1

Green Lake Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 314
Address: 2400 N 65th Street
Nickname: none
Configuration: K-5
Colors: none


Nile Thompson and Carolyn J. Marr, Building for Learning: Seattle Public School Histories, 1862-2000 (Seattle: Seattle Public Schools, 2002).

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