Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Maple Leaf School

  • Posted 9/09/2013
  • Essay 10554
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This People's History of Maple Leaf 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.

Maple Leaf School

The first Maple Leaf School stood near the La Villa Station on the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, the present-day Burke Gilman Trail. It had been built as a bunkhouse for workers at the sawmill on Lake Washington, near what is now Matthews Beach. The school got its name from the large number of maple trees in the area.

Howard Hanson was the first teacher and earned a salary of $40 a month. His pupils were three children from the Ohland family and three from the Fischer family. The Fischers' father, August, kept a sturdy team of horses and supplied the school with wood for its potbelly stove. At the time, the railroad attracted homeless men who often times spent the night in the schoolhouse.

The small wood building burned down sometime before 1910. The children were transported by wagon to Yesler School until a second and larger Maple Leaf was built two miles to the north and east.

When the school population outgrew the second Maple Leaf in the 1920s, a new site was purchased by Maple Leaf School District No. 164 five blocks to the southwest. The land for the third Maple Leaf School was acquired from August and Wilhemina Fischer who included a special clause in the 1925 deed to allow them to continue watering their livestock at a spring on what later became the school's lower field. The older building was purchased by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was used as a community clubhouse until it was sold and demolished in 1952.

The first addition to Maple Leaf was a gymnasium that opened in 1930. Because the north side of the school grounds was unsuitable for a playground, a lot across the street became a play area. A new and improved playground to the east was cleared and graded in 1937. Many of the shrubs and flowers that surrounded the building were donated by the Nishitani family, who operated a greenhouse on Bothell Way.

By 1935, Maple Leaf was short of classrooms because of increased enrollment. The lunchroom, located at the north end of the 1926 structure, was converted into two classrooms and was also used to hold assemblies. At a temporary lunchroom (possibly in a portable), sponsored and operated by the PTA, lunches sold for just 15 cents each.

During the 1937-38 year, 380 pupils packed a school designed to accommodate 350. A campaign for a new lunchroom brought in federal support as a WPA project. The new wing, completed in 1940, included 10 classrooms as well as a new lunchroom.

Maple Leaf became part of Shoreline School District No. 412 in 1944. In 1952, the residents of the Maple Leaf area voted for annexation to the City of Seattle, and the school became part of the Seattle School District the following year. With the 1950s came tremendous growth in district enrollment, and Maple Leaf was no exception. Matthews School (later Rogers) was opened in 1953 as an annex to Maple Leaf to relieve the overcrowding. The peak enrollment of 909 at Maple Leaf came in 1954-55.

Victory Heights, a new all-portable school, was scheduled to open in October 1955 for over 200 north end children who had been attending University Heights. When a problem with sewer connections delayed the opening, the Victory Heights pupils were placed in four existing portables at Maple Leaf. When Victory Heights (later Sacajawea) finally opened, it did so as an annex to Maple Leaf.

In 1965-66, 637 students attended Maple Leaf. By 1979, enrollment dropped to 203, following a district-wide trend. Although the teachers, parents, and students maintained a strong sense of community, the district determined that the costs of operating such a small school necessitated its closure in June 1979. Most of the students transferred to Rogers for the following year. During its entire time as a Seattle public school, Maple Leaf had been a K-6 grade school.

In August 1979, Maple Leaf's classrooms were leased to the Renton Technical Vocational Institute for instructional space. The site was put up for sale in 1984, and the playground property (the eastern half of the site) was sold to a contractor for housing construction in 1986. The school building was demolished in 1990, and the remaining property now stands vacant.


Name: Maple Leaf School
Location: Near (N)E 98th Street &
49th Avenue NE
Building: Frame
1896: Opened
pre-1910: Destroyed by fire

Name: Maple Leaf School
Location: SE corner of (N)E 105th & 35th Avenue NE
Building: 4-room frame
1910: New building opened
1926: Closed
n.a.: Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall/Maple Leaf Community Club
1952: Sold and demolished

Name: Maple Leaf School
Location: (N)E 100th & 32nd Avenue NE
Building: 8-room brick veneer exterior and wood interior
Architect: William Mallis
Site: 5.76 acres
1926: Opened by Maple Leaf District
1930: Addition (Mallis)
1940: Addition
1944: Formed part of new Shoreline School District
1953: Annexed into Seattle School District on March 1
1979: Closed in June
1979-87: Leased to Renton Technical Vocational Institute
1986: Lower field sold for single family housing
1990: Building demolished


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

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