Seattle Public Schools, 1862-2000: Maple Elementary School

  • Posted 9/09/2013
  • Essay 10555
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This People's History of Maple 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.

Maple Elementary School

On June 21, 1851, Jacob Mapel, his son Samuel, and a man named Thompson arrived at Pigeon Point in Youngstown. There they met Luther M. Collins (the first white settler in what became King County). Collins showed them a site up the Duwamish River, where they planted potatoes. They headed south to get the stock they left behind and returned, with Henry Van Asselt, in September to file their claims.

Another of Jacob Mapel's sons, John Wesley, arrived in 1862. That same year the first classes for the children of these settlers were held in a small shed on Van Asselt's farm. The school was known as the Duwamish School (see Van Asselt).

In 1865, a school was built on land donated by Samuel Mapel. He specified the land was to be used "for school purposes only." Located just 200 feet from the Duwamish River, it too was sometimes referred to as the Duwamish School. This one-room schoolhouse measured about 25 feet by 55 feet and was made of hand-sawed lumber with a roof of cedar shakes. It was unfinished on the outside but brightly painted on the inside.

The first teacher at the second Duwamish School was John Wesley Maple, who had changed the spelling of his last name. His students numbered 20. The school term lasted three months in the fall and three months in the spring. Maple later lamented: "I was often sorry I had undertaken it as it was about the hardest work that I ever had undertaken to do in my life."

Isaac P. Rich, who taught at Maple School in the 1880s, described his typical day: he came to school early, chopped wood, and started the fire, brought in water, and then proceeded to teach all grades of students— for which he received $40 a month.

In 1900, the one-room school was replaced by an elegant two-story frame structure located just to the south on land purchased by Columbia School District No. 18. The 1865 building "stood for many years and was used not only for school but for religious services, political meetings, socials, and other community gatherings." When it closed, the "land on which it was located reverted to the estate of Samuel Maple."

The new two-story structure was "a beautiful building said to be modeled after a school in Everett." A broad stairway led up to the front door, and an elaborate bell tower topped the building. It was sometimes referred to as the Van Asselt School because a small railroad station a few blocks away was named for Henry Van Asselt, who had given the railroad a right-of-way. John Wesley Maple was one of the directors of the new school. The naming of the school has been attributed to various members of the Maple family.

Unfortunately, the second Maple School was situated on a right-of-way eyed by the Oregon and Washington Railway and was torn down in 1907-08. A new Maple School was built, this time on Roosevelt Hill in Georgetown, where the population was growing. The new building contained four classrooms, two on the main floor and two upstairs. However, it sat vacant for almost a year, first because the contractor couldn't get plumbing supplies ordered from Pennsylvania, and then because the water supply on the hill was discovered to be unsafe. On July 1, 1910, Maple School District No. 2 joined Seattle School District No. 1. By this time, the school had five grades with 179 students and four teachers.

During the 1910-11 school year, Maple operated as an annex to Georgetown School. From 1911-13, it was an annex to South Seattle School. A "Liberty Building" was added as Maple School Annex in 1918.

In 1926, Maple School and its annex were moved two blocks south to 17th Avenue S and Lucile Street to make room for construction of Cleveland High School. At this time, Maple's frame building and annex were remodeled. Two playcourts and a lunchroom portable were added. In 1957, Maple School had 591 pupils and 16 teachers. Six portables accommodated the overflowing student body.

The fourth and current Maple School opened in 1971 at a new site on Corson Avenue S. In drastic contrast to the venerable frame building, the new structure was designed as an "open concept" school to facilitate grouping and individualized instruction.

Children from the closed Georgetown School were incorporated into the student body when the new school opened. Maple became one of the district's "World Culture" centers in the early 1990s with a focus on Latin America. An arts program brought dance classes for the younger grades in 1993. Asian Americans form the largest racial group at the school at 58 percent. The school's creed is: "Our country was built by people of all races and people of all races keep our country great." The building houses a Bilingual Orientation Center, and more than 30 percent of the students are in the English as a Second Language program.

The 1909 Maple School was home to Alternative School #1 from 1972 to 1982. It served a little over 100 students, first in K-9 and then K-8, and was the only south end alternative program. "AS #1 was the district's first attempt to create an 'alternative' for parents who were opposed to what they saw as the rigidity of school programs in the late 1960s and early 1970s." During the 1981-82 year, more than 90 percent of the AS #1 parents responding to a questionnaire "rated the program as excellent in meeting their children's social/emotional needs." In 1982, the program moved to Gatzert.


Name: Duwamish School a.k.a. Maple School
Location: Present site of Boeing Field
Administrative Building
Building: Frame
1865: Opened as a county school
1900: Closed

Name: Maple School, a.k.a. Van Asselt School
Location: Just south of first Maple School
Building: Frame
Architect: n.a.
Site: n.a.
1900: Opened by Columbia School District
1907: Annexed into Seattle School District
1908: Closed in June; demolished

Name: Maple School
Location: 5320 17th Avenue S
Building: 4-room, 2-story frame
Architect: n.a.
Site: 1.77 acres
1909: Opened
1910: Became part of Seattle School District
1926: Relocated at 17th S and Lucile Street
1960: Closed in January
1972: Opened as alternative school site
1982: Closed in June; demolished in September

Name: Maple School Annex
Location: 5320 17th Avenue S
Building: 4-room frame "Liberty Building"
Architect: n.a.
1918: Opened in September
1926: Relocated at 17th Avenue S and Lucile Street
ca. 1963-64: Demolished

Name: Maple Elementary School
Location: 4925 Corson Avenue S
Building: 1-story brick
Architect: Durham, Anderson
& Freed Co.
Site: 6.1 acres
1971: Opened

Maple Elementary School in 2000
Enrollment: 488
Address: 4925 Corson Avenue S
Nickname: Monarchs
Configuration: K-5
Colors: Red and white


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

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